Ben Segal's Home Page
Date: April 28, 2014
To begin with, here's a photo:
I'm British, married to Christiane Segal (a sculptor) and have two sons, Adam Segal (b.1969, graduate of Bristol University, ex-RAF Harrier pilot and flying instructor, now a British Airways civil pilot) and Nicolas Segal (b.1983, a 2006 graduate from Imperial College in aeronautical engineering, now with HSBC Private Banking).
I graduated in Physics and Mathematics in 1958 from Imperial College London, then worked for 7 years on fast breeder reactor development, first for the UK Atomic Energy Authority and later in the USA for the Detroit Edison Company. In 1971 I finished a Ph.D. at Stanford University in Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering. I then joined CERN in Geneva where I worked until my retirement at the end of May 2002. I am now an honorary member of the CERN staff, in the IT Department.
As an honorary CERN staff member I am free to work in areas I choose, but have to rely mainly on students in collaboration with existing CERN projects. Since 2004 most of my effort has been in Volunteer Computing using the BOINC infrastructure to harness large amounts of computing power from the public. First came the LHC@home project to help design CERN's new LHC accelerator. More recently we launched LHC@home 2.0 to help mainline physics computing for CERN's Theory Unit and the LHC experiments.
With some financing from outside CERN we extended our
work in 2005 to apply volunteer computing to disease control in
Africa in collaboration with the Swiss Tropical Institute in Basel
- see Africa@home
and the MalariaControl
project. We also taught BOINC technology to 35 African students
from 18 African countries in a workshop held in Muizenberg, South
Africa, in July 2007. See an interview I gave there on some of the
background to this work.
I am continuing to work in this exciting area as I
believe that volunteer computing has great potential for public
involvement in science practice and education. In 2009 I
participated in the creation of the Citizen Cyberscience
Centre (CCC) with partners CERN, the UN Institute for
Training and Research (UNITAR) and the University of Geneva. CCC
activities include launching Asia@home
and Brasil@home, to promote citizen cyberscience in these
Except for a sabbatical in 1977, when I worked at Bell Northern Research in Palo Alto on a PABX development project (and encountered Unix for the first time), CERN kept me pretty busy on various projects, including the coordinated introduction of the Internet Protocols at CERN beginning in 1985 (see: "A Short History of Internet Protocols at CERN").
The years 1989-1990 also saw the beginning of the World Wide Web
at CERN, with which I was associated as an early supporter (and
"mentor" according to its inventor Tim Berners-Lee).
Another project of historical interest was the project
"SHIFT", which starting in 1989-1990
changed the way computing is done at CERN - moving from expensive
mainframes to Unix clusters and now Linux PC's. This project was
selected as the winner in the Science category in the 2001
Computerworld Honors awards. CERN was nominated for this award by
Larry Ellison of Oracle Corporation.
For a little more historical reading, take a look at
my book review of the book "How
Web Was Born" by James Gillies and Robert Cailliau.
Yes, the World Wide Web was invented at CERN and this book tells
the story very truthfully. I gave a more personal account of some
CERN and Web history to Robert Scoble when he visited CERN in
2007, available at: Scoble_Visit.
If you speak French, you can also hear an interview on Radio Suisse Romande (May 10, 2010) about "La Naissance du Web": Play interview (MP3 format: 16 minutes, in French)
The last major area to which I contributed before retirement was the European DataGrid Project, especially the part concerned with Data Management. For more details on my work, see my CV and some associated Notes, together with a partial List of Publications.
Since the early 1980's I taught courses on Unix, distributed computing and Internet protocols in many places, both in "developing" countries (e.g. China, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba) and not-so-developing ones (Italy, Sweden, UK, etc.). My interest in teaching outside CERN began in 1986 in association with the Trieste International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), which has supported research by developing country scientists since 1964.
As a member of the Internet Society (ISOC), I participated in setting up the ISOC Geneva Chapter in 1995. I also set up its Development Special Interest Group ("Geneva DevSIG") to assist developing country access to the Internet. In 1997 I was elected as a member of the ISOC Board of Trustees and took office that June for a 3-year term. With many volunteer members of ISOC Geneva, we organized the 1998 annual ISOC Conference INET'98, which was held in Geneva in July 1998. My particular interest was local coordination of the INET'98 Network Technology Workshops which offered Internet training to over 160 people selected by ISOC as best fitted to spread Internet technology internationally.
I still have an office and telephone at CERN where I can be reached part time (with an answering machine if I'm not there):
Tel/CERN: +41 22 767 4941