Rajeev Motwani
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Rajeev Motwani

Rajeev Motwani (Hindi: ?; March 26, 1962 - June 5, 2009) was a professor of Computer Science at Stanford University whose research focused on theoretical computer science. He was an early advisor and supporter of companies including Google and PayPal, and a special advisor to Sequoia Capital. He was a winner of the Gödel Prize in 2001.[2][3][4]


Rajeev Motwani was born in Jammu and grew up in New Delhi.[5] His father was in the Indian Army. He had two brothers. As a child, inspired by luminaries like Gauss, he wanted to become a mathematician. Motwani went to St Columba's School, New Delhi. He completed his B.Tech in Computer Science from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur in 1983 and got his Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley in 1988 under the supervision of Richard M. Karp.[1]


Motwani joined Stanford soon after U.C. Berkeley. He founded the Mining Data at Stanford project (MIDAS), an umbrella organization for several groups looking into new and innovative data management concepts. His research included data privacy, web search, robotics, and computational drug design. He is also one of the originators of the Locality-sensitive hashing algorithm.

Motwani was one of the co-authors (with Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and Terry Winograd) of an influential early paper on the PageRank algorithm. He also co-authored another seminal search paper What Can You Do With A Web In Your Pocket with those same authors.[6] PageRank was the basis for search techniques of Google (founded by Page and Brin), and Motwani advised or taught many of Google's developers and researchers,[7] including the first employee, Craig Silverstein.[8]

He was an author of two widely used theoretical computer science textbooks: Randomized Algorithms with Prabhakar Raghavan[9] and Introduction to Automata Theory, Languages, and Computation with John Hopcroft and Jeffrey Ullman.[10]

He was an avid angel investor and helped fund a number of startups to emerge from Stanford. He sat on boards including Google, Kaboodle, Mimosa Systems (acquired by Iron Mountain Incorporated), Adchemy, Baynote, Vuclip, NeoPath Networks (acquired by Cisco Systems in 2007), Tapulous and Stanford Student Enterprises. He was active in the Business Association of Stanford Entrepreneurial Students (BASES).[11][12][13]

He was a winner of the Gödel Prize in 2001 for his work on the PCP theorem and its applications to hardness of approximation.[14][15]

He served on the editorial boards of SIAM Journal on Computing, Journal of Computer and System Sciences, ACM Transactions on Knowledge Discovery from Data, and IEEE Transactions on Knowledge and Data Engineering.


Motwani was found dead in his pool in the backyard of his Atherton home on June 5, 2009. The San Mateo County coroner, Robert Foucrault, ruled the death an accidental drowning. Toxicology tests showed that Motwani's blood alcohol content was 0.26 percent.[16] He could not swim, but was planning on taking lessons, according to his friends.[17]

Personal life

Motwani, and his wife Asha Jadeja Motwani, had two daughters named Naitri and Anya.[18] After his death his family donated US$1.5 million in 2011, a building was named in his honor at IIT Kanpur.[19]


  • Gödel Prize in 2001
  • Okawa Foundation Research Award[20]
  • Arthur Sloan Research Fellowship[20]
  • National Young Investigator Award from the National Science Foundation
  • Distinguished Alumnus Award from IIT Kanpur in 2006[19]
  • Bergmann Memorial Award from the US-Israel Bi-National Science Foundation
  • IBM Faculty Award


  1. ^ a b Rajeev Motwani at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  2. ^ Rajeev Motwani at DBLP Bibliography Server Edit this at Wikidata
  3. ^ Rajeev Motwani author profile page at the ACM Digital Library
  4. ^ Raghavan, Prabhakar (2012). "Rajeev Motwani (1962-2009)" (PDF). Theory of Computing. 8: 55-57. doi:10.4086/toc.2012.v008a003.
  5. ^ Rajeev Motwani, computer scientist at Stanford; adviser, investor in Silicon Valley, dead at 47
  6. ^ Brin, Sergey; Motwani, Rajeev; Page, Lawrence; Winograd, Terry (1998). "What can you do with a Web in your Pocket?". IEEE Data Engineering Bulletin. 21 (2): 37-47. Archived from the original on 2009-06-10.
  7. ^ Alfred Spector, VP of Research (June 8, 2009). "Remembering Rajeev Motwani". Retrieved 2013.
  8. ^ "Craig Silverstein's website". Stanford University. Archived from the original on October 2, 1999. Retrieved 2010.
  9. ^ Raghavan, Prabhakar; Motwani, Rajeev (1995). Randomized algorithms. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-47465-8.
  10. ^ Ullman, Jeffrey D.; Hopcroft, John E.; Motwani, Rajeev (2007). Introduction to automata theory, languages, and computation. Boston: Pearson/Addison Wesley. ISBN 978-0-321-45536-9.
  11. ^ NeoPath Networks Locks Up $6M Equity Financing; August Capital and DCM-Doll Capital Management Lead the Investment 2004-03-08
  12. ^ "Cisco kisses NeoPath products goodbye" Archived 2009-06-10 at the Wayback Machine by Deni Connor, Network World, 2007-04-04. Retrieved 2009-06-06.
  13. ^ Rajeev Motwani, Google founders' professor and early investor, dies 2009-06-05
  14. ^ 2001 Gödel Prize citation
  15. ^ Arora, S.; Lund, C.; Motwani, R.; Sudan, M.; Szegedy, M. (1998). "Proof verification and the hardness of approximation problems". Journal of the ACM. 45 (3): 501-555. doi:10.1145/278298.278306.
  16. ^ Lee, Henry K. (July 16, 2009). "Stanford tech mentor was drunk when he drowned". San Francisco Chronicle. Hearst Communications, Inc. pp. D-4. Retrieved .
  17. ^ Weaver, Matthew (2009-06-07). "Google founders' mentor found dead in swimming pool". guardian.co.uk. Guardian News and Media Limited.
  18. ^ Google mentor Rajeev Motwani dies in freak accident Archived 2009-06-10 at the Wayback Machine 2009-06-07
  19. ^ a b "The Rajeev Motwani Building: Department of Computer Science and Engineering". Archived from the original on May 22, 2013. Retrieved 2013.
  20. ^ a b "Rajeev Motwani passes away". Thaindian. June 6, 2009. Retrieved 2013.

External links

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