Close Look Ethereum

The Merge: 10 Key People Behind Ethereum’s Biggest Upgrade Yet


The Merge is expected to be one of the crypto industry’s biggest events. It’s the point in time when the Ethereum blockchain will shift from a proof-of-work consensus mechanism to a proof-of-stake mechanism. It’s just one step in a broader roadmap to make the Ethereum blockchain more scalable, more secure and more environmentally friendly. The momentous event has been in the works for years with collaboration taking place around the world from industry groups to individual developers and contributors.  

With 119 core developers working on The Merge, however, and thousands of programmers contributing to the overall Ethereum protocol, it’s impossible to give any one person credit for the blockchain’s evolution. Regardless, some people undeniably have played crucial roles in making The Merge happen. Here are 10 people who have been integral in contributing to the historic switch. 

Aidan Hyman, CEO and co-founder of Chainsafe  

Who he is: Aidan Hyman is the CEO and co-founder of Chainsafe, a blockchain research and development company. Chainsafe works on a variety of projects across different blockchains. Lodestar, one of the firm’s projects, is playing a key role in The Merge as a consensus client for implementing Ethereum’s proof-of-stake algorithm. 

What he’s doing: Lodestar aims to enable individuals to easily self-host a staking validator and verify blockchain data. Lodestar helps to remove a reliance on centralized providers to validate the network. The project is open source and written in the popular programming language Typescript, which also makes it accessible to the developer community. Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin provided ChainSafe its first grant to develop Lodestar in 2018. Several members of ChainSafe were also involved with the launching of the Goerli testnet, which ended up being the final merge testing ground before mainnet launch.

Danny Ryan, researcher at the Ethereum Foundation  

Who he is: Danny Ryan is a researcher at the Ethereum Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting Ethereum and its related technologies. He is a lead coordinator for the rollout of the Ethereum upgrades. He frequently contributes to the Ethereum Foundation blog, providing progress updates on The Merge and Ethereum’s roadmap. 

What he’s doing: Ryan started getting involved in Ethereum’s shift to proof of stake in 2017, according to an interview with A16z’s Future publication. He describes his role at the Ethereum Foundation as helping to facilitate conversations to decide on timelines and priorities related to helping Ethereum become more scalable, secure and sustainable as well as helping to do research and development to vet suggested solutions. 

Paul Hauner, Co-founder of Sigma Prime 

Who he is: Paul Hauner is the co-founder of Sigma Prime, an information security consulting company. He also founded the Lighthouse project, which is another proof-of-stake consensus client for Ethereum. Since 2018, the Lighthouse project has raised funds from the Ethereum Foundation, infrastructure firm ConsenSys, and Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin. 

What he’s doing: Lighthouse is an Ethereum consensus client for implementing the proof-of-stake algorithm with a focus on speed and security. Sigma Prime maintains the client, which individuals can download to become a validator for the Ethereum consensus layer. The Lighthouse team has also been actively involved in the specification and security analysis of the Ethereum proof-of-stake consensus specification, according to Lighthouse’s website

Justin Drake, researcher at the Ethereum Foundation 

Who he is: Justin Drake is a researcher at the Ethereum Foundation. He joined the foundation in 2017 and previously founded a startup called Duo Money, according to LinkedIn. Drake first got involved in crypto in 2013, when he founded the Cambridge Bitcoin Meetup group. He recently received a lot of public attention related to The Merge for his outlook on post-Merge staking rewards

What he’s doing: In an interview with CryptoStaker, Drake describes his role at the Ethereum Foundation as staying “up to date with the firehose of internal and public conversations” as well as doing technical coordination and research for the foundation. He’s recently been working on a deep dive into the intersection of Maximal Extractable Value (MEV) and consensus, according to the interview. 

Pooja Ranjan, Herder-in-Chief, Ethereum Cat Herders 

Who she is: Pooja Ranjan is Herder-In-Chief for Ethereum Cat Herders. She also founded Ethereum news site EtherWorld and once worked at Accenture as a senior software engineer.  

What she’s doing: The Ethereum Cat Herders describes itself as a group of people supporting Ethereum’s core developers with “project management and other aspects of communication and coordination.” In addition, the group puts together educational videos about Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs), or design documents related to The Merge as well as other topics.  

