Paul Baran was born in Grodno, Poland, in 1926. He received a BS in electrical engineering from Drexel Institute of Technology (1949) and an MS in electrical engineering from UCLA (1959).
Baran began working with computers as a technician on the groundbreaking UNIVAC I (1951) computer system, the first commercially available computer in the United States. After working at Hughes Aircraft on radar systems for several years, he then joined the Rand Corporation in 1959, where he developed the concept of packet switching to make distributed networks survivable in the event of nuclear attack. While at Rand, he also wrote a 13-volume set of reports defining in detail an all-digital nationally distributed network for digital voice and data.
Baran's packet switching ideas served as a foundation upon which others later built the ARPANET, which, over time, evolved into the Internet.
In 1968, Baran left Rand to co-found the Institute for the Future, a not-for-profit research group specializing in long-range forecasting. In 1972, he started a number of for-profit companies based on technologies he developed, and continued founding companies until 2003.
Baran won the US National Medal of Technology in 2007. He passed away in 2011.