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The i-Technology Right Stuff

Searching for the Twenty Top Software People in the World

 

Larry Brilliant

 

Brief Description: Cofounder in 1984 of the WELL bulletin board

Further Details:

"If baby boomers had their own Faust, he'd be Larry Brilliant, a man who's found himself at the center of almost every defining moment of his generation." That was how Fast Company characterized Dr Larry Brilliant, in an article published in October 2000 that continued:

"There are people in Silicon Valley who are more successful than Larry Brilliant. And there are people in Silicon Valley who are richer than he is. But there are few who have had more impact on the world at large than he has."

In the early 1970s, when smallpox was devastating that country, Brilliant - having finished his surgical internship at Presbyterian Hospital in San Francisco in 1970 - spearheaded a (successful) campaign to eradicate the disease from India. He helped run the WHO smallpox eradication program in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh; was a staff member of the WHO "Global Commission to Certify Smallpox Eradicated" in Burma, India, Nepal, and Iran; and served as the last UN inspector to visit Iran to search for hidden smallpox.

The author of two books and dozens of articles on the epidemiology of smallpox, blindness, and environmental diseases, he has worked at city, county, state, federal, and international levels. Larry is also the founder of the Seva Foundation, which has performed 2 million free sight-restoring eye operations in India and Nepal. But he has a subsequent career as a technologist.

Together with Stewart Brand he conjured up the idea of The WELL, which in 1984 became one of the first expressions of online community, a gathering place for many of the brightest minds, the fiercest pioneers, and the keenest explorers of the just-gathering new economy. "It was the first electronic community," says Brilliant. Brand ran the WELL for 10 years before he and Brilliant agreed to sell it in parts in 1993 and in 1995. It is now owned by SALON.

Brilliant was also CEO of two public technology corporations (SoftNet Systems Inc. and Network Technologies), before founding the WiFi company, Cometa, in 2003 - which soon became the premier provider of wholesale 802.11 bandwidth in the United States. Brilliant served as its vice chairman until 2003 hen he returned to the Seva Foundation as Chairman of the organization during its silver anniversary year to chart an expansion of the organization's programs into new regions and countries and strengthen its management and financial capacity to provide more life-giving care.

As it was once, aptly, said: "Larry Brilliant appears to be living two full lives simultaneously."

Other SYS-CON stories about Larry Brilliant:

Building out Wi-Fi: Cometa's cofounder and interim CEO, Larry Brilliant, talks to Wi-Fi editor Ron Dennis about "Project Rainbow"

More Stories By Jeremy Geelan

Jeremy Geelan is Chairman & CEO of the 21st Century Internet Group, Inc. and an Executive Academy Member of the International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences. Formerly he was President & COO at Cloud Expo, Inc. and Conference Chair of the worldwide Cloud Expo series. He appears regularly at conferences and trade shows, speaking to technology audiences across six continents. You can follow him on twitter: @jg21.

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Most Recent Comments
Agility Pays 12/09/04 03:34:19 AM EST

There are bound to be glaring omissions in any list. It would have been good to see a few more names from the 17 developers who met in Feb 2001 to discuss problems in software development and who devised the so-called "Agile Manifesto." I see that Martin Fowler is here but what about Kent Beck, Alistair Cockburn, Ron Jeffries, Robert "Uncle bob" Martin, and Dave Thomas - people who have all made substantial contributions to software development?

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