Vint Cerf (left) and Bob Kahn
While it's true that both Vinton Cerf and Bob Kahn made of their many of their own notable accomplishments, it was their partnership that drove the creation of the TCP/IP protocol as one of the core components of the Internet.
The partnership can be traced back to when Cerf was a graduate student at UCLA and Kahn, who was working on hardware for the ARPANET. But it wasn't until 1973 that when Kahn, who as then working for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), rejoined his UCLA colleague to create the TCP/IP protocol.
There were two major events that led Kahn to start developing the TCP/IP protocol.
During the International Computer Communication Conference in the fall of 1972 when he was working at the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) within ARPA, Kahn demonstrated the ARPANET by connecting 20 different computers. This was described as "the watershed event that made people suddenly realize that packet switching was a real technology."
But it was in 1973 when Kahn was working on a satellite network project that he got the inspiration to develop what eventually became the TCP protocol. Initially, the TCP protocol was meant to be a replacement for the ARPANET's NCP protocol. All of his work on TCP/IP helped laid the groundwork for open-architecture networking, a concept that enables any computer and network to freely speak with one another despite the hardware or software they use on their particular system.
In 1976, Cerf joined Kahn at DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and stayed there until 1982. Then, like fellow Internet pioneer Larry Roberts, he realized that packet switching and the Internet had commercial applicability, so he joined MCI, now Verizon Business (NYSE: VZ), where he developed the MCI Mail service that was connected to the Internet.
Along with driving the commercialization of e-mail, Cerf was a key figure in forming and funding the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an organization that manages IPv4 and IPv6 address spaces and assigns address blocks to regional Internet registries such as the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN).
In the early 1990s, the two men synched up again to form the Internet Society (ISOC), an organization that aims to drive awareness around Internet-related standards, education and policy.
Their influence continues to resonate in 2011 through their activism and corporate work.
Since 2005, Cerf has served as Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG) vice president and chief Internet evangelist and on the UN's Broadband Commission for Digital Development, which has set a goal of expanding the availability of broadband services. Meanwhile Kahn serves as the Chairman, CEO and President of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives (CNRI) that is set on providing funding for research and development for the National Information Infrastructure.