Shiva Ayyadurai is an American inventor of Indian origin credited by some sources to be the inventor of email. As a 14 year old in 1978, he created a computer program which was an electronic version of an interoffice mail system. He named the program “EMAIL” and applied for a copyright as software patents were not granted at that time in the U.S. In 1982 he received the first U.S. Copyright for that software, officially recognizing him as The Inventor of Email. While some organizations recognized his invention, he never received wide-spread recognition as the inventor of email. This honor was instead bestowed upon Raymond Tomlinson, an innovator in text messaging who is credited with the introduction of the “@” sign for internet addresses. Born to Hindu parents in India, Shiva Ayyadurai moved to the U.S. as a child. He grew up to be a brilliant student and volunteered at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) as a high school student. Recognizing the young boy’s potential, one of his supervisors challenged him to create a software system that replicated the paper-based mail and communication system. He successfully did it, thus creating the email. Ayyadurai, however, did not receive worldwide recognition for his creation and feels that due credit has been denied to him because of his Indian origins.
Childhood & Early Life
Shiva Ayyadurai was born on December 2, 1963, in Bombay, India, to a Hindu Tamil family. He moved along with his family to the United States when he was seven.
He grew up to be a good student and studied computer programming at a special summer program at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences of New York University (NYU).
He attended Livingston High School in Livingston, New Jersey. While studying there he also volunteered at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ).
One of his supervisors there, Dr. Leslie P. Michelson, recognized his abilities and challenged him to recreate an electronic system replicating the conventional paper-based communication system.
Ayyadurai, just 14 years old at that time, envisioned a system to quickly and easily send digital messages. He began his project by performing a thorough study of the UMDNJ's paper-based mail system which was the same as that used in offices and organizations around the world.
Then he proceeded to build an electronic mail system that incorporated a set of Integrated System Components in addition to the functional parts of the paper mail system to create a highly-reliable and easy to use mail system.
He called this system “EMAIL” and applied for a copyright which he received in 1982. He was 18 years old at that time.
He pursued his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and earned a master's degree in visual studies from the MIT Media Laboratory on scientific visualization. He also received another master's degree in mechanical engineering, also from MIT.
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Shiva Ayyadurai embarked on a highly successful academic career and obtained a Ph.D in biological engineering from MIT in systems biology in 2007. His thesis focused on modeling the whole cell by integrating molecular pathway models.
In 2008, he won a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant to study the integration of Siddha, India's oldest system of traditional medicine, with modern systems biology in India.
Over the ensuing years he worked as an educator, inventor and systems scientist. A brilliant and versatile individual, his works range across fields as diverse as technology, medicine, media and art.
As an entrepreneur he has started and successfully grown several start-up companies. After winning a White House competition to automatically analyze and sort mail, he founded EchoMail, Inc., a company which offers email and social media marketing, monitoring and management solutions for Global 2000 Companies and the SMB markets.
He is also the founder of the Systems Health online educational program, an initiative to bridge the gap between the foundations of modern science and the collective wisdom from ancient traditions of Siddha, Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. The courses offered by the program aim to integrate both Eastern and Western systems of medicine to create a new scientific method.
At the age of 14, he created the world's first email system for which he was recognized by the Westinghouse Science Talent Search. He developed the electronic version of the paper-based interoffice mail system then in use at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey where he volunteered as a high school student.
He supports several arts and non-profit organizations such as the Guggenheim Museum, Very Special Arts, National Public Radio and the National Geographic Society. He also supports Shanthi Foundation, which raises money to provide scholarships for education of orphaned girls.
Awards & Achievements
In 1981, Shiva Ayyadurai was awarded an Honors Group award for “The Software Design, Development and Implementation of a High-Reliability Network-Wide Electronic Mail System.”
Personal Life & Legacy
Shiva Ayyadurai and actress Fran Drescher participated in a ceremony in September 2014 and tweeted that they had gotten married. However he later said it was not a formal wedding or marriage.