Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, and his wife, Anne Wojcicki, a genetic-testing entrepreneur and co-founder of 23andMe, have separated and their lives are dissected in a fascinating article, O. K., Glass: Make Google Eyes, written by Vanessa Grigoriadis.
The story begins when Brin and Wojcicki met in 1998. Brin was a Stanford computer-science graduate student when he moved off campus with classmate, Larry Page, to set up a search-engine company in Wojcicki's sister Susan's garage. This was the start of Google.
Wojcicki was a high-energy, athletic, popular Yale graduate, who majored in biology. Wojcicki's father was chairman of Stanford's physics department and her mother a journalism teacher. Brin's parents were Russian-Jewish scientists from Moscow. In 2007 the non-traditional couple married in a secret location in the Bahamas. She wore a white bathing suit and the groom wore black.
As Google became more powerful, the family changed. Wojcicki wanted a normal life as a dedicated mom of two kids and for the family to have dinner together. But "instead of just being a Google founder, Sergey was suddenly awesome, a cool person, a performer-a celebrity!" says a friend of the couple's.
Wojcicki's mission at 23andMe was to pass along genetic information about each person's health and ancestry. But not all news is good news and many learned about elevated levels of risk for life-threatening medical disorders. Her husband was one of them. Brin's family had a history of Parkinson's, a neuro-degenerative disorder, and Brin tested positive for the mutation. Brin read the risk as having about 10 good years left. Wojcicki became focused on saving her husband and when research discovered that a gene variant might protect those with Brin's rare Parkinson's-related mutation, she patented it.
In the years following his genetic test, Brin shifted his focus at Google. Glass was Brin's first big project at Google X and from there he is moving on to driverless cars, flying wind turbines, etc.
In the process, a romantic scandal became public when Brin left the family's home in Los Altos while dating a Google Glass employee in her mid-20s, Amanda Rosenberg-who, in turn, ditched her boyfriend, then an executive at Google's Android arm. But even that changed. Rosenberg is now suffering from depression, partly because Brin wants it both ways: He likes his newfound freedom, but he also likes being close to his wife and children.
Wife and mother, Anne Wojcicki, is currently living on her own managing the children on the family's $7 million spread in Los Altos. To add to the stress, she is engaged in a battle over saving her company, 23andMe, which has come under fire from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
One wonders...if it was Brin's Parkinson's risk or was it the price of success that caused the split. Wojcicki says she doesn't want a divorce. Even though the couple has a prenup, there's more than enough money to go around and she still owns the patent that might be the key to creating a drug to treat Brin.
In short, the transhumanist philosophy of Brin and Wojcicki and their contributions are huge. Google became a powerful corporation employing some 55,000 people on its 65-building campus. 23andMe and its genome studies have been a leap for medicine. But on a personal level, the power of wealth has its limitations with the fear of mortality trumping all.
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Source: O. K., Glass: Make Google Eyes, Vanessa Grigoriadis, Vanity Fair, April 2014