Nathan Myhrvold

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Nathan Paul Myhrvold
-NRCRIC2019 - Special Guest Nathan Myhrvold (40403705463) (cropped).jpg
Nathan Myhrvold in 2016
Born (1959-08-03) August 3, 1959 (age 63)
Alma materUCLA (B.S., M.S.)
Princeton University (M.S., Ph.D.)
SpouseRosemarie Havranek
Scientific career
InstitutionsIntellectual Ventures, University of Cambridge, Microsoft Research

Nathan Paul Myhrvold (born August 3, 1959), formerly Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft, is co-founder of Intellectual Ventures and the principal author of Modernist Cuisine and its successor books. Myhrvold was listed as co-inventor on 17[1] U.S. patents at Microsoft and is co-inventor on over 900 other U.S. patents issued to his corporation and its affiliates.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Myhrvold was born on August 3, 1959 in Seattle, Washington to Norwegian American parents. He was raised in Santa Monica, California,[3] where he attended Mirman School[4] and Santa Monica High School, graduating in 1974,[5] and began college at age 14.[6] Transferring from Santa Monica College, he studied mathematics (B.Sc.), and geophysics and space physics (Master's) at UCLA.[7] 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 Ph.D. in applied mathematics after completing a doctoral dissertation titled "Vistas in curved space-time quantum field theory" under the supervision of Malcolm Perry.[8] For one year, he held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Cambridge working under Stephen Hawking.


Early career[edit]

Myhrvold left Cambridge to co-found a computer startup in Oakland, California. The company, Dynamical Systems Research Inc. (DSR), sought to produce Mondrian, a clone of IBM's TopView multitasking environment for DOS. Myhrvold served as DSR's president.[3] Microsoft purchased DSR in 1986 for $1.5M in stock.[9] Myhrvold worked at Microsoft for 13 years in a variety of executive positions, culminating in his appointment as the company's first chief technology officer in 1996.[10] At Microsoft he founded Microsoft Research in 1991.[11]

Intellectual Ventures[edit]

After Microsoft, in 2000 Myhrvold co-founded Intellectual Ventures,[12] a patent portfolio developer and broker in the areas of technology and energy, which has acquired over 30,000 patents.[13] Intellectual Ventures takes part in the market for inventions and patents, buying patents from companies and 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. Startup companies spun out of IV, including Kymeta, Echodyne,[14] and TerraPower, have developed commercial products from IV's inventions. Through its Global Good unit, which Myhrvold founded in collaboration with Bill Gates, IV has also invented and produced commercial products, such as improved vaccine coolers and milking cans, aimed at low-income markets in Africa and Asia.[15] However, in most cases, IV's inventions are limited to the descriptions provided in their patents, which are bundled into portfolios for licensing.

Myhrvold has described his goal for Intellectual Ventures as helping to create a market for patent-backed securities.[16] The company's business practices have caused controversy, however, with some deprecating the firm as a patent troll.[17][18] Myhrvold has publicly defended his firm's practices, arguing that they foster innovation by serving as a marketplace for intellectual property. He has noted that many of the largest companies in Silicon Valley, including Google, Apple, and Facebook, have also bought large patent portfolios and used litigation to protect them, but he has criticized them as focusing too much on creating "tools or toys for rich people."[19]

In the popular press, Myhrvold's company Intellectual Ventures has been repeatedly accused of acting as patent trolls and stifling innovation by buying patents and then forcing inventors to license their ideas by means of litigation. Walt Mossberg interviewed Myhrvold about Intellectual Ventures' role as a "patent troll" during the 10th annual All Things Digital conference.[20] This American Life's Laura Sydell ran an investigative story about patent trolling and Intellectual Ventures' role in that business.[21]

According to The New York Times, Intellectual Ventures at one point controlled nearly 70,000 intellectual property assets (patents and patents pending) that it has used to generate approximately $3 billion in revenues, primarily in the form of license fees from large corporations. The company responds that it has returned more than $500 million to individual inventors and most of the remaining revenues to its investors.[22]

