Harari GS ’73 and Leighton ’78 inducted into National Inventors Hall of Fame| May 4, 2017
“The world needs more inventors and more entrepreneurs and people who are going to change the world,” Eli Harari GS ’73 said.
Tonight, two alumni, Harari and F. Thomson Leighton ’78, will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Harari and Leighton will be recognized along with 13 other honorees for their accomplishments in their respective fields.
Harari received his Ph.D. from the University in mechanical and aerospace engineering, but he said that his eventual career path was actually an accident. He explained that his original intention was to be a researcher, but his research led him to invent an Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory, a type of memory used by many computers that allows small amounts of data to be stored or erased, and reprogrammed if necessary.
“This is a great honor to join the hall of fame which has all the legends before me,” Harari said. “It’s a wonderful surprise.”
Harari added that he was very honored and excited to be among the ranks of world-changing inventors like Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and Alexander Graham Bell, who are also part of the Hall of Fame.
Reaching this point was not his primary goal when he entered his field of entrepreneurship, Harari explained. Rather, he had been retired for roughly six years before receiving the good news.
Leighton graduated from the University with highest honors in the electrical engineering and computer science departments. Leighton, along with his partner Daniel Lewin, invented a means of efficiently copying and distributing content over wide areas and large networks of servers. Leighton and Lewin founded Akamai Technologies, which works in content delivery, the same area as Leighton and Lewin’s invention.
“It was quite an honor and very exciting. [It was] really a testament to the hard work of thousands of people at Akamai over the past couple of decades that really made this recognition possible,” Leighton said.
Leighton said that his ultimate goal was to make the internet faster, more reliable, and more secure.
“I began to get interested in the process around internet congestion, and how could we get the internet to work better, and ultimately that lead to the creation of a company, Akamai, to make that happen,” he explained.
Leighton said he initially pursued a career in academia and thoroughly enjoyed the work, but through his academic work, he was able to recognize the problem of internet congestion and ultimately strove to fix it.
“I think entrepreneurship is really a very valuable and exciting thing,” Leighton said. “It can be a great learning experience and you can make a real difference in the world.”
Leighton emphasized that although it can often be challenging to achieve one’s dreams, students should always try. Although entrepreneurship is certainly a 24/7 endeavor, he said it is one that can have significant payoffs both for the individual and the world around them.
Leighton and Harari both emphasized that they thoroughly enjoyed their time as students at the University. Citing the learning environment and the presence of many great minds, including professors and students, Harari and Leighton both said they truly appreciated their education and felt that their time at Princeton was pivotal for their paths.