Nathan Myhrvold

modernist cuisine

Nathan Myhrvold (b. 1959), formerly Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, is co-founder and 40% owner of Intellectual Ventures, a patent portfolio holding company.

Myhrvold, usually with coinventors, holds 17 U.S. patents assigned to Microsoft and has applied for more than 500 patents. In addition, Myhrvold and coinventors hold 115 U.S. patents assigned mostly to The Invention Science Fund I, LLC.

Myhrvold was born in Seattle began college at age 14. He studied mathematics, geophysics, and space physics at UCLA (BSc, Masters). He was awarded a Hertz Foundation Fellowship for graduate study and studied at Princeton University, where he earned a master’s degree in mathematical economics and completed a PhD in theoretical and mathematical physics. He also attended Santa Monica College. For one year, he held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Cambridge working under Stephen Hawking (along with a number of other students).

Myhrvold left Cambridge to co-found a computer startup in Oakland, California. The company, Dynamical Systems Research Inc., sought to produce Mondrian, a clone of IBM’s TopView multitasking environment for DOS. Microsoft purchased DSR in 1986 for $1.5M. Myhrvold worked at Microsoft for 13 years. At Microsoft he founded Microsoft Research in 1991.

After Microsoft, in 2000 Myhrvold co-founded Intellectual Ventures, a patent portfolio developer and broker in the areas of technology and energy, which has acquired over 30,000 patents. Myhrvold allegedly owns approximately 40% of Intellectual Ventures Management Company, generating $20M-$40M annually in ‘management fees.’ Intellectual Ventures exploits the market for inventions and patents, buying patents from inventors under the assumption the patents will be more valuable in the future. IV also files patents through the work of a team of on-site inventors and thousands of other inventors within their network who respond to IV-created ‘Requests for Invention.’

It also buys patents from companies and inventors. In certain, limited circumstances IV reduces these inventions to practice. However, in most cases, IV’s ‘inventions’ are limited to the descriptions cited in their patent applications. IV then licenses the patents in patent-portfolios (bundles). IV purports to be assisting in the creation of a market for patent-backed securities. The business practices of Intellectual Ventures have caused controversy, and the company has been described widely as a ‘patent troll.’

TerraPower, a subsidiary of Intellectual Ventures, aims to develop a nuclear reactor that is ‘safe and cheap’ as part of Bill Gates’ strategy to reach the goal of zero carbon emissions globally by 2050. Gates unveiled this plan at the TED 2010. The plant will run on natural or depleted uranium with the potential for 30 years without refuelling.

Myhrvold is also a prize-winning nature and wildlife photographer and is a member of the USA Science and engineering Festival’s Advisory Board. He has also been involved with paleontological research on expeditions with the Museum of the Rockies. He and Peter Rinearson helped Bill Gates write ‘The Road Ahead,’ a book about the future that reached No. 1 on the’ New York Times’ bestseller list in 1995 and 1996. Myhrvold has contributed $1 million to the nonprofit SETI Institute in Mountain View, CA, for the development of the Allen Telescope Array, planned to be the world’s most powerful radio telescope.

After the Science Museum in London successfully built the computing section of Charles Babbage’s Difference Engine #2 in 1991, Myhrvold funded the construction of the output section, which performs both printing and stereotyping of calculated results. He also commissioned the construction of a second complete Difference Engine #2 for himself, which has been on display at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California since 2008.

In addition to his business and scientific interests, he is a serious amateur chef. Myhrvold’s early culinary training was as an observer and unpaid apprentice at Rover’s, one of Seattle’s leading restaurants, with Chef Thierry Rautureau. Myhrvold is the principal author of a culinary text entitled ‘Modernist Cuisine,’ released in 2011, on the application of scientific research principles and new techniques and technology to cooking. He has also won first place at the Memphis barbecue championship and appeared as a guest judge on ‘Top Chef.’

In 2009, Myhrvold appeared on CNN’s ‘Fareed Zakaria GPS’ and discussed his patented idea to eliminate global warming/climate change using geoengineering (intervention in the Earth’s climatic system). It involves using hoses suspended from helium balloons 25 kilometers (16 mi) above the Earth. The hoses would be placed near the North Pole and the South Pole and emit sulfur dioxide, which is known to scatter light. Myhrvold estimated that such a configuration could ‘easily dim the sun by one percent, and even do it in a way that wouldn’t be visible.’

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