Cryptographer Given Honorary Degree

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19 February 2008

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Today Clifford Cocks was given an honorary degree by the University of Bristol.
Clifford was the first person to invent a practical method for public key encryption and was also the inventor of one of the first identity based encryption mechanisms. He was also a major influence behind the founding of the Heilbronn Institute in Bristol, a partnership between GCHQ and the University of Bristol.

Clifford's invention of a variant of what is now called the RSA algorithm was performed a number of years before Rivest, Shamir and Adleman invented their version. However, Clifford's invention was kept secret for around one quarter of a century. The RSA algorithm is now a key component in securing the internet and other applications. If you buy something via credit card either in a shop or on the internet then you are almost certainly using a variant of Clifford's invention.

This is not the only honour that Clifford recieved this year, in January he was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath in the New Year's Honours list.

The full text of the Oration for Clifford Cocks can be found here.