Linus Benedict Torvalds ( , ; born 28 December 1969) is a Finnish-American software engineer who is the creator and, historically, the main developer of the Linux kernel, used by Linux distributions and other operating systems such as Android and Chrome OS. He also created the distributed revision control system Git and the scuba dive logging and planning software Subsurface. He was honored, along with Shinya Yamanaka, with the 2012 Millennium Technology Prize by the Technology Academy Finland "in recognition of his creation of a new open source operating system for computers leading to the widely used Linux kernel." He is also the recipient of the 2014 IEEE Computer Society Computer Pioneer Award and the 2018 IEEE Masaru Ibuka Consumer Electronics Award.

Life and career

Early years

Torvalds was born in Helsinki, Finland, on 28 December 1969. He is the son of journalists Anna and Nils Torvalds, the grandson of statistician Leo Törnqvist and of poet Ole Torvalds and the great-grandson of journalist and soldier Toivo Karanko. His parents were campus radicals at the University of Helsinki in the 1960s. His family belongs to the Swedish-speaking minority in Finland. Torvalds was named after Linus Pauling, the Nobel Prize-winning American 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 Peanuts cartoon character", noting that this makes him half "Nobel Prize-winning chemist" and half "blanket-carrying cartoon character". Torvalds attended the University of Helsinki between 1988 and 1996, graduating with a master's degree in computer science from the NODES research group. His academic career was interrupted after his first year of study when he joined the Finnish Navy Nyland Brigade in the summer of 1989, selecting the 11-month officer training program to fulfill the mandatory military service of Finland. He gained the rank of second lieutenant, with the role of an artillery observer. Torvalds bought computer science professor Andrew Tanenbaum's book ''Operating Systems: Design and Implementation'', in which Tanenbaum describes MINIX, an educational stripped-down version of Unix. In 1990, he resumed his university studies, and was exposed to Unix for the first time, in the form of a DEC MicroVAX running ULTRIX. His MSc thesis was titled ''Linux: A Portable Operating System''. His interest in computers began with a Commodore VIC-20, at the age of 11 in 1981, initially programming in BASIC, but later by directly accessing the 6502 CPU in machine code. He did not make use of assembly language. After the VIC-20 he purchased a Sinclair QL, which he modified extensively, especially its operating system. "Because it was so hard to get software for it in Finland, Linus wrote his own assembler and editor (in addition to Pac-Man graphics libraries)" for the QL, as well as a few games. He wrote a ''Pac-Man'' clone named ''Cool Man''. On 5 January 1991 he purchased an Intel 80386-based clone of IBM PC before receiving his MINIX copy, which in turn enabled him to begin work on Linux.


The first prototypes of Linux were publicly released later in 1991. Version 1.0 was released on 14 March 1994. Torvalds first encountered the GNU Project in 1991, after another Swedish-speaking computer science student, Lars Wirzenius, took him to the University of Technology to listen to free software guru Richard Stallman's speech.