Tag Archives: Denver

Jew of the Week: Danny Lewin

The ‘Fighting Genius’ of 9/11

Danny Lewin

Danny Lewin

Daniel Mark Lewin (1970-2001) was born in Denver, Colorado. He spent his early childhood there, playing sports and the violin, and programming his first Apple II computer when he was just nine years old. His family made aliyah to Israel when he was 14. Living near Jerusalem, Lewin found school of little challenge and often skipped class to work out at a gym. It wasn’t long before he won the Mr. Teenage Israel bodybuilding competition. Not surprisingly, he joined the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit. After four years as an officer – attaining the rank of captain – Lewin went to study at Technion, while also working for IBM. From there, he got a full scholarship to MIT and studied towards a PhD in computer science. During this time, he came up with a new algorithm that had the potential to revolutionize the nascent internet. Others didn’t see it that way, and felt his concept wouldn’t go very far. Despite the opposition, he teamed up with one of his professors and started a new company, Akamai Technologies. In March of 1999, a series of events caused a surge in internet activity that crashed many websites. It appeared that only the sites served by Akamai had survived. Akamai Technologies became an overnight sensation. A successful IPO shortly after made Lewin a billionaire. On September 11, 2001, Lewin boarded American Airlines flight 11. According to air traffic control recordings, Lewin attacked two of the terrorists on board, but was surprised by a third knife-wielding terrorist from behind. He was killed about 30 minutes before the plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Lewin therefore carries the tragic distinction of being the first victim of 9/11. He left behind a wife and two small children. At just 31 years of age, he was expected to make big waves, with some predicting he could have become an Israeli prime minister (like fellow Sayeret Matkal graduates Barak and Netanyahu), or one of the world’s true tech titans. His Akamai Technologies is still a multi-billion dollar internet giant today. In his honour, Cambridge, Massachusetts has a Danny Lewin Square and Park, and the annual award for best student paper on computing is named after him, too.

Words of the Week

Long after we have forgiven you for killing our sons, we will be working to forgive you for turning our sons into killers.
– Golda Meir

Jew of the Week: Theodore Maiman

Lasers!

Theodore Maiman

Theodore Maiman

Theodore Harold Maiman (1927-2007) was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Denver. The son of an electrical engineer, Maiman earned money as a teenager by repairing people’s radios and appliances. After a year in the navy, he focused on his studies and eventually earned a Ph.D in physics from Stanford in 1955. He then joined a company under contract to the US Army and led a team working on masers (these are like lasers, but using microwaves). His team was able to improve the maser from a 2.5-ton machine to a small 4 pound device. Building on this success, Maiman convinced his bosses to fund his work on lasers. In 1960, he succeeded in creating the first working laser. Maiman went on to invent a number of other important innovations in the field of optics. He also founded several successful technology and venture capital firms. His paper on lasers was described as “probably more important per word than any of the papers published by Nature over the past century.” Maiman won a handful of prestigious awards for his work, and has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Words of the Week

If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1000 miles per gallon.

– Theodore Maiman