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Sergey Brin (born August 21, 1973) is a Russian-born American computer scientist best known as the co-founder of Google, Inc., the world’s largest Internet company, based on its search engine and online advertising technology. As of 2009, Forbes ranks Brin as the 26th richest person in the world.

Brin immigrated to the United States at the age of six. Earning his undergraduate degree at the University of Marylandmarker, he followed in his father's and grandfather's footsteps by studying mathematics, double-majoring in computer science. After graduation, he moved to Stanfordmarker to acquire a Ph.D in computer science. There he met Larry Page, whom he quickly befriended. They crammed their dormitory room with inexpensive computers and applied Brin’s data mining system to build a superior search engine. The program became popular at Stanford and they suspended their Ph.D studies to start up Google in a rented garage.

The Economist magazine referred to Brin as an “Enlightenment Man," and someone who believes that “knowledge is always good, and certainly always better than ignorance," a philosophy which is summed up by Google’s motto of making all the world’s information "universally accessible and useful" and "Don't be evil."

Early life and education

Brin ( ) was born in Moscowmarker, in the Soviet Unionmarker, to Russian Jewish parents, the son of Michael Brin and Eugenia Brin, both graduates of Moscow State Universitymarker. His father is a mathematics professor at the University of Marylandmarker, and his mother is a research scientist at NASAmarker's Goddard Space Flight Centermarker.

Childhood in the Soviet Union

In 1979, when Brin was six, his family felt compelled to immigrate to the United States. In an interview with Mark Malseed, author of The Google Story, Sergey's father explains how he was "forced to abandon his dream of becoming an astronomer even before he reached college. Officially, anti-Semitism didn't exist in the U.S.S.R.marker but, in reality, Communist Party heads barred Jews from upper professional ranks by denying them entry to universities. Jews were excluded from the physics departments, in particular..." Michael Brin therefore changed his major to mathematics where he received nearly straight A's. However, he said, "Nobody would even consider me for graduate school because I was Jewish."The Brin family lived in a small, three-room, 350 square foot apartment in central Moscow, which they also shared with Sergey's paternal grandmother. Sergey told Malseed, "I've known for a long time that my father wasn't able to pursue the career he wanted," but Sergey only picked up the details years later after they had settled in America. He learned how, in 1977, after his father returned from a mathematics conference in Warsawmarker, Polandmarker, he announced that it was time for the family to emigrate. "We cannot stay here any more," he told his wife and mother. At the conference, he was able to "mingle freely with colleagues from the United Statesmarker, Francemarker, Englandmarker and Germanymarker, and discovered that his intellectual brethren in the West were 'not monsters.'" He added, "I was the only one in the family who decided it was really important to leave...".

Sergey's mother was less willing to leave their home in Moscow, where they had spent their entire lives. Malseed writes, "For Genia, the decision ultimately came down to Sergey. While her husband admits he was thinking as much about his own future as his son's, for her, 'it was 80/20' about Sergey." They formally applied for their exit visa in September 1978, and as a result his father "was promptly fired." For related reasons, his mother also had to leave her job. For the next eight months, without any steady income, they were forced to take on temporary jobs as they waited, not knowing whether their application would be granted. During this time his parents shared responsibility for looking after him and his father taught himself computer programming. In May 1979, they were granted their official exit visas and were allowed to leave the country.

At an interview in October, 2000, Brin said, "I know the hard times that my parents went through there, and am very thankful that I was brought to the States." A decade earlier, in the summer of 1990, a few weeks before his 17th birthday, his father led a group of gifted high school math students, including Sergey, on a two-week exchange program to the Soviet Union. "As Sergey recalls, the trip awakened his childhood fear of authority" and he remembers that his first "impulse on confronting Soviet oppression had been to throw pebbles at a police car." Malseed adds, "On the second day of the trip, while the group toured a sanitarium in the countryside near Moscow, Sergey took his father aside, looked him in the eye and said, 'Thank you for taking us all out of Russia.'"

Education in America

Brin attended grade school at Paint Branch Montessori School in Adelphi, Marylandmarker, but he received further education at home; his father, a professor in the department of mathematics at the University of Marylandmarker, nurtured his interest in mathematics and his family helped him retain his Russian-language skills. In September 1990, after having attended Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Brin enrolled in the University of Maryland, College Park to study computer science and mathematics, where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in May 1993 with honors.

Brin began his graduate study in Computer Science at Stanford Universitymarker on a graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation. In 1993 he interned at Wolfram Research, makers of Mathematica. He is on leave from his Ph.D. studies at Stanford.

Search engine development

During an orientation for new students at Stanfordmarker, he met Larry Page. In a recent interview for The Economist, Brin jokingly said "We're both kind of obnoxious." They seemed to disagree on most subjects. But after spending time together, they "became intellectual soul-mates and close friends." Brin's focus was on developing data mining systems while Page's was in extending "the concept of inferring the importance of a research paper from its citations in other papers." Together, the pair authored what is widely considered their seminal contribution, a paper entitled "The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine."

Combining their ideas, they "crammed their dormitory room with cheap computers" and tested their new search engine designs on the web. Their project grew quickly enough "to cause problems for Stanford's computing infrastructure." But they realized they had succeeded in creating a superior engine for searching the web and suspended their PhD studies to work more on their system.

As Larry Malseed wrote, "Soliciting funds from faculty members, family and friends, Sergey and Larry scraped together enough to buy some server and rent that famous garage in Menlo Parkmarker. ... [soon after], Sun Microsystems co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim wrote a $100,000 check to “Google, Inc.” The only problem was, “Google, Inc.” did not yet exist—the company hadn’t yet been incorporated. For two weeks, as they handled the paperwork, the young men had nowhere to deposit the money."

