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Whitfield Diffie

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Biography

Whitfield Diffie was born on June 5, 1944 in Washington, D.C. to Bailey Wallace Diffie and Justine Louise Whitfield. Diffie was raised in an upper middle class, Jewish immigrant neighborhood of Queens, a community which he has described as particularly leftist and progressive. Diffie believed his mother to be "rather liberal," whereas his father was "an extremely conservative person."

Throughout high school, Diffie was interested in pure mathematics which he continued to pursue at MIT, graduating with a B.A. in 1965. Diffie was a self-proclaimed mediocre student who "barely graduated."

Diffie is currently a consulting professor at CISAC (The Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University) where he was previously a Visiting Scholar (2009) and Affiliate (2010-2012).

Public Key Cryptography

As a graduate student at Stanford University, Diffie co-developed public key cryptography alongside Dr. Martin Hellman. They published these developments in 1976 as "New Directions in Cryptography." The concept of public key cryptography has revolutionized e-commerce and communications channels by allowing for digital signatures and secure communication without prearranged keys.

Further Reading

Diffie, W., and M. E. Hellman. "New Directions in Cryptography." IEEE Trans. Inf. Theory IT-22 (1976): 644-654.

Kahn, David. The Codebreakers, rev. ed. New York: Scribner, 1996.

Levy, Steven. "Battle of the Clipper Chip." New York Times Magazine, July 12, 1994.

Levy, Steven. Crypto: How the Code Rebels Beat the Government Saving Privacy in the Digital Age. New York: Penguin, 2001.

Levy, Steven. "Prophet of Privacy." Wired Magazine, November 1994.