Tech & Science

Who Was Michael Dertouzos? Monday's Google Doodle Honors Computer Scientist

Google on Monday honored a computer scientist who distinguished himself as one of the most significant of his time. Monday would have been Michael Dertouzos’s 82nd birthday. The director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Laboratory for Computer Science at one of the most exciting times in computer science, he died in 2001 at the age of 64.

The doodle was live Monday in Australia, the United Kingdom, China, India and other nations, but not in the United States.

Dertouzos was born in Greece in 1936. His father was a navy admiral, and his mother was a concert pianist. He was educated at Athens College before he came to the U.S. on a Fullbright scholarship and attended the University of Arkansas, according to the doodle’s description. He went to MIT to earn his Ph.D.

Dertouzos joined the MIT faculty in 1964, according to the school, and 10 years later he was the director of the Laboratory for Computer Science. The lab was massive while he was running it, with 400 faculty members, according to MIT.

Google’s doodle of Dertouzos showed the computer scientist with chalk in hand, smiling at a whiteboard. Around him are block letters spelling out “Google,” along with symbols reminiscent of the internet, spreadsheets, encryption and more. He wrote eight books about his expertise and was credited with predicting the impact the internet would have worldwide.

Dertouzos Google's doodle on Monday honored computer scientist Michael Dertouzos. Google Doodle

In one of those books, he elaborated on “the Information Marketplace,” which was his conception of the internet as a home where people shared, exchanged, bought and sold information.

He explained this by saying, “If we strip the hype away, a simple, crisp and inevitable picture emerges of an Information Marketplace where people and their computers will buy, sell and freely exchange information and information work.”

Dertouzos was well liked at MIT by his fellow faculty members, who spoke fondly of him following his death.

"Michael had a broad understanding of technology and a teacher's knack for explaining ideas," said Fernando Corbató, a fellow professor at MIT. "One direction in which this shone was his skill in interfacing with government sponsors of research. He was skillful in evoking the best research ideas from within the laboratory. He could educate without being condescending."