Pair evaded academic legacies to found Google

If they had followed their fathers' dreams, Sergey Brin and Larry Page would have become university professors, likely toiling on complex math and computer problems in academic obscurity.

If they had followed their fathers' dreams, both founders of tech superstar Google would have become university professors, likely toiling on complex math and computer problems in academic obscurity.

Instead, Larry Page and Sergey Brin put aside their doctoral studies at Stanford University to create what has become the world's most popular Internet search engine. They also stand to reap great riches if their company goes public. Google is expected to announce such plans later this week.

Both men, now in their early 30s, grew up in double-barrel academic families, worlds far removed from what would one day become the glamour of Silicon Valley's Internet mania.

Larry's late father Carl Page was a pioneer in computer science and artificial intelligence and got one of his undergraduate degrees in computer engineering in 1960 when such achievements were still novel. The first member of his family to even finish high school, he earned a doctoral degree in computer sciences in 1965.

For decades he was a computer science professor at Michigan State University, where his wife taught computer programming. Young Larry says he fell in love with computers at age 6.

"I think he was looking forward to Larry becoming a professor," said George Stockman, a Michigan State computer sciences professor and friend of Carl Page.

Larry's older brother, Carl Jr., already has made his mark in Silicon Valley's high-technology scene, having co-founded and sold E-Groups, an e-mail collaborative software provider to Web portal Yahoo. Carl played a role in Google's foundation as an early investor.

If Larry Page strayed from a traditional academic career, he did inherit his father's feisty intellectual spirit.

"In some sense he was a little hard to deal with because he wanted to argue about everything and did, and, you know, shared a lot of that with his son," Stockman said. "So intellectually, they shared in a lot of discussion."

Larry Page did not immediately hit it off when meeting fellow graduate student Brin at Stanford University in 1995 as the two argued over a variety of topics. But they overcame that initial impression and in 1998 formed Google, using a new model to lead Internet users to the information they were seeking.

Brin's Russian family had an even longer tradition in academia. His great-grandmother studied microbiology at the University of Chicago before returning to Moscow in 1921 to help build Soviet Communism.

His grandfather was a professor of mathematics in Moscow, and his father followed suit, earning a doctorate in math.

Michael Brin, a Jew who suffered discrimination under the Soviet system, led the family to the United States in 1979, where he has since taught at the University of Maryland mathematics department. Sergey got his college degree there before heading to California, a path that eventually led to Google.

"Did we expect him to become, what's it called--Time Magazine calls him a 'titan of industry'? No, I had no idea," Michael Brin said by telephone. "I expected him to get his Ph.D. and to become somebody, maybe a professor."

Story Copyright  © 2004 Reuters Limited.  All rights reserved.

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