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Wednesday, February 8, 2012 // The Statement B
Would there be the
Internet without the 'U'?
By Zach Bergson
to other institutions to dissemni-
philosophy. Andrew White, then'
sor of history and English litera-
ok Tappan's idea of the university
earch institution and went on to
ornell University in 1865.
Enter World War I1
er Today, the University receives more
le than $800 million annually in funding
:i- from the federal government, a numbere
c- that represents approximately two-thirds
sd of its total research budget.
What was markedly different about the
a University in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries was that most of its research
: funding came from internal University funds
* and foundations rather than Washington.
Everything changed once America entered
World War II. Federal funding started to pour
into America's universities to develop radar
technologies, nuclear weapons and electron-
ics to fuel the war effort. These technologies
ended up propelling America to victory and
* convinced the federalgovernmentthatuniver-
* sity research was a worthy investment.
"It made the case that research was so
* important on the campuses, to obviously
national security but also to prosperity and
health, that the federal government should
play the dominant role in supporting it on uni-
versity campuses," Duderstadt said.
Though the federal government knew the
® import'ance of funding university research,
most of its awards were limited to military and
national security research. Only a small per-
centage of federal funds were granted to non-
The University was no exception to the
As the Cold War heated up, the federal gov-
ernment awarded the University millions of
dollars to conduct classified military research;
* in stealth technology, remote sensing and
laser weaponry. At the time, the University
did not have its own central apparatus for
research and thus most of this classified
research was conducted through the Col-
lege of Engineering, according to Duder-
Most of the classified research was con-
ducted at Willow Run Laboratories near
Ypsilanti, an off-campus facility that now
functions asanairport. Duderstadtsaid the
University chose an off-campus facility to
limit outside exposure as much as possible.
Only a small amount of classified research
was conducted on-campus, according to
But at the height of the Vietnam War in
the 1960s and 1970s, controversy began to
swirl around the University's involvement
in classified government research.
"As Vietnam became a controversial
issue, students were very concerned about
the military industrial complex," Duder-
stadt said. "They were concerned about
being drafted, and so this became a hot
In the early 1970s, the uproar over clas-
sified research being done at the University
grew so violent that Willow Run's on-cam-
taking lives, then the policy was against
* it," Duderstadt said.
Even after the University made these
reforms and cut its ties to military
research, student protests continued
well into the early 1980s. Duderstadt said
* on a few occasions students even tried to
: break in and take over laboratories on
* Duderstadt said he still agrees with
the University's policy to restrict classi-
fied military research on campus. How-
ever, he conceded that since most of the +
country's mathematical and scientific
talent is concentrated within universi-
ties, academia must be involved with
some of America's clandestine activities,
albeit in off-campus locations.
Duderstadt cited cryptography, the prac-
tice of code breaking for the intelligence com-
munity, as an example.
"(University Provost) Phil Hanlon is a
world-class cryptographer, but he doesn't do
it on campus," Duderstadt said. "He goes to
California in the summer.,
Duderstadt stressed that without the
involvement of the University's research
institutions, national security would be very
much at risk in this country.
As the University severed ties with military
research, it moved into a new field that con-
tinues to dominate research today: biomedical
This transition was triggered by a broader
societal need for such research, Duderstadt
"No matter what the federal government
tells you, the priorities for research are really
driven very much by larger trends in our soci-
ety," Duderstadt said, adding that in the 1970s
and 1980s the national focus switched from
defense technologies to health care.
Although classified research is now con-,
See RESEARCH, Page 6B
T here are countless theories of how the engines for innovation, and of course
the Internet was created. Most people Michigan was there among them."
respond to the question with playful jokes In a 1984 nation-wide competition, the
about Al Gore's remarks in 1999 that he National Science Foundation awarded
"took the initiative to create the Internet." five universities funding for supercom-
But when this question is posed to Uni- puting sites.
. versity administrators, it's met with a Michigan wasn't awarded a site, but
decidedly different answer. was later asked by the NSF to rebuild its
"A lot of people don't realize it, but overloaded and dysfunctional network,
although Al Gore ......... ..
claims he invented the
Internet, we built it,"-"
former University Pres-
ident James Duderstadt
Dan Atkins, the "
" associate vice presi-
dent for research
" cyberinfrastructure, *
added that the Univer-
sity "played a critical
role at the tipping point
. in propagating ... the
open architecture and "
the intelligence at the
ends rather than the
. center kind of model
that the Internet now
Most of Michigan's
involvement in the
creation of the Inter-
net can be traced back
to one man, Doug Van
an associate dean for
research and innova-
tion, first came to the
. University in 1984 during a critical ;*a
time in telecommunications research. * NSFNET. The network was one of the
Vice President for Research Stephen . precursors of the Internet and was cre-
Forrest said before the 1980s, most inno- ated by NSF to connect the supercom-
vations in telecommunications came from w puting sites around the country.
places like Bell Laboratories and IBM * Its original version operated at a
research laboratories. But as costs grew * snail's pace compared to the networks
and competition increased, the business we know today - only 50,000 bits per
models of these institutions changed. second. ARPANET, a network created
. They could no longer make the invest- . by the Department of Defense, predat-
ments in innovation that they used to ed NSFNET but was only used by a few
" make, according to Forrest. computer science departments around
"What rushed into that vacuum were the country that received Department of
universities," Forrest said. "They became " Defense funding.
Starting in 1987, Van Houweling spear-
headed the University's effort to rebuild
NSFNET. His team initially approached
the state of Michigan's own network
Merit, which was created collaboratively
by the University of Michigan, Michigan
State University and Wayne State Uni-
versity, to work together on the project.
After the Merit board agreed to join
the project, Van Hou-
weling solicited the
help of IBM and MCI,
a now-defunct tele-
company, to build the
hardware and routers
for the network. The
the private and pub-
lic sectors made Van .
ect efficient and cost
In the end, NSF
awarded the Univer-
sity funding to launch
the new NSFNET in
" 1988 because of the
strength of its proposal
and its low costs, Van
said it was from this
point forward that the
Internet as we know
it today began to take
shape. The new NSF-
NET, unlike its prede-
cessor, did not become
oversaturated with information and .
actually grew by 10 percent every month
until it was shut off in 1995.
Initially, the network was restricted to
research facilities and higher education.
But as it grew, many commercial compa-
nies started to pay for its connections and
access spread to the general population.
By the time the University shut off NSF-
NET in 1995, private corporations had the
knowledge to run their own networks.
Van Houweling added that the Univer-
sity was uniquely positioned to build a
See INTERNET, Page 6B
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