Raymond Tomlinson, the inventor of modern email and selector of the “@” symbol, has died.

Raytheon Co., his employer, on Sunday confirmed his death; the details were not immediately available.

Email existed in a limited capacity before Tomlinson in that electronic messages could be shared amid multiple people within a limited framework. But until his invention in 1971 of the first network person-to-person email, there was no way to send something to a specific person at a specific address.

The first email was sent on the ARPANET system, a computer network that was created for the U.S. government that is considered a precursor to the Internet. Tomlinson also contributed to its development.

At the time, few people had personal computers. The popularity of personal email wouldn’t take off until years later but has become an integral part of modern life.

“It wasn’t an assignment at all, he was just fooling around; he was looking for something to do with ARPANET,” Raytheon spokeswoman Joyce Kuzman said of his creation of network email.

Tomlinson once said in a company interview that he created email “mostly because it seemed like a neat idea.” The first email was sent between two machines that were side-by-side, according to that interview.

He said the test messages were “entirely forgettable and I have, therefore, forgotten them.” But when he was satisfied that the program seemed to work, he announced it via his own invention by sending a message to co-workers explaining how to use it.

Tomlinson chose the “@” symbol to connect the username with the destination address and it has now become a cultural icon.

Why that symbol? Kuzman said Tomlinson was looking at the keyboard and needed something that would not otherwise be part of the address and that seemed to be a logical solution.

“It is a symbol that probably would have gone away if not for email,” she said.
MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design added the symbol into its collection in 2010, with credits to Tomlinson.

Tomlinson held electrical engineering degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Tomlinson was an inductee to the Internet Hall of Fame and recipient of numerous awards and accolades but was described as humble and modest.

“People just loved to work with him,” Kuzman said. “He was so patient and generous with his time … He was just a really nice, down-to-earth, good guy.”

Tomlinson was hired by Bolt Beranek and Newman, known as BBN, in 1967. It was later acquired by Raytheon Co., where he still worked at the time of his death, as a principal scientist.

He lived in Lincoln, Massachusetts where he raised miniature sheep. Attempts to contact his family were unsuccessful.

While more general email protocols were later developed and adopted, Tomlinson’s contributions were never forgotten.

“He was pretty philosophical about it all,” Kuzman said. “And was surprisingly not addicted to email.”




(Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Kathryn Trosper Popper, who was believed to be the last surviving actor to appear on screen in Citizen Kane, died from pneumonia Sunday in Manhattan, according to the The New York Times. She was 100.

Popper was 25 years old and working as a personal assistant to Orson Welles when the director, co-writer, and star enlisted her to pull double duty on his 1941 film about a domineering newspaper magnate; she played the roving photographer who wonders, “What’s Rosebud?”

Recalling her multi-tasking in an interview last year, Popper said, “I would just drop my notebook and run on the set.”

Long after Kane became a classic, Popper staunchly defended Welles’ contributions to the script, which Pauline Kael had questioned in the lengthy essay Raising Kane.

“Then I’d like to know,” Popper once said, “what was all that stuff I was always typing for Mr. Welles?”

Popper was born Kathryn Naomi Trosper in Hudson, Wyoming, and attended USC and UCLA. She dropped out to support her parents during the Depression and eventually found work with Welles.

In 1943 she married Martin Popper, a lawyer who defended screenwriters Dalton Trumbo and John Howard Lawson. Her brother, Guy Trosper, also wrote screenplays, including Birdman of Alcatraz and The Spy Who Came in From the Cold.

Popper is survived by two children, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.




Margaret Lavigne spent much of her life working on behalf of people with disabilities.

  • It was, they both acknowledged, an unlikely romance: Margaret Lavigne and Chris Plum had met, fallen in love and married at a long-term acute care hospital in Connecticut, where they continued to live, both of them using wheelchairs because of muscular dystrophy.
Yet the marriage flourished in the time they had together, and they let it be widely known, as the subjects of “Good Night Margaret,” an 11-minute video documentary produced in 2014 by The New York Times. In the video, Ms. Lavigne and Mr. Plum spoke candidly about living with a disability, in their cases caused by muscular dystrophy, a group of inherited diseases that result in progressive muscle weakness.
Ms. Lavigne, who spent much of her life working on behalf of people with disabilities, died on Feb. 29. She was 44.
The two met in 2011 shortly after Mr. Plum moved into the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain, which treats critically ill patients, many of whom have few prospects for improvement.
Mr. Plum said he worked up the nerve to ask her out about a year later. They spent their first date in a private area of the hospital watching the movie “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and eating takeout Chinese food.
In 2013, they were married. “Everybody wants ‘the one,’” Ms. Lavigne, known as “Muffi,” said in the documentary. “I did not expect to find him here, of all places.

Good Night, Margaret

When Margaret “Muffi” Lavigne and Chris Plum, both with muscular dystrophy, met at the Hospital for Special Care in New Britain, Conn., their lives took an unexpected turn.
By Rick Gershon and Catherine Spangler on Publish Date June 23, 2014. Watch in Times Video »
  • Before her condition required more care, Ms. Lavigne lived in Rockville, Md., a suburb of Washington, for 13 years. She worked for United Cerebral Palsy as well as for the President’s Committee on Employment of People With Disabilities, according to an obituary written by her family. She also testified for a presidential commission on consumer protection and quality in the health care industry.
Ms. Lavigne later enrolled in a master’s degree program in architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to focus on design in public buildings and housing, Mr. Plum said. But she fell ill about halfway through the three-year program and withdrew, moving into the Hospital for Special Care in 2008.
“She had to make a very big transition from the big independent disability rights movement, where the idea of living in an institution is objectionable,” Mr. Plum said.
Ms. Lavigne was born on March 12, 1971, in Concord, Mass. She was 7 when she learned she had muscular dystrophy.
“My parents never considered me having a disability, and I didn’t either,” she said in the documentary. “You learn to have a little tougher skin, but that’s a lifelong journey for anyone.”
Besides her husband, she is survived by her parents, Debora and James Lavigne; a sister, Laurie Kerr; and her grandmother, Nancy M. Lauriat.
“I’ve had people ask me, ‘Do you ever wish you could walk again, or not have the disease?’” Ms. Lavigne said in the film. “But if I’ve got Chris, I’d take it.”

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