Vitalik Buterin, Co-founder, Ethereum  

Who he is: Vitalik Buterin is easily the most high-profile Ethereum co-founder, often credited with creating the protocol. Buterin, a Russian-Canadian programmer, helped start Bitcoin Magazine in 2011 before publishing the Ethereum whitepaper in 2014. 

What he’s doing: While no longer an Ethereum core developer, Buterin has played an invaluable role in communicating the move from proof of work to proof of stake since introducing the design philosophy for the new consensus mechanism in 2016. Since then, Buterin has made regular appearances to discuss the Ethereum roadmap and share technical articles with views on wide-ranging crypto topics. 

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“The switch to proof of stake, I think, is very important just for the environmental reasons and also the efficiency reasons, Buterin said last December during a talk in Buenos Aires. “It’s also an opportunity to make the protocol much better, to have transactions confirmed faster, to make the network more efficient, add light client support — just a big, long list of things.”  

Tim Beiko, Protocol Support for the Ethereum Foundation  

Who he is: Tim Beiko is a core developer for Ethereum, who joined the Ethereum Foundation in 2021 after transitioning from a product manager job with ConsenSys.

What he’s doing: With the responsibility of running biweekly core developer meetings, Beiko is in many ways the glue that holds the Ethereum developer community together. The meetings center on important discussions about network upgrades and improvements, including the many updates needed to prepare for the switch to proof of stake.  

Beiko was the one who informed us in July about the current mid-September target for The Merge. He also played a big role in helping push out Ethereum Improvement Proposal 1559 (EIP-1559), which was part of the London upgrade that introduced new burn mechanism for the protocol. 

Preston Van Loon, Co-founder, Prysmatic Labs  

Who he is: Preston Van Loon co-founded Ethereum-focused infrastructure company Prysmatic Labs in 2018, working alongside Raul Jordan. Van Loon previously worked at Google. 

What he’s doing: Van Loon’s company has been working on developing Prysm, the most popular of four primary consensus clients used for proof of stake. Prysmatic started out focusing on a scaling solution called sharding, which will be a highly-anticipated upgrade to Ethereum after The Merge happens.  

The process of transitioning from proof of work consensus has taken Ethereum developers years longer than anticipated, but Van Loon explains that Prysmatic has worked hard to get things right. “At Prysmatic Labs we were one of the first people to get into it, and we have, I think, rewritten our whole codebase at least three times,” Van Loon said in February during a panel at ETHDenver. “And that’s just sort of the way it goes with this kind of technology where once its deployed out there, it’s really difficult to change.”  

Ben Edgington, Product Lead, Teku at ConsenSys 

Who he is: Ben Edgington is the founder and product lead for the open-source consensus client Teku.  

What he’s doing: Edgington made the decision to focus his efforts solely on Ethereum scaling and proof of stake in early 2018, the developer wrote in a ConsenSys blog post. The same year, he started developing the consensus client that would become Teku. Edgington describes being “well and truly hooked” on Ethereum when he learned of the transition to proof of stake, as he was concerned about the proof-of-work model’s environmental footprint.  

“I had no idea on that day six years ago that it would take us so long to deliver proof of stake,” Edgington wrote in the blog post. “The journey has been longer and tougher than anyone thought. But The Merge is finally upon us.” 

Mikhail Kalinin, Lead Researcher at ConsenSys R&D 

Who he is: Now a lead researcher at ConsenSys, Kalinin is one of the longest-standing developers working on Ethereum. Kalinin started working on an Ethereum client in 2015 before the mainnet even launched, he wrote in a ConsenSys blog post.  

What he’s doing: Kalinin has contributed to several key technical steps in making The Merge happen, including publishing the proposal for the Executable Beacon Chain and contributing significantly to the Merge specifications. In a recent tweet, Tim Beiko cited Kalinin along with Danny Ryan as two key people involved in The Merge, saying that “they literally built and steered the ship.” In that blog post, Kalinin called his Merge experience “an example of true diversification and decentralization of work on an R&D project.” 

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