Keith Uncapher, 80; Founder of USC Science Institute, Computer Pioneer


Keith Uncapher, who founded USC’s Information Sciences Institute, died Thursday of a heart attack. He was 80.

Uncapher conducted or supervised pioneering work on a number of issues central to the development of the Internet, both at the Rand Corp. in Santa Monica and at the USC institute, which he began in 1972 with a staff of three.

At Rand, Uncapher worked on “packet-switching,” a system for breaking down digital messages into parts and reassembling them at their destination. Later, at USC, institute researchers worked on the development of the Internet’s system for domain names, the hierarchy of locations that includes .com, .net and .org.

“Keith Uncapher was a brilliant pioneer whose work advanced, not only USC and its School of Engineering, but the whole field of computers,” said USC President Steven Sample.


Uncapher led the institute in Marina del Rey for 14 years as it emerged as a significant contributor to many of the Internet’s building blocks, much of it with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

In 1986, Uncapher co-founded the nonprofit Corporation for National Research Initiatives, based in Reston, Va.

A Denver native, Uncapher earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and served four years in the U.S. Navy in World War II.

He was chairman of computer science advisory boards at Stanford University and Carnegie Mellon University, and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1998.


His awards include the U.S. Air Force’s Decoration for Exceptional Civilian Service.

He is survived by his wife, Doris, and two sons, William and Jeffrey.