Doctor of Humane Letters
Elon Musk is the co-founder of PayPal and SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies), CEO of Tesla Motors and Chairman of the Board of SolarCity. In naming him its 2007 Entrepreneur of the Year, Inc. magazine hailed the young man as “an entrepreneur who’s not afraid to think really, really big.”
As a child in Pretoria, South Africa, Musk taught himself how to program computers; he created and sold the computer game Blaster at the age of 12. Five years later, he moved to Ontario and took a number of jobs to pay for his enrollment at Queen’s University. Soon, he was offered a scholarship to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and he graduated with degrees in economics and physics.
Musk recognized three areas in which he felt it was vital to make innovations: the then-fledgling Internet, clean energy and outer space. In 1995, he started Zip2, a company that provided online-publishing software to news organizations, which was soon bought by Compaq’s AltaVista division. In 1996, he co-created X.com, a system through which people could make payments over e-mail; renamed PayPal, it was bought by eBay in 2002. That same year, he founded SpaceX, which designs and manufactures space launch vehicles—including the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 rockets—to “re-ignite humanity's efforts to explore and develop Space.” His company Tesla Motors produces the Tesla Roadster, a high-performance luxury electric sports car, and is developing a more affordable, zero-emissions electric sedan. SolarCity is dedicated to providing products and services that enable homes and businesses to run on solar power. Musk’s philanthropic organization, the Musk Foundation, supports clean energy, children’s health and science education.
Hear Musk’s talk, “Making Life Multi-Planetary,” on our audio page, Conversations with Honored Guests.