I bet you know who invented the telephone. How about the light bulb? If you’re Canadian, you know who invented insulin because that may be the last time something that useful was invented here. (I’m sure I’ll get hate mail for that comment.) How about Email? Do you know who invented it? I must admit that I didn’t know. Such a shame since it’s reach is worldwide and the frequency of its use surely would qualify it as a pandemic.


Here are some stats on its use from the Radacati Group

  • 107 trillion – The number of emails sent on the Internet in 2010.
  • 294 billion – Average number of email messages per day.
  • 1.88 billion – The number of email users worldwide.
  • 2.9 billion – The number of email accounts worldwide.

So there are all sorts of claims as to who actually invented it. The answer depends on how you define email.

Tom Van Vleck

The first attempt at something like email was back in the mid 60s on MIT’s Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS). Tom Van Vleck developed a “mail” command that let users send electronic messages to other users of the same system. No networking and no mail system but it was a useful start.

Ray Tomlinson

In 1971, Ray Tomlinson built a messaging system atop ARPAnet, the research network funded by the US Department of Defense that would eventually give rise to the internet. Ray’s system sent electronic messages between machines. Messages now, but no application. It was recognized in 1977 that  no attempt was being made to emulate a full-scale, inter-organizational mail system.

V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai

Then in 1978 V.A. Shiva Ayyadurai,a 14-year-old working in Newark, NJ built and copyrighted a software program called “email”. This was the first program to structure electronic communications in a way that mimicked paper mail with “inboxes” and “outboxes” and “address books.” Ayyadurai who is now a lectureer at MIT was at the tender age of 14, working at the University of Medical and Dentistry of New Jersey.

You can check out his claim at www.inventorofemail.com/

And yes, that invention that you probably hate but can’t live without was invented by a 14 year old.