Nuclear power[edit]

Myhrvold is vice chairman of TerraPower, a spin-out of Intellectual Ventures that is developing a new kind of nuclear reactor, known as a traveling-wave reactor, that is designed to be safer, cheaper, and cleaner than current nuclear power plants. In 2020, the company launched a joint venture with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to build and operate a prototype reactor of this kind that combines a molten-sodium reactor with a molten salt energy storage system.[23]


In addition to his business activities, Myhrvold is a working scientist who has published original, peer-reviewed research in the fields of paleobiology,[24] climate science,[25] and astronomy.[26] A prize-winning nature and wildlife photographer, he has also been involved with paleontological research on expeditions with the Museum of the Rockies. His work has appeared in scientific journals including Science,[27] Nature,[28] Paleobiology,[29] PLOS One,[30] and the Physical Review,[31] as well as in Fortune, Time, Scientific American,[32][33] National Geographic Traveler, and Slate. 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, which was envisioned to be the most powerful instrument for SETI.[34]

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 was on display at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, from May 10, 2008 to January 31, 2016 and currently resides in the Intellectual Ventures Laboratory.[35][36][37][38][39]

In research presented at scientific conferences and published in the astronomy journal Icarus, Myhrvold has been a vocal critic of procedures and results about asteroid diameters published by the NEOWISE team.[26][40][41][42][43] A preprint of his work on the subject[44] received wide press coverage[45][46][47] prompting NASA to release a public statement defending their published research and pointing out the lack of peer review and methodological errors in Myhrvold's preprint.[48]


Myhrvold cooking a meal

While working as chief technology officer at Microsoft, Myhrvold took leave to earn his culinary diploma from École de Cuisine La Varenne in France.[19] 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.[49] Myhrvold is the principal author of a culinary text entitled Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking,[50] released in March 2011, on the application of scientific research principles and new techniques and technology to cooking.[51] That book, which earned a James Beard Foundation Award for "cookbook of the year" in 2012, was followed by the books Modernist Cuisine at Home,[52] The Photography of Modernist Cuisine,[53] Modernist Bread,[54] and Modernist Pizza,[55] all self-published by Myhrvold and with him as lead author. Myhrvold was part of a team that won first place at the world barbecue championships in Memphis.[19] He has appeared as a guest judge on Top Chef.


In interviews with CNN, SuperFreakonomics author Stephen Dubner, and Scientific American, Myhrvold has discussed ways to reverse some of the effects of global warming/climate change by using geoengineering.[56] Myhrvold and other inventors working with Intellectual Ventures have proposed several approaches, including one that would use hoses, suspended from helium balloons 25 kilometers (16 mi) above the Earth at high latitudes, to emit sulfur dioxide, which is known to scatter light.[57][58] Another approach would stimulate the formation and brightening of marine clouds to reflect more sunlight back into space.[56]

Affiliations and awards[edit]

Myhrvold received the James Beard Foundation Award for cookbook of the year in 2012[59] and an honorary degree from The Culinary Institute of America in 2013[60] for his book Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. His book Modernist Bread received a James Beard Foundation book award in 2018.[61] In 2010, Myhrvold was named by Foreign Policy magazine to its list of top 100 global thinkers.[62] He was selected as the keynote speaker for the UCLA College commencement ceremonies on Friday, June 12, 2015[63] and received the Earth, Planetary and Space Sciences Luminary Award from the UCLA Division of Physical Sciences in 2021.[64] In 2013, Myhrvold was a judge for the inaugural Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering. Princeton University awarded him the James Madison Medal in 2005.[65] He received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in 1996.[66]

Myhrvold endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.[67]

Personal life[edit]

Myhrvold is married to Rosemarie Havranek, whom he met while studying at Princeton. They have twin sons, Conor and Cameron A. Myhrvold.[68][69] Cameron studied biology at Princeton, and then did his PhD at Harvard's Systems, Synthetic, and Quantitative Biology Program. After that he got a postdoc position at Pardis Sabeti lab in Harvard, working closely with Feng Zhang on CRISPR. After his postdoc, he started his own lab at Princeton.[70][71]

