Meet Dr. Vinton Cerf, Co-Inventor of the Internet, and his wife Sigrid

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Meet Dr. Vinton Cerf, Co-Inventor of the Internet, and his wife Sigrid

Dr. Vint Cerf was born premature by 6 weeks. He was in an oxygen tent because his lungs were not fully formed. Cerf has worn hearing aids since age 13 and does well with hearing aids having a moderate hearing loss. Cerf’s experience with hearing loss is different than his wife Sigrid’s; she successfully managed 50 years of school with a severe to profound hearing loss (she did not attend deaf school; she memorized everything). Due to Sigrid’s excellent lip-reading skills, Cerf joked that he once thought she might be working for the CIA and not telling him.

Of all places, Vint and Sigrid first met at their hearing aid dispenser office. She had moved from Kansas to Los Angeles. Vint was at the hearing aid center when told there was someone he needed to meet.

“We were on Wilshire Blvd (also known as Miracle Mile). To stretch the time, I asked her if she would like to go to lunch at a restaurant. I asked her what she did; she said she was a renderer (as in drawings). She asked if I wanted to see her art work; I said yes to prolong the interaction, we went to the LA County Art Museum. It was ‘love at first sight’ as cliché as that may sound,” explained Vint.

Sigrid was to take her Mother to the airport; but, Sigrid on the lunch date forgot about taking her Mother to the airport causing her Mother to subsequently miss her flight.

On Vint’s parents’ 25th wedding anniversary, he proposed to Sigrid. They married in September 1966. And, come this month, they celebrate being married 56 years. “We were DINKS (Double Income, No Kids) for 5 years from 1966-1973,” said Vint. Their son, David was born in September, 1973 and then their son Ben came five years after.  

In 1996, Sigrid received her first Cochlear Implant by John Niparko, MD at Johns Hopkins. Advanced Bionics was selected because Niparko’s recommendation.

With Sigrid’s CI, Vint described his living with Sigrid as living with a teenager. Vint was not able to get Sigrid off the telephone. She checked out over 500 audio books from the library. Vint shares story of how his wife kept a Sprint representative on the phone and after quite a lengthy conversation, the rep asked if Sigrid was switching her carrier to which Sigrid responded, “No, my husband is a Senior  Executive at MCI so we will stay with MCI.”

In 2006, Sigrid got her second CI.  In 2018, her first implant failed when they were in England- at the airport- on their way to New Zealand. Fortunately, the first implant was replaced with another implant; Sigrid has been  doing beautifully ever since.

According to Vint, Vint engineers love problems! In 1996, Sigrid started a book club- Camelot. Vint and Sigrid moved to McLean, VA to a larger home. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cerf shared an example from Sigrid, “We were in England during March, 2020 and we both were infected with COVID. Sigrid’s book club started meeting by Zoom to interact during COVID and they have been meeting remotely for 2.5 years.”

We are pleased to recognize Vint and Sigrid in our Deaf Leaders Series for their service to the community. Vint is known for his work with inventing the Internet. As remarkable as the Internet is, the Internet and the application itself design all along was intended that the internet be expandable and extendable HyperText Transport Portal (HTTP) in 1973.  Vint does not really give credit to his deafness as a central part of designing the Internet as much as his engineering background. His doctoral work at UCLA was on the ARPANET project. Vint and others started promoting in 1988 that this government sponsored mechanism be utilized as an economic engine. Prior to 1988, there was no commercial traffic on government backed network.

Currently, only sixty percent of the world’s population has access to the internet. The Internet has an amplifying effect– which can be problematic, mis-information, disinformation, and hate speech. There have been attempts to shut off internet through filters or inhibit freedom of speech, not be directly involved with controlling outcomes of elections. Vint acknowledges these are concerns for the 21st century. Meanwhile as we celebrate Safe‘N’Clear’s 10 year anniversary, we give thanks to Vint for his engineering contribution that makes ecommerce businesses like Safe‘N’Clear possible.