Did you know that one of the first victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States was a former Israeli commando, a bonafide genius and a driving force behind the modern Internet?
Daniel Lewin was on American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston to Los Angeles when it was hijacked by Mohammed Atta and his four fellow Al Qaeda terrorists.
Lewin witnessed Atta and another terrorist assault a flight attendant and, according to FAA analysis of an in-flight phone call with another flight attendant, leapt to defend her.
Lewin is believed to have tackled Atta and his accomplice, but was unfortunately unaware that another terrorist was seated right behind him. That terrorist is believed to have surprised Lewin and stabbed him to death.
Friends and family were unsurprised by Lewin’s heroic response to the situation.
At age 14, Lewin’s family moved from Denver to Jerusalem. Understandably reluctant to make aliyah as a teenager, Lewin nevertheless made the most of the move, and four years later was accepted into Sayeret Matkal, one of the Israeli army’s most elite combat units. He left the IDF years later with the rank of captain.
From there, Lewin began studies at the prestigious Technion in Haifa. But even that apparently didn’t push him enough, so Lewin simultaneously worked for IBM’s local research and development center, where he developed a processor verification tool that continues to be used by top tier tech companies around the world.
From there, Lewin moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to begin studying for his Ph.D at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). But, once again, Lewin craved more than just scholastic stimulation.
It was during his time as a Ph.D candidate at MIT that Lewin and his advisor, Professor F. Thomson Leighton (pictured together), developed algorithms that significantly boosted Internet traffic speeds, and which are still in use today.
Lewin went on to found Akamai Technologies, which today serves up to 30 percent of all Internet traffic, achieving great wealth and widespread acclaim in the process.
Lewin was just 31-years-old when he died.