Russian-born Sergey Mikhaylovich Brin co-founded Google in a rented California garage. The tech genius, who believes that all knowledge is good, wants to make the world’s information universally accesible and useful.
By Linda Marx
When Sergey Mikhaylovich Brin, who co-founded Google, the world’s most popular search engine, was a five-year-old growing up in Moscow, Russia, he lived in a three-room apartment with his well educated parents and paternal grandmother. The energetic boy spent a couple of hours each day playing outside.
But the older family members were filled with frustration and alienation. Brin’s father Mikhail, a Soviet mathematician and economist, had been forced to abandon his dream of becoming an astronomer because Communist Party leaders barred Jews from upper professional ranks by denying them entry to universities.
In published reports, Mikhail has said that he switched gears to math, where he received the highest grades at Moscow State University, but he was not allowed to enroll in graduate school because he was Jewish. He even had to take entrance exams in different rooms from non-Jewish applicants.
By 1979, Mikhail had endured enough. So he arranged for the family to emigrate to the United States in hopes of seeking a better and more fulfilling life. He became a math professor at the University of Maryland while Brin’s mother Yevgenia, also a Moscow State University graduate, became a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Flight Center.
The family started out in a Maryland rental house. With a $2,000 loan from the Jewish community, they bought a 1973 Ford Maverick, according to Moment magazine. Brin was enrolled in Paint Branch Montessori School in Adelphi, where he was bashful and had language adjustment problems.
“It was a difficult year for him, the first year,” his mother told Moment. “We were constantly discussing the fact we had been told that children are like sponges, they immediately grasp the language and have no problem, and that wasn’t the case.”
But the young boy didn’t lack confidence. He was smart. He liked math, maps and puzzles and was filled with the ambition to learn. The freedom and openness of the Montessori school was perfect for him. It set the stage for his career of innovation, and a desire to improve life for others.
Brin, now 43, and a computer scientist, Internet entrepreneur, president of Alphabet, the parent company of Google, and philanthropist worth $37.4 billion, according to Forbes, had many of the same skills as his father, including a head for math. He also had a defiant streak and sly sense of humor where he reveled in being different.
He graduated from Eleanor Roosevelt High School in three years, even securing enough college credits to graduate from University of Maryland in three more years with majors in math and computer science. He won a National Science Foundation Scholarship for graduate school and picked Stanford because it encouraged technology students and entrepreneurs.
In the spring of 1995 during a Stanford orientation for new students, he met Larry Page.
Cocky and outspoken, Brin quickly made himself known with humorous quips, scientific observations, technological innovations, and a strong work ethic. He loved data mining systems and was totally focused on that as well as participating in sports such as skiing, swimming, rollerblading, performing gymnastics, walking on his hands, and even the trapeze.
In the spring of 1995 during a Stanford orientation for new students, he met Larry Page, an intellectual computer science student from University of Michigan. Both Jewish and completing doctorates in computer science, the guys had a lot in common from their first conversation. They talked and argued for the entire weekend, then forged a relationship to combine ideas.
According to Moment and other published reports, the students began working on ways to utilize information on the web. By 1996, they had decided to take leaves of absence from Stanford and build a company together. In August of that year, the initial version of Google was made available to Internet users.
Finding development money from friends, faculty and family members, they bought some servers and rented a garage from Susan Wojcicki (current CEO of YouTube), in Menlo Park. Andy Bechtolsheim, a Jewish immigrant from Germany who co-founded Sun Microsystems, was so impressed with a demonstration of what the partners were doing, that he wrote a $100,000 check to “Google” which had not yet been incorporated.
The partners were developing the PageRank algorithm, seeing that it could be used to build a search engine far better than what existed. The new algorithm relied on a new kind of technology that analyzed the relevance of backlinks that connected one web page to another, reason for which the search engine was originally called BackRub.