#WhenIGrowUp Wednesdays: Jeff Bezos

#WhenIGrowUp Wednesdays features stories of people who reinvented themselves, or who came to a crossroads and chose a different path, or who rediscovered, or returned to the pursuit of their youthful passion.

Star Trek | Wall Street | E-Commerce | Aerospace

There is no map, and charting a path ahead will not be easy. We will need to invent, which means we will need to experiment. – Jeff Bezos

Yes. Today we feature the Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, famous philanthropist, and one of the richest billionaires in the world, but this post won’t really cover that part of his life. Instead, it’s a look at Bezos’ childhood obsessions, his background, and the company he created to further his dream of human exploration in space.

Bezos was a tinkerer and inventor from an early age. His mother remembers him as a toddler trying to dismantle his crib with a screwdriver. In his garage laboratory, he created a solar cooker that used tinfoil, and an umbrella, and he was always wiring up electrical contraptions. As a teenager, he worked at McDonald’s one summer, which prompted him to start his own business the following summer: two-week long camp sessions for 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students where they studied black holes, and wrote simple computer programs. His attraction to computers resulted in a B.Sc. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from Princeton University in 1986.

Jeff Bezos, 1999

Photo: Bezos in his office, 1999

However, not only did he have an interest in computers and electronics, Bezos was also captivated by the idea of humans in space. Maybe, this was his maternal grandfather’s influence. Lawrence Preston Gise had been employed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission at a time when the Russians had just launched Sputnik 1, and the Americans were researching, and prototyping all sorts of military technologies. Bezos spent a lot of time with his retired grandfather during summers at the maternal homestead in Texas.

Probably, the Cold War culture of the time also played a part in his dreams of space. Bezos was a committed Trekkie, and would re-create the television episodes with his friends, often taking on the role of Spock, or the Computer. He had his summer camp students read selections from Dune, and Watership Down, and his yearbook entry quoted Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Bezos was named Valedictorian of his high school graduating class, and interviewed by the Miami Herald. His interest in space is described here:

… he wanted to build space hotels, amusement parks and colonies for 2 million or 3 million people who would be in orbit. ‘The whole idea is to preserve the earth.’ The goal was to be able to evacuate humans. The planet would become a park.

Blue Origin's New ShepardAfter graduation from Princeton, Bezos worked on Wall Street, then moved to Seattle, and founded the online behemoth Amazon.com. In 2000, Blue Origin, a human spaceflight company, was launched in secret financed from the sale of some of Bezos’ Amazon stocks. Bezos went public with the company in 2006, and in 2015, Blue Origin’s reusable space vehicle, the New Shepard, was successfully launched, reaching its test altitude, and returning to the launch site via a vertical landing. Bezos still dreams of colonizing the solar system; New Shepard’s capsule is built for six. It’s all right here.

Sources: Biography, Famous People, Washington Post, and Wikipedia.

~ Debbie MacLeod


The CREATIVE CHANGE-MAKING Conference has been organized to showcase local heroes, individuals from within our own communities, who are creating their own path, leading by example, and following their dreams through purposeful work.

Intrigued? Come listen to the stories. Ask questions. Be inspired to change your life!

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