Nathan Myhrvold also has a younger brother, Cameron.[3]


  1. ^ Search for Myhrvold's Microsoft patents - use search argument in Query box: APT/1 and IN/Myhrvold-Nathan$ and AN/Microsoft and APD/1/1/1985->1/1/2000
  2. ^ Search for Myhrvold's non-Microsoft issued U.S. patents - use search argument in Query box: APT/1 and IN/Myhrvold-Nathan$ andnot AN/Microsoft
  3. ^ a b c Auletta, Ken (May 4, 1997). "The Microsoft Provocateur". The New Yorker. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  4. ^ "Where Bright Minds Can Shine", Elaine Woo, Los Angeles Times, November 22, 2000
  5. ^ "Honored Vikings". Hall of Fame - Samohi Alumni Association.
  6. ^ Oversight Testimony Archived February 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine “Patent Quality and Improvement” before the Subcommittee on the Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property, House Committee on the Judiciary, United States Congress, April 28, 2005
  7. ^ "About Nathan Myhrvold"
  8. ^ Myhrvold, Nathan Paul (1983). Vistas in curved space-time quantum field theory.
  9. ^ Roy A. Allan (October 1, 2001). A History of the Personal Computer: The People and the Technology. Allan.
  10. ^ "Microsoft Realigns Product Groups, Creates Chief Technology Officer; Enhances Focus on Internet, Interactive Media and Future Technologies". Microsoft Press Release. October 29, 1996. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  11. ^ "Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myhrvold Takes Leave of Absence". Press Release (Press release). Microsoft. June 1, 1999. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
  12. ^ "Myhrvold of Intellectual Ventures" (PDF). Retrieved September 15, 2008. Wall Street Journal, September 15, 2008
  13. ^ Harris, Mark (May 16, 2010). "Green Pioneers: Godfather of nutty inventions". The Times. London. Retrieved June 2, 2010. Mark Harris, The Sunday Times, May 16, 2010
  14. ^
  15. ^ Cheney, Catherine (November 22, 2016). "With help from Bill Gates, this lab is reinventing its approach to invention". Devex. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  16. ^ Myhrvold, Nathan (March 16, 2010). "The Big Idea: Funding Eureka!". Harvard Business Review. Cambridge. Retrieved October 21, 2012. Nathan Myhrvold, Intellectual Ventures, March 2010
  17. ^ "This American Life: When Patents Attack". July 24, 2011. Retrieved July 25, 2011. Ira Glass, NPR, July 24, 2011
  18. ^ "'The Ultimate Patent Troll'".
  19. ^ a b c Renton, Alex (January 26, 2015). "Nathan Myhrvold, myth buster". 1843 (The Economist). Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  20. ^ "Nathan Myhrvold Full Session".
  21. ^ "When Patents Attack!".
  22. ^ Wyatt, Edward (July 16, 2013). "Inventive, at Least in Court". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  23. ^ Wald, Matt (November 3, 2020). "With Natrium, Nuclear Can Pair Perfectly with Energy Storage and Renewables". Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  24. ^ Myhrvold, Nathan P. (December 16, 2013). "Revisiting the Estimation of Dinosaur Growth Rates". PLOS ONE. 8 (12): e81917. Bibcode:2013PLoSO...881917M. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0081917. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 3864909. PMID 24358133.
  25. ^ Caldeira, K.; Myhrvold, N. P. (2013). "Projections of the pace of warming following an abrupt increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration". Environmental Research Letters. 8 (3): 034039. Bibcode:2013ERL.....8c4039C. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034039. ISSN 1748-9326.
  26. ^ a b Myhrvold, Nathan (2018). "Asteroid thermal modeling in the presence of reflected sunlight". Icarus. 303: 91–113. arXiv:1605.06490. Bibcode:2018Icar..303...91M. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2017.12.024. S2CID 118511665.
