LAWRENCE “Larry” Page (born March 26, 1973) is an American computer scientist and internet entrepreneur who is the CEO and co-founder of Google, alongside Sergey Brin. Page was CEO of Google from the companys founding in 1998 until 2001. Between 2001 and 2011, Page was President of Products at Google.
He is a board member of the X Prize Foundation and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2004. Page received the Marconi Prize in 2004. Page is the inventor of PageRank, the foundation of Google’s search ranking algorithm.
Early life and education
Page was born in East Lansing, Michigan, United States. His father, Carl Vincent Page, Sr., earned a Ph.D. in computer science in 1965—when the field was being established—and is considered a “pioneer in computer science and artificial intelligence”. He was a computer science professor at Michigan State University and Page’s mother, Gloria, was an instructor in computer programming at Lyman Briggs College at Michigan State University. Page’s mother is Jewish, and he was raised without religion.
During an interview, Page recalled his childhood, noting that his house “was usually a mess, with computers, science/technology magazines and Popular Science magazines all over the place”, an environment in which he immersed himself. His attraction to computers started when he was 6 years old when he got to “play with the stuff lying around”(i.e. first-generation personal computers). He became the “first kid in his elementary school to turn in an assignment from a word processor”. His older brother also taught him to take things apart and before long he was taking “everything in his house apart to see how it worked”. He said that “from a very early age, I also realized I wanted to invent things. So I became really interested in technology and business. Probably from when I was 12, I knew I was going to start a company eventually.”
Page attended the Okemos Montessori School (now called Montessori Radmoor) in Okemos, Michigan, from 1975 to 1979, and graduated from East Lansing High School in 1991. He holds a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering from the University of Michigan with honors and a Master of Science in computer science from Stanford University. While at the University of Michigan, Page created an inkjet printer made of Lego bricks (literally a line plotter), seeing the possibility to print large posters cheaply using inkjet cartridges, Page reverse-engineered the cartridge, and built all the electronics and mechanics to drive it. Page served as the president of the Beta Epsilon chapter of Eta Kappa Nu, and was a member of the 1993 “Maize & Blue” University of Michigan Solar Car team. As an undergrad at the University of Michigan, he’d proposed that the school replace its bus system with something he called a PRT, or personal rapid transit system — essentially a driverless monorail with separate cars for every rider.
Ph.D. studies and research
AFTER enrolling in a computer science Ph.D. program at Stanford University, Page was in search of a dissertation theme and considered exploring the mathematical properties of the World Wide Web, understanding its link structure as a huge graph, his supervisor, Terry Winograd, encouraged him to pursue this idea, which Page later recalled as the best advice he ever got. He also considered doing research on telepresence and automated cars during this time.
Page then focused on the problem of finding out which web pages link to a given page, considering the number and nature of such backlinks to be valuable information about that page, with the role of citations in academic publishing in mind. In his research project, nicknamed “BackRub”, he was soon joined by Sergey Brin, a fellow Stanford Ph.D. student. Together, the pair authored a paper titled “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine”, which became one of the most downloaded scientific documents in the history of the internet at the time.
John Battelle, co-founder of Wired magazine, wrote that Page had reasoned that the entire Web was loosely based on the premise of citation – after all, what is a link but a citation? If he could devise a method to count and qualify each backlink on the Web, as Page puts it “the Web would become a more valuable place”.
Battelle further described how Page and Brin began working together on the project:
At the time Page conceived of BackRub, the Web comprised an estimated 10 million documents, with an untold number of links between them. The computing resources required to crawl such a beast were well beyond the usual bounds of a student project. Unaware of exactly what he was getting into, Page began building out his crawler. The idea’s complexity and scale lured Brin to the job. A polymath who had jumped from project to project without settling on a thesis topic, he found the premise behind BackRub fascinating. “I talked to lots of research groups” around the school, Brin recalls, “and this was the most exciting project, both because it tackled the Web, which represents human knowledge, and because I liked Larry.”
Search engine development to convert the backlink data gathered by BackRub’s web crawler into a measure of importance for a given web page, Brin and Page developed the PageRank algorithm, and realized that it could be used to build a search engine far superior to existing ones. It relied on a new kind of technology that analyzed the relevance of the back links that connected one Web page to another.
Combining their ideas, they began utilizing Page’s dorm room as a machine lab, fashioning a computational Frankenstein from spare parts such as inexpensive computers, they jacked the nascent search engine into Stanford’s broadband campus network. After filling Page’s room with equipment, they converted Brin’s dorm room into an office and programming center, and tested their new search engine designs on the web. Their project grew quickly enough to cause problems for Stanford’s computing infrastructure. It soon caught on with other Stanford users when Page and Brin let them try it out. They set up a simple search page for users, because they did not have a web page developer to create anything very visually elaborate. They also began stringing together the necessary computing power to handle searches by multiple users, by using any computer part they could find. As their search engine grew in popularity among Stanford users, it needed more and more servers to process the queries. In August 1996, the initial version of Google was made available, still on the Stanford University Web site.
BackRub already served the rudimentary functions of a search engine – query input was delivered to it, and it provided a list of backlinks ranked by importance. “We realized that we had a querying tool,” Page recalls. “It gave you a good overall ranking of pages and ordering of follow-up pages.” In mid-1998 they finally realized the further potential of their project. “Pretty soon, we had 10,000 searches a day,” Page had recalled. “And we figured, maybe this is really real.”