Philanthropist, World Health Advocate, TED Prize Winner
Dr. Larry Brilliant has spent his career solving the ills of today – from eradicating smallpox to saving millions from blindness – and building technologies of the future. A physician, epidemiologist, technologist, and author, Brilliant was the inaugural Executive Director and, later, Chief Philanthropy Evangelist of google.org, Google’s philanthropic arm. He has also been CEO of two public companies and other venture-backed startups, and was awarded the 2006 TED prize.
In his current role as president of the Skoll Global Threats Fund and senior adviser to eBay co-founder Jeff Skoll, he manages and allocates 100 million dollars to solve the world’s five most pressing problems: pandemics, global warming, the Middle East, water and nuclear proliferation. From WIRED magazine: “If Larry Brilliant’s life were a film, critics would pan the plot as implausible.”
While working in India as a United Nations medical officer for more than a decade in the 1970s, Brilliant, an M.D. and M.P.H., played a key role in the successful World Health Organization (WHO) smallpox eradication program. He directed efforts to eliminate the disease in India and eventually presided over the last case of smallpox on the planet.
He then founded the nonprofit Seva foundation, which has cured more than two million people of blindness in 15 countries through innovative surgery, self-sufficient eye care systems, and low-cost manufacturing of intraocular lenses.
Outside the medical field, Brilliant co-founded The Well, a pioneering virtual community, with Stewart Brand in 1985. Time magazine called him a “technology visionary” and said, “Well was a huge hit, a precursor of every online business from Amazon.com to eBay.”
Brilliant served as the executive director of Google.org from 2006-2009, during which time he was awarded the TED Prize, granting him $100,000 and “One Wish to Change the World.” His one wish was “To build a powerful new early warning system to protect our world from some of its worst nightmares.” Now, as president of the Skoll Global Threats Fund, Brilliant may be doing just that.
On the new generations of philanthropists, Brilliant says, “[Young people] are using their wealth in a way that their forefathers never did; they’re not waiting until they die to create foundations.”