I’ve been enjoying reading the new book The Innovators by Walter Isaacson. The book tracks the development of computers and the Internet over the last 175 years and I’m now up to the 1960s and the early origins of the Internet. Much of Isaacson’s book talks about the people who were behind the technology and many of them had immigrant backgrounds. One person who is still with us that had a profound impact on the world is today’s Immigrant of the Day honoree.

The fact that you’re reading this post on the Internet is due, in part, to the work of Dr. Charles Herzfeld. Born in 1925 in Vienna, Herzfeld’s family fled Nazi persecution and made it to the US two years after Germany annexed Austria.

Herzfeld studied physical chemistry in the late 1940s at my alma mater The University of Chicago and it was there that he became fascinated with computers after hearing a lecture by the legendary John von Neumann.

After work at various government labs and agencies, he moved to DARPA – the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (then known as ARPA) in 1961 to coordinate the country’s missile defense program. He eventually became the director of DARPA in 1965. It was at DARPA that he oversaw the creation of ARPANet which later became the modern Internet.

At 89, Dr. Herzfeld is still working today as a consultant to the government and to private organizations. And he was recently inducted in to The Internet Hall of Fame by the Internet Society.