By: Victoria Yates
Lawrence Page was born in East Lansing, Michigan on March 26th 1973 to the pioneering computer scientist Dr. Carl Page and his wife Gloria. Both his parents were computer science professors at Michigan State University when the field was still in its nascent stages.
Page was educated at a Montessori school in Okemos, Michigan and graduated from East Lansing High School in 1991. His childhood was filled with curiosity and experimentation - frequently taken to dismantling things with his brother to see how they functioned.
Given the family background it was hardly a surprise when Page went on to study for a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering at the University of Michigan. While at university, Page’s skills came to the fore, creating an inkjet printer out of LEGO and serving as a member of the 1993 solar car team. On top of his forays into invention, Page served as the president of the Beta Epsilon chapter of Eta Kappa Nu.
Afterwards, he moved to California to study for a Masters in computer science at Stanford University. It was here that he started exploring the structure of the world wide web for a dissertation thesis. Page honed in on trying to work out how many pages linked to any given page, believing the information to be valuable for citations and academic publishing spheres. Sergey Brin, a fellow student, soon joined him on his project.
They had already met in 1995 at an orientation for Ph.D candidates. Brin, a few years Page’s senior in the program, was showing around the new arrivals, but this was the project that solidified their future. In order to fully catalogue the backlink data they had amassed, they developed the PageRank algorithm. The power of the idea occurred to the pair who realized that they could create a far more powerful search engine with this sort of programming than was then available.
The first version of Google appeared on the Stanford web site in August 1996. It was named after the mathematical term ‘Googol’ -1 followed by 100 zeros- to reflect their attempts to turn massive amounts of data into something more organized.
Initially the pair were reluctant to leave their studies to join the wave of dotcom pioneers making their name (and fortune) in Silicon Valley. After seeing the incredibly popularity of Google, the pair eventually agreed to give the venture a real go.
Two years later, the pair founded Google Inc. It had taken raising $1 million from family, friends, and investors to get there. Brin and Page each served as a co-president until they brought Eric Schmidt on as chairman and CEO in 2001.
Google was quickly recognized as an important innovation, being named as among the Top 100 Web Sites and Search Engines by PC Magazine the same year it was founded.
In 2000 Google celebrated having indexed one billion URLs, making it the most comprehensive search engine on the web.
That same year Brin and Page won a Webby Award – a People’s Voice Award for technical achievement. And, in 2002, Page was singled out as a World Economic Forum Global Leader For Tomorrow. The accolades kept on coming for the pair, earning them a joint Marconi Prize in 2004 as well as election to the National Academy of Engineering.
Google has made a name not outside of the web for its less than traditional corporate culture. The company has been known to put out pranks on April Fool’s Day, and is known for its eclectic and playful office spaces. Amongst the unusual company perks were free Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Ping-Pong tables, and a cafeteria run by a professional chef whose previous work included cooking for rock band the Grateful Dead.
By 2004, the company was one of the most-visited sites in the world. Revenue was estimated to be roughly $1 billion a year. Google finally announced that it would make an initial public offering of stock but, in their traditionally non-conformist style, the first shares would be sold online via auction to the public.
Page married Lucinda Southworth, a research scientist, on Richard Branson’s private island in the Caribbean in 2007. Two years later the couple welcomed a son, followed by the birth of a second child in 2011. The couple have staunchly guarded details about both children.
In 2011 Page replaced Schmidt as CEO, with Schmidt moving to become executive chairman of the company.
Google has so revolutionized modern culture that it has transformed into a verb ‘to google.’ Rather than resting on their success Google, in the guiding hands of Brin and Page, has continued to lead towards new horizons that make the most of advancing technologies – from videos, to maps, to data visualization, to the hotly discussed Google glasses.
Their days leading the way on pioneering the Internet seem far from over.