Martin Hellman was born in New York, New York, in 1945. He received a B.E. from New York University (1966), and an M.S. (1967) and Ph.D. (1969) from Stanford University, all in electrical engineering.
He is a cryptologist, professor, and computer privacy advocate. In 1976, he published, with Whitfield Diffie, New Directions in Cryptography, a groundbreaking paper that introduced a radically new method of distributing cryptographic keys. This method enabled secure communications over an insecure channel without prearrangement of a secret key. Their insight underpins secure transactions on the Internet, enabling ecommerce and a host of other interactions in which secure electronic communications are required.
In the 1980s, Hellman worked with scientists in the Soviet Union to establish more open ties and to foster dialogue to reduce the threat posed by nuclear weapons. He has also worked to develop environments in which students of diverse backgrounds can function to the best of their abilities within the university.
Hellman became professor emeritus of electrical engineering at Stanford University in 1996. Among many honors, he has won the IEEE Centennial Medal (1984) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award (1994), and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering (2002).