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Nathan Myhrvold

The Chef

Nathan Myhrvold Introduction by John Brockman

Nathan Myhrvold is a bridge between the scientists of the third culture and the digerati. He is an accomplished scientist who is at the helm of Microsoft's massive research program.

Last year, the following email message arrived: "Thirteen years ago I went on a three month leave of absence from a job and, much to the consternation of my employer, I subsequently broke my promise and never returned. I know what you're thinking. That's just the sort of irresponsible act you've come to expect from the likes of me. That's what my boss thought at the time thought too, and with good reason. Amazingly enough, I'm still on good terms with him. His name is Stephen Hawking, and he's one of the world's foremost physicists. Meanwhile, as a direct result of my truancy, I'm one of the world's backmost physicists. As luck would have it, I've managed to scrape by with a job at Microsoft."

Thus read Nathan Myhrvold's email invitation to a dinner at the Seattle Zoo with "the current occupant of the Lucasian Chair of Mathematics, a position once held by Isaac Newton." Nathan, who went to Cambridge as a postdoc after receiving his doctorate from Princeton, worked with Hawking on research in cosmology, quantum field theory in curved space time, and quantum theories of gravitation. (Today, thirteen years later, he is a member of the board of trustees of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and he serves on the advisory board of Princeton University's department of physics.)

The guest list at Nathan's gala dinner ranged from New York investment banker Herbert Allen, Jr. to Stephen Hawking, from NBC President Robert Wright to Danny Hillis. What makes him very unique is that in addition to his business and scientific interests, he is a master French chef who has finished first and second in the world championship of barbecue in Memphis, Tennessee. He also works as an assistant chef at one of Seattle's leading French restaurants.

Nathan Myhrvold is chief technology officer at Microsoft corporation, reporting to Microsoft CEO Bill Gates as a member of the Executive Committee. This group is responsible for the broad strategic and business planning for the entire company. He also is responsible for the Advanced Technology and Research Group, which has a budget of more than $2 billion a year. Previously he was group vice president of Applications and Content, which comprised a number of Microsoft divisions, including Desktop Applications, Consumer, Research, and Microsoft On line Systems.

Interview With The Chef...