School of Information Science - Hall of Fame

Robert M. Metcalfe
  • Robert M. Metcalfe
  • Born: 1946
  • Field: Computing industry; computer networks; Internet; computer publishing
  • Focus: Contributed a wide array of computing technology and industry developments, including networking, Ethernet, the Internet, computing publications, and significant entreprenuerial and executive leadership.
  • Country: United States
  • Era: 1970 to 1989

Robert Metcalfe is a high-tech venture capitalist at Polaris Venture Partners in Waltham, Massachusetts. He is a director of Avistar, Ember, IDC, IDG, Kelmscott, MIT, Narad, Pop!Tech, St. Mark's School, and MIT's Technology Review Magazine. He is Chairman of Paratek Microwave in Nashua, New Hampshire.

Metcalfe had three careers before becoming a venture capitalist. First, while an engineer-scientist (1965 to 1979), Metcalfe helped build the early Internet. In 1973, at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, he invented Ethernet, the local-area networking (LAN) standard on which he shares four patents. Now, 30 years later, more than 100 million new Ethernet connections are shipped annually for $10 billion.

Second, while an entrepreneur-executive (1979 to 1990), Metcalfe founded 3Com Corporation, the billion-dollar networking company where at various times he was Chairman, CEO, division general manager (GM) of software, GM netstations, GM hardware, VP engineering, VP sales, and VP marketing.

And third, while a publisher-pundit (1990 to 2000), Metcalfe was CEO of IDG's InfoWorld Publishing Company (1992 to 1995). For eight years, he wrote an Internet column read weekly by over 500,000 information technologists. He spoke often; appeared on radio, TV, and the web; and produced many technical conferences. His books include "Packet Communication," "Beyond Calculation," and "Internet Collapses."

Metcalfe was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1946. In 1964, he graduated from Bay Shore (Long Island) High School. In 1969, he graduated from MIT with two bachelors degrees, in electrical engineering and industrial management. He received a masters degree in applied mathematics from Harvard in 1970 and his 1973 Harvard Ph.D. dissertation was entitled Packet Communication. Metcalfe was consulting associate professor of electrical engineering at Stanford 1976-1983. He was a 1991 to 1992 visiting fellow at the University of Cambridge, England. In 2003, Metcalfe was elected a Life Member of the MIT Corporation.

Metcalfe has won many honors. In 1980, he received the Grace Murray Hopper Award from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). In 1988, he received the Alexander Graham Bell Medal from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). In 1995, Metcalfe was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1996, he received the IEEE's Medal of Honor. In 1997, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. In 1999, he was elected to the International Engineering Consortium. In 2003, Metcalfe won the Marconi International Fellowship and was inducted into the prestigious Bay Shore High School Hall of Fame. He holds three honorary doctorates.

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