Remembering a Newark professor known as the internet’s  ‘Father Time’

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It took a while for the passing of retired University of Delaware professor and internationally known scientist/engineering professor Dr. David Mills to make the news.

Mills, 85, died earlier this month at his home in Newark.

On Monday, both the New York Times and Washington Post took note of his death and the game-changing  breakthrough he engineered.

According to the Post, (subscription), Mills was the  “Father Time” of the internet. His breakthrough came as computers were becoming networked but had trouble dealing with synching time.

The Post noted that Mills developed the bedrock technology – Network Time Protocol by ranking time accuracy of computers with complex math and programming work. 

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NTP allowed networking to move forward and make its way into electric grid, cell phone systems, the Internet and other technology we take for granted.

Mills was born in Oakland, CA and went on to get a doctorate from the University of Michigan. 

His career before coming to UD included working as a researcher at Comsat, a federal agency working on satellite communications, with scientists also involved in an early version of information sharing that became the Internet. He also served on the faculty at the University of Maryland before coming to Delaware.

Mills was also a longtime developer of open source software shared by programmers.

Mills made no secret of his vision impairment dating from his childhood. He mentioned it in a brief University of Delaware biography, along with instructions on enlarging the post’s type size.

After retirement, he taught a few classes at UD, wrote a book and continued to author papers, while pursuing his amateur radio hobby.

In 2022, he was the subject of a story in the New Yorker that outlined the value of his work and on a sadder note, noted how his latter efforts failed to draw  attention in the tech world.

Mills  is survived by his wife of 59 years, a daughter, son and brother, according to a News Journal  notice. – Doug Rainey

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