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Danny Lewin, All-Israeli Hero Killed on 9/11, Remembered

Lewin was the best at everything he did: he served in the IDF's top unit and his algorithms created a firm worth billions.
By Gil Ronen
First Publish: 9/11/2011, 8:11 PM

Among the people remembered Sunday in Israeli ceremonies commemorating the 9/11 terror atrocities was Daniel Lewin, a true all-Israeli hero who was the best at everything he did. Lewin's life story contains elements that are reminiscent of both Yoni and Binyamin Netanyahu's biographies.

Lewin was a mathematician and entrepreneur, best known for co-founding internet company Akamai Technologies.

Born in Denver, Colorado and raised in Jerusalem, he served for four years in the Israel Defense Forces as an officer in Sayeret Matkal, the IDF's most prestigious elite unit (which was commanded by Yoni Netanyahu and in which Binyamin Netanyahu served as an officer).

He attended the Technion in Haifa, Israel while simultaneously working at IBM's research laboratory in Haifa, where he developed the Genesys system, a processor verification tool that is used widely within IBM and in other top companies.

He then traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts to begin graduate studies at MIT (where Binyamin Netanyahu studied). While there, he and his advisor, Professor F. Thomson Leighton, came up with innovative algorithms for optimizing Internet traffic and reducing loads on servers that would otherwise crash. These algorithms became the basis for Akamai, which the two founded in 1998. Lewin served as the company's Chief Technical Officer and a board member, and achieved wealth estimated at two billion dollars at a certain point.

On September 11, 2001, Lewin was killed aboard American Airlines Flight 11 apparently toward the beginning of the hijacking. A 2002 FAA memo suggests Lewin was seated in business class in seat 9B, close to hijackers Mohammed Atta and Satam al Suqami. According to the 9/11 Commission, Lewin may have been stabbed in the throat when he tried to foil the hijacking, not knowing that Satam was sitting just behind him.

Ironically, the algorithms Lewin developed made it possible for the Internet to remain functional during 9/11, despite the extreme peak in global traffic.

After his death, the intersection of Main and Vassar Streets in Cambridge was renamed "Danny Lewin Square" in his honor.