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Israeli daniel lewin shot on AA11 { September 15 2001 }

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Daniel Lewin

Special report: World Trade Organisation

Jack Schofield
Saturday September 15, 2001
The Guardian

Daniel Lewin, aged 31, who was killed when the hijacked American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Centre, was a computer scientist whose ideas helped keep the worldwide web running. When disaster struck, and news sites were hit by a vast surge in demand, it was partly due to technology from Akamai Technologies, a company Lewin co-founded, that they were able to take the strain.

Akamai developed a network of servers to distribute content across the globe, to ensure that copies of web pages and multimedia files were available close to where they were needed. This avoided having to fetch them from thousands of miles away, and reduced the strain both on central hosts and the web itself.

Distributing content intelligently, and keeping it up to date, required a lot of sophisticated mathematics. The development of the technology started at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where Lewin completed his master's degree under Tom Leighton, professor of applied mathematics. Lewin joined a team that went in for a $50,000 MIT entrepreneurship contest, and although they didn't win, they raised venture capital and went on to start the company in 1998.

Akamai - the name was found by looking up "intelligent" in a Hawaiian dictionary on the web - went public during the boom the following year, and Lewin's share made him a billionaire, albeit briefly. In the backlash, the share price tumbled from of $344 to about $3, but the service remains popular, and this year turnover doubled. It now has more than 1,000 staff and a network of 12,000 servers in 63 countries.

This summer, Lewin was listed in the top 10 of the Enterprise Systems magazine's Power 100 - people chosen for their impact on informa tion technology. The list put him between Steve Ballmer, chief executive of Microsoft, and Linus Torvalds, who steers the development of the core of the Linux operating system.

Lewin was born in Denver, Colorado, but grew up with his family in Jerusalem. While completing two undergraduate degrees at the Technion, Israel's technology university, he worked as a fulltime researcher at IBM's laboratories in Haifa. He also spent four years in the Israeli military, returning to the US as a graduate student and teaching assistant at MIT, where the World Wide Web Consortium - run by the web's inventor, Tim Berners-Lee - is based.

Even at MIT, Lewin was a star. He won the Morris Joseph Lewin Award for best master works thesis presentation in 1998, and was still studying for his doctorate in the algorithms group at MIT's laboratory for computer science.

Earlier this month, with other Akamai staff, he set up the Akamai Foundation to support mathematical education in American schools. He enjoyed motorcycles, fast cars and skiing. He was, said his company, "deeply driven and incredibly competitive", and inspired everyone around him to never take no for an answer.

Lewin was travelling to Los Angeles on company business when he boarded the Boeing 767. He is survived, in Israel, by his parents and two brothers; and, in the US, by his wife Anne and two sons, Eitan and Itamar.

•Daniel Mark Lewin information technologist, born, May 14 1970; died September 11, 2001.

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