Thursday, July 17, 2008

Paul Allen's Brain Map Project

When you live in the Seattle area, you can't help but pick up on the general love-hate relationship people have with Bill Gates and Paul Allen. From the success-envious wealth redistribution fanatics to the most passionate lifelong Microsoft geeks, most everyone has something to say about two of the richest men in the world. Of the two men, Paul Allen remains the more enigmatic and that's what probably leads to some of the undeserved ill-will so often directed at him.

Few people outside of the tech community will remember that Paul Allen dropped out of Microsoft at an early point when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease in 1983, enduring radiation therapy and a bone marrow transplant to finally recover from his near-fatal illness. But he never returned to Microsoft full-time, opting instead to follow his own pursuits backed by the wealth generated from his massive Microsoft stock holdings.

Seattle has benefited from a lot of Paul Allen's good fortune including The Experience Music Project and The Science Fiction Museum. But I think among his most enduring contributions will come from his generous support of numerous research projects. His most recent project was just announced to great fanfare: The Allen Institute for Brain Science has been mapping out the mouse brain and spinal cord in unprecedented detail and is finally up online for free public access. This remarkable research is his first step in the ongoing study of the human brain (they're working on that now).

Even after all these years, I still remain in awe at the growing base of knowledge and how it continues to be easier to find online. And yes, I like Paul Allen.

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