  27. ^ Myhrvold, N. (1998). "ESSAYS ON SCIENCE AND SOCIETY: Supporting Science". Science. 282 (5389): 621–622. Bibcode:1998Sci...282..621M. doi:10.1126/science.282.5389.621. S2CID 153642361.
  28. ^ Barsbold, R.; Currie, P. J.; Myhrvold, N. P.; Osmólska, H.; Tsogtbaatar, K.; Watabe, M. (2000). "A pygostyle from a non-avian theropod". Nature. 403 (6766): 155–156. Bibcode:2000Natur.403..155B. doi:10.1038/35003103. PMID 10646588. S2CID 2329675.
  29. ^ Currie, Philip; Myhrvold, Nathan (1997). "Supersonic sauropods? Tail dynamics in the diplodocids". Paleobiology. 23 (4): 393–409. doi:10.1017/S0094837300019801. S2CID 83696153.
  30. ^ Horner, J. R.; Goodwin, M. B.; Myhrvold, N. (2011). Roopnarine, Peter (ed.). "Dinosaur Census Reveals Abundant Tyrannosaurus and Rare Ontogenetic Stages in the Upper Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation (Maastrichtian), Montana, USA". PLOS ONE. 6 (2): e16574. Bibcode:2011PLoSO...616574H. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0016574. PMC 3036655. PMID 21347420.
  31. ^ Myhrvold, N. (1983). "Runaway particle production in de Sitter space". Physical Review D. 28 (10): 2439–2444. Bibcode:1983PhRvD..28.2439M. doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.28.2439.
  32. ^ Myhrvold, Nathan (2016). "Even Genius Needs a Benefactor". Scientific American. 314 (2): 11. Bibcode:2016SciAm.314b..11M. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0216-11. PMID 31013516.
  33. ^ Gibbs, W. W.; Myhrvold, N. (2011). "A new spin on cooking". Scientific American. 304 (3): 23. Bibcode:2011SciAm.304c..23G. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican0311-23a. PMID 21438483.
  34. ^ "Technologists Paul G. Allen and Nathan P. Myhrvold announce $12.5 million in support for revolutionary new telescope". August 1, 2000. Retrieved September 1, 2014.
  35. ^ "Computer History Museum unboxes a Babbage difference engine". Retrieved April 28, 2008.
  36. ^ "The Computer History Museum Extends Its Exhibition of Babbage's Difference Engine No. 2". press release. Computer History Museum. March 31, 2009. Archived from the original on February 23, 2010. Retrieved November 6, 2009.
  37. ^ "The Babbage Engine exhibit at Computer History Museum". Retrieved April 7, 2011.
  38. ^ Difference Engine Leaves Computer History Museum, Mark Moack, Mountain View Voice, January 28, 2016
  39. ^ Boyle, Alan (September 11, 2016). "Inside the invention factory: Get a peek at Intellectual Ventures' lab". GeekWire. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  40. ^ Myhrvold, Nathan P. "An Empirical Examination of WISE/NEOWISE Asteroid Analyses and Results". Poster at the 49th Annual Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting, October 2017. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  41. ^ Myhrvold, Nathan P. "An Empirical Examination of the NEOWISE Results and Data Analysis". Abstract of talk presented at the 229th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society, January 5, 2017. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  42. ^ Myhrvold, Nathan (May 22, 2018). "An empirical examination of WISE/NEOWISE asteroid analysis and results". Icarus. 314: 64–97. Bibcode:2018Icar..314...64M. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2018.05.004.
  43. ^ Chang, Kenneth (June 14, 2018). "Asteroids and Adversaries: Challenging What NASA Knows About Space Rocks - Two years ago, NASA dismissed and mocked an amateur's criticisms of its asteroids database. Now Nathan Myhrvold is back, and his papers have passed peer review". The New York Times. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  44. ^ Myhrvold, Nathan (May 20, 2016). "Asteroid thermal modeling in the presence of reflected sunlight with an application to WISE/NEOWISE observational data". Icarus. 303: 91–113. arXiv:1605.06490. Bibcode:2018Icar..303...91M. doi:10.1016/j.icarus.2017.12.024. S2CID 118511665.
