W. Scott Stornetta Bio

W. Scott Stornetta is without a doubt, one of the founding fathers of blockchain technology. He is also a notable figure in the world of cryptography and distributed computing. The first mention of a blockchain architecture was from a publication he co-authored which described a digital hierarchy system known as a “block chain” that utilized digital time-stamps for ordering transactions.

The concept of a block chain system was later adopted by Satoshi Nakamoto in developing the popular blockchain for Bitcoin. Together with his long-time colleague and collaborator, Stuart Haber, W. Scott Stornetta laid the foundation for the emergence of today’s blockchain technology revolution.

Early Life

W. Scott Stornetta was born to Wakefield Scott Moller Stornetta and Alberta Stornetta (nee Shelton). His father was a retired Navy Officer and Certified Financial Planner. W. Scott Stornetta comes from a well-educated family; his father had a Master’s degree in International affairs from the George Washington University. His parents were both Methodist Christians but W. Scott Stornetta became a Mormon later in life. As a teenager, Stornetta was deeply drawn to religion while maintaining a healthy skepticism of the things that he observed around him.

Being born in a deeply religious home, he was instructed in the Christian Bible from an early age but he recounts being unable to reconcile the things in the Bible with what he saw happening in the world. A certain friend presented him with a copy of the Book of Mormon and he began to take an interest in Mormonism which later led to his being a Mormon.

Professional Career

Between 1983 and 1989, Stornetta was at Stanford University earning degrees and in 1989, he graduated with a Ph.D. in Physics. During his time at Stanford, he was an active member of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI). After the completion of his Doctoral program, Stornetta spent many years working in research and establishing a number of start-up companies.

Bellcore

Soon after leaving Stanford, Stornetta began working at Bell Communications Research (Bellcore) as a Research Scientist. While at Bellcore, Stornetta would form a great friendship and partnership with Stuart Haber. Together, the pair of them collaborated on numerous research projects and even co-authored a number of scientific publications in the field of cryptography and distributed computing. Some of their published materials were adapted heavily by Satoshi Nakamoto in the 2008 Bitcoin whitepaper.

Bellcore specialized in Telecoms research and development. The company emerged after the break-up of AT&T. These days, the company is known as Telcordia after it was acquired by Ericsson in 2011. Stornetta and Haber along with a few other collaborators released a number of significant publications during their time at Bellcore. They would eventually go on to establish a start-up company, Surety, together in 1994.

Surety

In 1994, Stornetta and Haber co-founded Surety, a spinoff of Bellcore that focused on providing digital time-stamping services in what is today considered to be the first commercial blockchain service provider. The technology was the first of its kind as it utilized the Linked Time-Stamping Authority (TSA) framework that Stornetta and Haber had developed in their research papers.

With the addition of Merkle trees, Surety was able to provide a robust collision-resistant hash function framework which greatly minimized the problems associated with TSA. Surety was a game-changer in the world of cryptography and distributed computing and it provided a lot of resources that would go into the establishment of the Bitcoin blockchain in 2009. Stornetta left Surety in 2007 to pursue his long-time passion of being a teacher.

Teaching Career

W. Scott Stornetta always had a passion for teaching but by his own admission, he came late to the teaching arena having spent many years doing research across a number of subject areas. When he wasn’t doing research, he was helping to establish companies that implemented many of his research work into products and services that solved real-world problems.

Since 2009, Stornetta has been a high-school teacher at Columbia High School, a public school in Maplewood, New Jersey. There, he teaches mathematics at the introductory Algebra I level for freshmen students who struggle with understanding math. He also specializes in instructing students in the gifted program and advanced placement classes on how to conduct research. Stornetta has transferred his research experience into developing modalities that improve the process of knowledge transfer. He focuses on research that improves the learning ability of students while making sure that the teachers have fairly manageable workloads.

Contributions in the Field of Cryptography and Blockchain Technology

Stornetta is touted as the co-inventor of the blockchain, together with Stuart Haber. Stornetta has spent decades contributing valuable research and published materials to the field of cryptography and distributed computing, and has consulted for several universities on the establishment of startup companies.

Together with Haber, he has co-authored a number of important publications in the field of cryptography. Several aspects of the Bitcoin blockchain architecture are based on Stornetta’s work. The third, fourth, and fifth entries in the bibliography of the Bitcoin whitepaper are references to his work in cryptographic time-stamp protocols.