Mark Zuckerberg

On this date in 1984, Mark Elliot Zuckerberg was born in White Plains, N.Y. Zuckerberg grew up in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., where he showed an early aptitude for computer programming. He created a home computer network, which he called ZuckNet, and wrote games for his friends to play. Zuckerberg attended and graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy, where he focused on the classics and created a music-recommendation program called Synapse, which AOL and Microsoft offered to purchase. Instead of moving to Silicon Valley, he instead attended Harvard, where he studied computer science and psychology. Zuckerberg, along with his roommate Dustin Moskovitz and their friends Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin, founded Facebook as a way way for Harvard students to connect with each other; in 2004, the year Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard, Facebook went national, at first expanding throughout US colleges, then to the entire country. As of March 2011, Facebook had over 500 million active users. Zuckerberg was Time's Person of the Year in 2010, and that same year a movie based on the founding of Facebook, "The Social Network," was released. This film was nominated for five Academy Awards (including Best Actor and Best Picture), and won three in different categories.

Though Zuckerberg was raised Jewish and had a Star Wars-themed Bar Mitzvah, he has left religion behind and at one point had declared this on his Facebook profile. (Information on Zuckerberg's religion was not displayed to all Facebook viewers as of March 2011.) Zuckerberg has said that his vision for Facebook is that it will promote a more open society, by making it very easy to state one's religious views, romantic preferences, and other information which might not be immediately obvious directly on the profile page. Zuckerberg told the New Yorker: “No one has done a study on this, as far as I can tell, but I think Facebook might be the first place where a large number of people have come out . . . We didn’t create that — society was generally ready for that” (Sept. 20, 2010). This ease of openness contributes to visibility of Facebook-using atheists, agnostics and freethinkers.

Religion: Atheist

—Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook profile

Compiled by Eleanor Wroblewski

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