Ralph C. Merkle (born February 2, 1952) is a computer scientist. He is one of the inventors of public key cryptography, the inventor of cryptographic hashing, and more recently a researcher and speaker on molecular nanotechnology and cryonics.
Merkle graduated from Livermore High School in 1970 and proceeded to study computer science at the University of California, Berkeley, obtaining his B.A. in 1974, and his M.S. in 1977. In 1979 he received his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Stanford University, with a thesis entitled Secrecy, authentication and public key systems; his advisor was Martin Hellman.
Merkle devised a scheme for communication over an insecure channel: Merkle's puzzles as part of a class project while an undergraduate. The scheme is now recognized to be an early example of public key cryptography. He co-invented the Merkle–Hellman knapsack cryptosystem, invented cryptographic hashing (now called the Merkle–Damgård construction based on a pair of articles published 10 years later that established the security of the scheme), and invented Merkle trees. While at Xerox PARC, Merkle designed the Khufu and Khafre block ciphers, and the Snefru hash function...
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