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A memorial service for members of the Akamai and MIT communities only will be held Thursday, Sept. 20, at noon in Kresge Auditorium for Daniel M. Lewin, 31, a rising star in the technology world who was a member of the Algorithms group at the Laboratory for Computer Science.
Lewin, known for his role as a co-founder of Akamai Technologies, was killed on the American Airlines flight that crashed in New York on Tuesday. He was the chief technology officer at Akamai.
"It's not hard to make a huge laundry list of Danny's achievements, but I think what sets him apart is that he managed to combine high achievement with rock-solid personal qualities," said Eric Lehman of the Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) , one of his closest friends at MIT.
"Danny had a remarkable combination of creative insight, practical skill, and personal motivation," said Professor Stephen A. Ward, one of Lewin's graduate advisors. "His considerable impact on his field foreshadowed unimaginable future contributions, had his extraordinary career not been senselessly terminated. It is a great loss to his community, to his field and to the world."
Lewin, born in Denver, Colo., and raised in Jerusalem, was an officer in the Israel Defense Forces, a member of an elite anti-terrorism unit during his four years of active duty.
Prior to coming to MIT, Lewin worked at IBM's research laboratory in Haifa, Israel, where he was a full-time research fellow and project leader in the area of circuit-design software. Simultaneously, he completed two undergraduate degrees, summa cum laude, at the Technion in Haifa, where he was named Outstanding Student in Computer Engineering in 1995. Lewin entered the Ph.D. program at MIT in 1996, studying applied mathematics under Professor F. Thomson Leighton.
The story of Lewin's co-founding of Akamai Technologies with Leighton in 1998 has now become the stuff of legend. When Timothy Berners-Lee, founder of the World Wide Web, realized that congestion on the Internet was becoming an enormous problem, he issued a challenge to Leighton's research group to invent a better way to deliver Internet content. The result was a set of breakthrough algorithms that became the basis for Akamai.
Lewin received the S.M. in electrical engineering and computer science in 1998. His master's thesis was the theoretical starting point for the company. It concerned storing copies of web content such as pictures or video clips at many different locations around the Internet so that one could always retrieve a nearby copy, making web pages load faster. The fruits of Lewin's labor are visible to the MIT community in the "www.akamaitech.com" that flashes for an instant at the bottom of every web browser.
Akamai went public in October 1999, in a memorable initial public offering. Lewin, who was supporting a family that included two small children on a graduate school stipend at the time, suddenly found himself almost a billionaire. "It couldn't have happened to a nicer guy," said Lehman. "Even when he had no money he was probably the most generous person I've ever met. "
Although Lewin was on a leave of absence from MIT, he expected to return to complete his studies at some point. "He loved the academic world, and teaching came naturally to him, " said Wendy P. Ziner, vice president of Akamai. "He taught all of us -- people in the industry, customers, employees -- and it was clear that he had a God-given talent."
Around LCS, Lewin is remembered for the mathematical game of Theory Jeopardy, which he helped invent. Players would propose and solve problems, and a unique form of fun and craziness would ensue. Last spring Lewin threw a last round of the game -- a match between Akamai and LCS, with several hundred people in attendance.
Lewin published and presented several breakthrough papers at top computer science conferences and received several awards, including the 1998 Morris Joseph Lewin Award for Best Masterworks Thesis Presentation at MIT. He was recently named one of the 25 most influential CTOs by InfoWorld.com, and ranked seventh in the Power 100 list of the Enterprise Systems Journal.
Lewin is survived by his wife Ann of Brookline and his two sons.
Contributions in his memory may be made to a fund to provide scholarships to students pursuing careers in science: the Daniel Lewin Science Scholarship Fund, c/o Hale and Dorr Capital Management LLC, 60 State St., Boston, MA 02019.