Linus Torvalds

2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Computing People

Linus Torvalds

Born December 28, 1969 (1969-12-28)
Helsinki, Finland
Residence Portland, Oregon
Nationality Finnish
Occupation Software engineer
Employers Linux Foundation
Known for Linux, Git
Spouse Tove Torvalds
Children Patricia Miranda Torvalds
Daniela Yolanda Torvalds
Celeste Amanda Torvalds
Parents Nils Torvalds (father)
Anna Torvalds (mother)
Relatives Ole Torvalds (grandfather)

Linus Benedict Torvalds ( pronunciation ; [ˈliːnɵs ˈtuːrvalds]; born December 28, 1969 in Helsinki, Finland) is a Finnish software engineer best known for initiating the development of the Linux kernel. He now acts as the project's coordinator.


Early years

Linus Torvalds was born in Helsinki, Finland, the son of journalists Anna and Nils Torvalds, and the grandson of poet Ole Torvalds. His family belongs to the Swedish-speaking minority (5.5%) of Finland's population. Torvalds was named after Linus Pauling, the American Nobel Prize-winning chemist, although in the book Rebel Code: Linux and the Open Source Revolution, Torvalds is quoted as saying, "I think I was named equally for Linus the peanut-cartoon character," noting that this makes him half "Nobel-prize-winning chemist" and half "blanket-carrying cartoon character." Both of his parents were campus radicals at the University of Helsinki in the 1960s.

Torvalds attended the University of Helsinki from 1988 to 1996, graduating with a master's degree in computer science. His M.Sc. thesis was titled Linux: A Portable Operating System. From 1997 to 1999 he was involved in 86open helping to choose the standard binary format for Linux and Unix.

His interest in computers began with a Commodore VIC-20. After the VIC-20 he purchased a Sinclair QL which he modified extensively, especially its operating system. He programmed an assembler and a text editor for the QL, as well as a few games. He is known to have written a Pac-Man clone named Cool Man. In 1990 he purchased an Intel 80386-based IBM PC and spent a few weeks playing the game Prince of Persia before receiving his MINIX copy which in turn enabled him to begin his work on Linux.

Later years

Linus Torvalds is married to Tove Torvalds ( née Monni) – a six-time Finnish national Karate champion – whom he first met in the autumn of 1993. Torvalds was running introductory computer laboratory exercises for students and instructed the course attendants to send him an e-mail as a test, to which Tove responded with an e-mail asking for a date. Tove and Linus were later married and have three daughters, Patricia, Daniela, and Celeste.

After a visit to Transmeta in late 1996, he accepted a position at the company in California, where he would work from February 1997 through June 2003. He then moved to the Open Source Development Labs, which has since merged with the Free Standards Group to become the Linux Foundation, under whose auspices he continues to work. In June of 2004, Torvalds and his family moved to Portland, Oregon to be closer to the consortium's Beaverton, Oregon-based headquarters.

Red Hat and VA Linux, both leading developers of Linux-based software, presented Torvalds with stock options in gratitude for his creation. In 1999, both companies went public and Torvalds' net worth shot up to roughly $20 million.

His personal mascot is a penguin nicknamed Tux, which has been widely adopted by the Linux community as the mascot of the Linux kernel.

Unlike many open source icons, Torvalds maintains a low profile and generally refuses to comment on competing software products. Torvalds generally stays out of non-kernel-related debates. Although Torvalds believes that "open source is the only right way to do software", he also has said that he uses the "best tool for the job", even if that includes proprietary software. He has been criticized for his use and alleged advocacy of the proprietary BitKeeper software for version control in the Linux kernel. However, Torvalds has since written a free-software replacement for BitKeeper called Git. Torvalds has commented on official GNOME developmental mailing lists that, in terms of desktop environments, he encourages users to switch to KDE and he explained why.

The Linus/Linux connection

Initially Torvalds wanted to call the kernel he developed Freax (a combination of "free", "freak", and the letter X to indicate that it is a Unix-like system), but his friend Ari Lemmke, who administered the FTP server where the kernel was first hosted for downloading, named Torvalds' directory linux.

Authority on Linux

About 2% of the current Linux kernel is written by Torvalds himself. Since Linux has had thousands of contributors, such a percentage represents a significant personal contribution to the overall amount of code. Torvalds remains the ultimate authority on what new code is incorporated into the standard Linux kernel.

Linux trademark

Torvalds owns the "Linux" trademark, and monitors use of it chiefly through the non-profit organization Linux International.


  • In 1996 Asteroid 9793 Torvalds was named after Linus Torvalds.
  • In 1998 he received an EFF Pioneer Award.
  • In 1999 he received honorary doctor status at Stockholm University.
  • The 1999 novel Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson features several characters who use "Finux" a Unix-like operating system developed in Finland.
  • In 2000 he received honorary doctor status at University of Helsinki.
  • In 2000 he was awarded the Lovelace Medal.
  • In the Time magazine's Person of the Century Poll, Torvalds was voted at #17 at the poll's close in 2000.
  • In 2001, he shared the Takeda Award for Social/Economic Well-Being with Richard Stallman and Ken Sakamura.
  • The 2001 film Swordfish contains a Finnish character – the number one computer hacker in the world – named Axl Torvalds.
  • In 2004, he was named one of the most influential people in the world by the Time magazine article "Linus Torvalds: The Free-Software Champion" by Lawrence Lessig, Time Magazine, posted Monday, Apr. 26, 2004, retrieved October 3, 2006.
  • In the search for the 100 Greatest Finns of all time, voted in the summer of 2004, Torvalds placed 16th.
  • In 2005 he appeared as one of "the best managers" in a survey by BusinessWeek.
  • In August 2005, Torvalds received the Vollum Award from Reed College.
  • In 2006, Business 2.0 magazine named him one of "10 people who don't matter" because the growth of Linux has shrunk Torvalds' individual impact.
  • In 2006, Time Magazine named him one of the revolutionary heroes of the past 60 years.

Retrieved from ""
The Schools Wikipedia was sponsored by a UK Children's Charity, SOS Children UK , and is a hand-chosen selection of article versions from the English Wikipedia edited only by deletion (see for details of authors and sources). The articles are available under the GNU Free Documentation License. See also our Disclaimer.