Michael Leonidas Dertouzos (Greek: Μιχαήλ Λεωνίδας Δερτούζος) (November 5, 1936 – August 27, 2001) was a Greek Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Director of the M.I.T. Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS) from 1974 to 2001.
During Dertouzos’s term, LCS innovated in a variety of areas, including RSA encryption, the spreadsheet, the NuBus, the X Window System, and the Internet. Dertouzos was instrumental in defining the World Wide Web Consortium and bringing it to MIT. He was a firm supporter of the GNU Project, Richard Stallman, and the FSF, and their continued presence at MIT.
In 1968, he co-founded Computek, Inc., a manufacturer of graphics and intelligent terminals with Marvin C. Lewis and Dr. Huber Graham.
Dertouzos was a graduate of Athens College and attended the University of Arkansas on a Fulbright Scholarship. He received his Ph.D. from M.I.T. in 1964 and joined the M.I.T. faculty. He was buried at the First Cemetery of Athens
“As large as life and twice as natural” is a phrase that comes to mind when thinking of Michael Dertozos. As much as he promoted the information marketplace and the invention of things hardware and software, Michael was primarily a person full of a wonderful, very human, nature.
In one of our early meetings about setting up W3C with a base at MIT, I was concerned that the organization should not just be US based, but be global. I expressed this to Michael and he gave me one of his big, slightly shoulder-crushing, one-arm hugs as we walked along. I realized later that he had spent a lot of his life trying to link across the Atlantic, so this was music to his ears.
Virtual meetings could never be the same as physical meetings, he used to say, because of the effect of the cave, that when you are in a small space with someone, you know subconsciously they could hurt you, which changed the dynamic completely. He would use that shoulder squeeze to emphasize the point.
On stage at the World Economic Forum plenary at Davos one year, he and Bill Gates were on stage together, and Bill must have suggested too much faith in virtual meetings. Michael leaned across and wrapped an arm around Bill, gave him that squeeze. From my seat in the audience, I guessed Bill got the point.
It was great to work in Michael’s lab as he had very little sense of the impossible. He was also very supportive, personally, of lab members, checking discretely on home and family as well as work. A very human person, then, large in person, but larger in overflowing human spirit.