The Economist magazine describes Brin's approach to life, like Page's, as based on a vision summed up by Google's motto, "of making all the world's information 'universally accessible and useful.'" Not long after the two "cooked up their new engine for web searches, they began thinking about information that is today beyond the web," such as digitizing books, and expanding health information.

Personal life

In May 2007, Brin married Anne Wojcicki in The Bahamasmarker. Wojcicki is a biotech analyst and a 1996 graduate of Yale Universitymarker with a B.S. in biology.She has an active interest in health information, and together she and Brin are developing new ways to improve access to it. As part of their efforts, they have brainstormed with leading researchers about the human genome project. “Brin instinctively regards genetics as a database and computing problem. So does his wife, who co-founded the firm, 23andMe,” which lets people analyze and compare their own genetic makeup (consisting of 23 pairs of chromosomes). In a recent announcement at Google’s Zeitgeist conference, he said he hoped that some day everyone would learn their genetic code in order to help doctors, patients, and researchers analyze the data and try to repair bugs.

Brin's mother, Eugenia, has been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. In 2008, he decided to donate a large sum to the University of Maryland School of Medicine, where his mother is being treated. Brin used the services of 23AndMe and discovered that although Parkinson's is generally not hereditary, both he and his mother possess a mutation of the LRRK2 gene that puts the likelihood of his developing Parkinson's in later years between 20 and 80%. When asked whether ignorance was not bliss in such matters, he stated that his knowledge means that he can now take measures to ward off the disease. An editorial in The Economist magazine states that "Mr Brin regards his mutation of LRRK2 as a bug in his personal code, and thus as no different from the bugs in computer code that Google’s engineers fix every day. By helping himself, he can therefore help others as well. He considers himself lucky. ... But Mr. Brin was making a much bigger point. Isn’t knowledge always good, and certainly always better than ignorance?"

Views Chinese Censorship of Google

Remembering his youth and his family's reasons for leaving the Soviet Union, he "agonized over Google’s decision to appease the communist government of Chinamarker by allowing it to censor search engine results," but decided that the Chinese would still be better off than without having Google available. He explained his reasoning to Fortune magazine:

"We felt that by participating there, and making our services more available, even if not to the 100 percent that we ideally would like, that it will be better for Chinese web users, because ultimately they would get more information, though not quite all of it."


Awards and recognition

In 2003, both Brin and Page received an honorary MBA from IE Business Schoolmarker "for embodying the entrepreneurial spirit and lending momentum to the creation of new businesses...". And in 2004, they received the Marconi Foundation Prize, the "Highest Award in Engineering," and were elected Fellows of the Marconi Foundation at Columbia University. "In announcing their selection, John Jay Iselin, the Foundation's president, congratulated the two men for their invention that has fundamentally changed the way information is retrieved today." They joined a "select cadre of 32 of the world's most influential communications technology pioneers..."

In February, 2009, Brin was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering, which is "among the highest professional distinctions accorded to an engineer ... [and] honors those who have made outstanding contributions to engineering research, practice...". He was selected specifically, "for leadership in development of rapid indexing and retrieval of relevant information from the World Wide Web."

In their "Profiles" of Fellows, the National Science Foundation included a number of earlier awards:
"he has been a featured speaker at the World Economic Forum and the Technology, Entertainment and Design Conference. ... PC Magazine has praised Google [of] the Top 100 Web Sites and Search Engines (1998) and awarded Google the Technical Excellence Award, for Innovation in Web Application Development in 1999. In 2000, Google earned a Webby Award, a People's Voice Award for technical achievement, and in 2001, was awarded Outstanding Search Service, Best Image Search Engine, Best Design, Most Webmaster Friendly Search Engine, and Best Search Feature at the Search Engine Watch Awards."


Other interests

Brin is working on other, more personal projects that reach beyond Google. For example, he and Page are trying to help solve the world’s energy and climate problems at Google’s philanthropic arm google.org. He had Google invest in the alternative energy industry to find wider sources of renewable energy. They are trying to get companies to create innovative solutions to increasing the world's supply. He is an investor in Tesla Motors, which is developing the Tesla Roadster, a range battery electric vehicle.

Brin has appeared on television shows and many documentaries, including Charlie Rose, CNBCmarker, and CNN. In 2004, he and Larry Page were named "Persons of the Week" by ABC World News Tonight. In January 2005 he was nominated to be one of the World Economic Forum's "Young Global Leaders." He and Page are also the executive producers of the 2009 film Broken Arrows.

In June 2008, Brin invested $5 million in Space Adventures, the Virginiamarker-based space tourism company. His investment will serve as a deposit for a reservation on one of Space Adventures' proposed flights in 2011. So far, Space Adventures has sent seven tourists into space.

He and Page co-own a customized Boeing 767-200 and a Dornier Alpha Jet, and pay $1.3 million a year to house them and two Gulfstream V jets owned by Google executives at Moffett Federal Airfieldmarker. The aircraft have had scientific equipment installed by NASAmarker to allow experimental data to be collected in flight.

Brin is a member of AmBAR, a networking organization for Russian-speaking business professionals (both expatriates and immigrants) in the United Statesmarker. He has made many speaking appearances.

Quotes

  • "When it’s too easy to get money, then you get a lot of noise mixed in with the real innovation and entrepreneurship. Tough times bring out the best parts of Silicon Valley."


  • "We came up with the notion that not all web pages are created equal. People are – but not web pages."


  • "Technology is an inherent democratizer. Because of the evolution of hardware and software, you’re able to scale up almost anything. It means that in our lifetime everyone may have tools of equal power."


  • "I think, if anything, I feel like I have gotten a gift by being in the States rather than growing up in Russia. . . . It just make me appreciate my life that much more."


References

External links



Interviews



Articles




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