Dr. Vitalik Buterin – a University Dropout and a Math Genius
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Dec. 8, 2018

The University of Basel has awarded honorary doctorate to Ethereum creator Vitalik Buterin. He has received the honor in recognition of his contribution to promoting decentralization and equal rights of participation in the digital revolution, as well as for his achievements in relation to cryptocurrencies, smart contracts, and institutional design, the university said on November 30.

Vitalik Buterin is a Toronto-based Russian Canadian programmer. Born in Kolomna, Moscow Region, on January 31, 1994, he moved to Canada with parents at the age of six. He was considered a math genius from an early age and was placed in a gifted program in the third grade.

“I remember knowing, for a while, for a long time, that I was kind of abnormal in some sense,” he told the Wired. “When I was in grade five or six, I just remember quite a lot of people were always talking about me like I was some kind of math genius. And there were just so many moments when I realized, like okay, why can’t I just be like some normal person and go have a 75% average like everyone else.”

He first discovered blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies through Bitcoin in 2011, and was immediately excited by the technology and its potential. Buterin learned about Bitcoin from his father at 17 and began writing about it for cryptocurrency news websites.

Buterin founded the Bitcoin Magazine in September 2011. He dropped out of the University of Waterloo at the age of 20 to continue his blockchain-related research. He was a recipient of the Thiel Fellowship, a program that grants promising individuals under 23 with $100,000 throughout two years. In a later interview with CTV News, he said:

“It actually was scary. I was quite worried that if I stopped learning and following the same path, I would fall behind and not know certain essential things.”

In 2013, he went on his world tour, visiting developers in other countries who shared is enthusiasm for code. He returned to Toronto later that year and published a white paper proposing Ethereum. He now leads Ethereum's research team, working on future versions of the Ethereum protocol.


Vitalik has been included in a number of lists of the world’s most influential young people.

In 2016 he made it to Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list, an annual ranking of the most influential young people in business.

According to the magazine, Microsoft Excel was Buterin’s favorite toy as a child.

“This programmer, born outside Moscow and raised in Toronto, has spent the last few years reimagining a world in which all business logic—would-be corporate contracts, agreements, and bylaws—is encoded into, well, code,” Fortune then wrote.

In 2018 he was once again included in the list, improving his position from 31st to 22nd.

Buterin was ranked 2nd on Fortune’s 2018 Ledger 40 Under 40 - the first-ever supplementary honor roll of the most impressive, young superstars who are transforming business at the leading edge of finance and technology.

This year Vitalik has also been included in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list.


Ethereum is an open-source, public, blockchain-based distributed computing platform and operating system featuring smart contract functionality.

In the Ethereum white paper Buterin argued that Bitcoin needed a scripting language for application development. But when he failed to gain agreement, he proposed development of a new platform with a more general scripting language.

Around that time, Vitalik also started working with Dr. Gavin Wood and together co-founded Ethereum. By April 2014, Gavin published the Ethereum Yellow Paper that would serve as the technical specification for the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM).

In 2014, Buterin and the other co-founders of Ethereum announced a crowdsourcing campaign.

Beginning in July 2014, Ethereum distributed the initial allocation of Ether via a 42-day public presale, netting 31,591 Bitcoins, worth $18,439,086 at that time, in exchange for about 60,102,216 Ether.

The first live release of Ethereum known as Frontier was launched in 2015.

Vitalik Buterin picked the name Ethereum after browsing Wikipedia articles about elements and science fiction.

The Ethereum network is fueled by a currency called Ether. According to cryptocurrency price tracker CoinMarketCap.com, Ether is the third largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin and Ripple’s XRP with a market cap of over $10 billion and a daily transaction volume of over $2 billion. Its price has dropped from almost $1,400 in January to less than $100 today.

Buterin on blockchain and crypto

Vitalik Buterin says that the misapplication of blockchain technology in some industries leads to “wasted time.”

Speaking to Quartz on the sidelines of the Devcon4 blockchain conference, the Ethereum cofounder said that although there are a number of companies that try to establish higher standards by using blockchain technology, he does not think the technology is applicable in every industry.

“Sometimes it is for marketing hype. Sometimes it is just people who are genuinely excited about blockchains and want the thing they are personally excited about and their job to align more with each other, which is a totally legitimate, human thing to want to do.”

He believes that the blockchain technology is most suitable for cryptocurrencies and cross-border payments.

“All of the other ideas - whether we’re talking about products or the self-sovereign identity stuff - that’s clearly something that still needs much more time to be worked out before we can see whether it makes sense at scale,” Buterin said.

Also, Vitalik considers that the crypto space requires a lot more of the “actual applications” of technology to move ahead.

“Like basically the next wave as of crypto adoption is not going to be built on hype because the hype is basically already come. It has to come from really useful applications and things delivering value to people,” he says.

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