Martin Hellman is best known for inventing — with Whitfield Diffie and Ralph Merkle — public key cryptography in 1976. Today, public key cryptography secures trillions of dollars of financial transactions daily, making it possible for us to bank, shop, and perform countless other tasks on the Internet with peace of mind.
Hellman earned his master’s degree and PhD in electrical engineering at Stanford. He joined the faculty here in 1971, serving as associate chairman of the Electrical Engineering Department, chairman of EE graduate admissions and associate dean of graduate Studies for minority student affairs until he became Professor Emeritus in 1996.
Hellman, a long-time activist in the computer privacy debate, also has campaigned for more than 30 years to raise awareness about the risks of nuclear weapons. He has applying risk analysis to demonstrate the continued risk of a nuclear catastrophe even when most people think this danger is behind us.