On this date in 1969, Linus Torvalds was born in Helsinki, Finland. He started using computers when he was about 10 year old, and soon began designing simple computer programs. Torvalds earned his M.S. in computer science from the University of Helsinki in 1996, where he was introduced to the Unix operating system. In 1991, Torvalds began creating the innovative Linux, an operating system similar to Unix. Later in the year, he released Linux for free as an open source operating system, allowing anyone to edit its source code with Torvalds’ permission. Linux’s open source nature has contributed to its popularity and reliability, since it is regularly updated and improved by dedicated users. For his work with Linux, Torvalds received the 2008 Computer History Fellow Award and the 2005 Vollum Award for Distinguished Accomplishment in Science and Technology. The asteroid 9793 Torvalds was named after him.
After developing Linux, Torvalds worked for Transmeta Corporation from 1997 to 2003. He appeared in the 2001 documentary “Revolution OS,” and authored an autobiography titled Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary (2001). He is married to Tove Torvalds, who also attended the University of Helsinki for Computer Science. They live in the U.S. and have three daughters, Patricia, born in 1996, Daniela, born in 1998, and Celeste, born in 2000.
In a Nov. 1, 1999 interview with Linux Journal, Torvalds described himself as “completely a-religious” and “atheist.” He explained his reasons for being an atheist: “I find it kind of distasteful having religions that tell you what you can do and what you can’t do.” He also believes in the separation of church and state, telling Linux Journal, “In practice, religion has absolutely nothing to do with everyday life.”