A Merkle tree is a data structure used in distributed computing to verify the integrity and authenticity of data. It is named after Ralph Merkle, who invented the concept in 1979. The Merkle tree allows for efficient and secure verification of data integrity by constructing a tree of hashes, where each leaf node represents a piece of data, and each non-leaf node is the hash of its child nodes. The top node of the tree, called the root hash, can be used to verify the integrity of the entire dataset.
Merkle trees are widely used in blockchain technology to efficiently verify the authenticity of transactions and to provide a secure and tamper-proof distributed ledger.