  45. ^ Chang, Kenneth (May 23, 2016). "How Big Are Those Killer Asteroids? A Critic Says NASA Doesn't Know". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  46. ^ Hand, Eric (May 23, 2016). "Billionaire technologist accuses NASA asteroid mission of bad statistics". Science | AAAS. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  47. ^ Billings, Lee. "For Asteroid-Hunting Astronomers, Nathan Myhrvold Says the Sky Is Falling". Scientific American. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  48. ^ "NASA Response to Recent Paper on NEOWISE Asteroid Size Results". NASA/JPL. May 25, 2016. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  49. ^ "Edge profile". Retrieved May 10, 2007.
  50. ^ Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, and Maxime Bilet (2011). Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. Bellevue, Washington: The Cooking Lab. ISBN 978-0982761007. OCLC 711381030.
  51. ^ "Modernist Cuisine". Retrieved September 15, 2010.
  52. ^ Nathan Myhrvold, with Maxime Bilet (2012). Modernist Cuisine at Home. Bellevue, WA: The Cooking Lab. ISBN 978-0982761014. OCLC 794709458.
  53. ^ Myhrvold, Nathan (2013). The Photography of Modernist Cuisine (First ed.). Bellevue, WA: The Cooking Lab. ISBN 978-0982761021. OCLC 844729041.
  54. ^ Nathan Myhrvold, Francisco J. Migoya (2017). Modernist Bread: The Art and Science. Bellevue, WA: The Cooking Lab. ISBN 978-0982761052. OCLC 959037081.
  55. ^ Nathan Myhrvold, Francisco J. Migoya (2021). Modernist Pizza. Bellevue, WA: The Cooking Lab. ISBN 978-1734386127. OCLC 1252411781.
  56. ^ a b Mims, Christopher. ""Albedo Yachts" and Marine Clouds: A Cure for Climate Change?". Scientific American. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  57. ^ IntellectualVentures (October 26, 2009), The Stratoshield "Hose to the Sky" Could Reverse Global Warming, archived from the original on December 12, 2021, retrieved January 6, 2018
  58. ^ "Solving Global Warming with Nathan Myhrvold". CNN.
  59. ^ "2012 James Beard Foundation Book Awards" (PDF). The James Beard Foundation. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  60. ^ "Dr. Nathan Myhrvold Receives Honorary Degree from CIA". March 24, 2011. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  61. ^ "2018 James Beard Foundation Book Awards" (PDF). The James Beard Foundation. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  62. ^ "Foreign Policy's Second Annual List of the 100 Top Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on March 8, 2011. Retrieved March 23, 2011.
  63. ^ "2015 UCLA College Commencement Ceremony I 2pm". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  64. ^ "UCLA Division of Physical Sciences' Centennial Awards honor faculty, alumni". Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  65. ^ "Myhrvold reflects on 'Magic of Invention'". Princeton University. Retrieved January 6, 2018.
  66. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.
  67. ^ Mandelbaum, R., More Business Leaders Sign On With Clinton, Forbes, September 23, 2016.
  68. ^ "The Fannie and John Hertz Foundation Welcomes Two New Directors". The Hertz Foundation. April 25, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  69. ^ "Inventing the future: The very cool world of Nathan Myhrvold *83". Princeton University. January 28, 2009. Retrieved October 23, 2020.
  70. ^ Cameron A. Myhrvold at the Department of Molecular Biology in Princeton
  71. ^ The Myhrvold Lab at Princeton

Further reading[edit]

  • Auletta, Ken, "The Highwaymen", Harvest Books, 1998. ISBN 0-15-600573-5 — cf Chapter 17: The Microsoft Provocateur: Nathan Myhrvold, Bill Gates Corporate Gadfly.
  • Edstrom, Jennifer and Eller, Marlin, "Barbarians Led by Bill Gates: Microsoft From The Inside: How The World's Richest Corporation Wields Its Power", Holt Paperbacks, 1999. ISBN 0-8050-5755-2

External links[edit]