Linus Torvalds crowned joint winner of 1.2m euro tech prize

Summary:Linux creator Linus Torvalds has won the prestigious Millennium Technology Prize alongside stem cell researcher, Dr Shinya Yamanaka

Linus Torvalds has today collected his Grand Prize in Finland's 2012 Millennium Technology Prize - tech's equivalent of a Nobel Prize - for his creation of the Linux kernel.

Following the announcement of Torvalds' victory back in April, the prize was officially awarded on Wednesday afternoon at the Technology Academy Finland in Torvalds' city of birth, Helsinki. Torvalds returned to Helsinki for the ceremony from his current place of residence, Portland, Oregon.

The Grand Prize has traditionally gone to one laureate. However, this year, Torvalds shares the title with fellow laureate, Japanese stem cell researcher Dr Shinya Yamanaka, who is credited with discovering a new method to develop "induced pluripotent stem cells" from non-pluripotent cells.

"The International Selection Committee has to judge whether an innovation has had a favourable impact on people's lives and assess its potential for further development to benefit humanity in the future. The innovations of both this year's winners embody that principle," Dr Ainomaija Haarla, President of Technology Academy Finland said in a statement.

"Dr Shinya Yamanaka's discovery of a new method to develop pluripotent stem cells for medical research could help combat intractable diseases. And Linus Torvalds's work has kept the web open for the pursuit of knowledge and for the benefit of humanity - not simply for financial interests."

Although the joint crowning means the two will share the €1.2m prize pool, the winner would normally share the prize money with fellow laureates in any case.

The inaugural winner of the prize, which has been awarded every two years since 2004, was inventor of HTML, Tim Berners Lee.

At the ceremony Torvalds thanked the "thousands of contributors" to Linux and said he was grateful to have been the conductor of the project.

Torvalds said he started developing the Linux kernel and operating system as a "test project" to begin learning about his computer.

"It changed from being something to teach me about the computer into me actually trying to make it into a full operating system."

He released the kernel in 1991 consisting of 10,000 lines of code, which has now grown 15 million lines in what's considered one of the largest collaborative development projects in computing history.

Besides the desktop, Linux's popularity as a platform for servers and embedded devices in routers, phones and GPS systems, mean that people likely use the operating system whether they know it or not.

"You might use when you're using your cell phone if you have an Android cell phone. If you're on the net, you probably use Google to look things up. Google uses Linux. Even if you don't run Linux yourself on your own machines, the servers at the other end run Linux," said Torvalds.

That includes Facebook too, but also for example, ATMs and in-flight entertainment systems.

"People never notice."

Topics: Operating Systems

About

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, s... Full Bio

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