Chapter II of Merkle's 1979 PhD thesis is titled "One Way Hash Functions." The chapter appears to be the first reference to cryptographic hashing. The chapter has no references. Is there an earlier reference that I am not aware of?


1 Answer 1


I think the first paragraph of this document show be helpful.

The Rabin reference at the bottom of the text is from 1978, and the impression I get from p3 of this document is that he came up with a linear iterated hash function in that 1978 paper. So maybe Rabin invented it.

I think we can be pretty sure it was either Merkle, Rabin or Yuval (if you must choose one), but that sounds like an answer correct for a good deal of history questions in this field.

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  • $\begingroup$ I can't find the Rabin 78 paper online. The Rabin 79 MIT/LCS/TR-212 does not have iterated hash functions. It's true that hash functions were well known in 1978 as were one-way functions, but I haven't found one-way hash functions before Merkle's thesis. $\endgroup$
    – vy32
    Dec 18, 2012 at 22:14
  • $\begingroup$ It's this but I can't find the text. $\endgroup$
    – Nathan
    Dec 19, 2012 at 10:37
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, the document "The First 30 Years of Cryptographic Hash Functions and the NIST SHA-3 Competition" has a reference to Rabin 78, and the NIST document makes it clear that Rabin build a hash using DES. So the answer seems to be "No, it was invented the year before by Rabin." $\endgroup$
    – vy32
    Oct 1, 2017 at 20:25

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