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Rajeev Motwani


Google mentor Rajeev Motwani dies in freak accident

Washington, June 7, 2009

Rajeev Motwani, the 47-year-old Indian-American computer science professor at Stanford University who mentored Google's co-founders when they were graduate students, has died from a freak drowning accident at his Atherton, California home.

He apparently drowned Friday morning in a backyard swimming pool at the home he purchased three years ago, according to the San Jose Mercury News, a Silicon Valley news outlet.

Friends said he did not know how to swim but was planning to take lessons.

He is survived by his wife Asha Jadeja and daughters Naitri and Anya. The family will hold a private funeral, according to the university's news agency, but a memorial service will be held at a later date.

While little official information was available, friends speculated that Motwani might have slipped and fallen in the pool, said. Paramedics were called when his body was found, and he was pronounced dead at the scene at 12.28 p.m., according to the San Mateo County coroner's office.

Born March 26, 1962, in Jammu, Motwani grew up in New Delhi, earned a computer science degree from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur in 1983, and his doctorate from the University of California-Berkeley in 1988.

As a Stanford professor, he also served as the director of graduate studies for the computer science department and founded the Mining Data at Stanford project (MIDAS).

His work had a major impact on the field of algorithms, and he used his knowledge of that field to develop methods for searching almost infinite archives of data by randomly selecting subsets of the data. It was in the field of data mining that he made some of his seminal contributions.

The field is the basis of much of modern Internet commerce and the operation of search engines such as Google.

The news of Motwani's death struck like a thunderclap in Silicon Valley. Blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter communications were filled with testimonials to a brilliant, kind man who was never too busy to help a budding entrepreneur or struggling graduate student, Mercury News said.

He helped many Valley startups gain a foothold, but none so famous as Google, whose cofounder Sergey Brin mourned him Saturday.

"I want him to really be remembered well. It's a rare combination to have somebody who is so smart and also such a nice guy," Brin told Mercury News on the phone.

Motwani, he added, "had a lot of interest in computer science theory. He's primarily a theoretician, and it's incredible the amount of impact he has had directly on products and companies."

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    Rajeev Motwani, Stanford University)

    • Motwani was a special adviser to Sequoia Capital and invested in companies including PayPal and Google