1. Elon Musk: Introduction
  2. Elon Musk: Early Life and Education
  3. Elon Musk: Success Story
  4. Elon Musk: Net Worth
  5. Elon Musk: Famous or Infamous
  6. Elon Musk: Most Influential Quotes

Elon Musk was born on June 28, 1971, in Pretoria, South Africa. His mother, Maye, was a Canadian-born model and dietician. His father, Errol, was an electromechanical engineer born in South Africa. A brother and sister joined the family soon after Elon was born.

Compared with his siblings, Elon was quiet. His mother would later say that his introversion, especially compared with his more outgoing siblings, made her fear that he might be deaf.

When Musk was 10, his parents divorced and Elon lived mostly with his father, who moved around South Africa. It was a difficult time, as Errol was reportedly tough with his children to the point of abuse, often lecturing Musk and his brother for hours.

Bullied as a Child

Musk’s intellectual aptitude did him few favors as a child. He found few friends in the tough-minded Afrikaner culture he encountered in school.

"I had a terrible upbringing. I had a lot of adversity growing up. One thing I worry about with my kids is they don't face enough adversity," he would later say in an interview.

Musk attended the English-speaking Waterkloof House Preparatory School, and later graduated from Pretoria Boys High School. The years were lonely and brutal, from his descriptions.

“They got my best friend to lure me out of hiding so they could beat me up. And that hurt,” Musk said. “For some reason they decided that I was it, and they were going to go after me nonstop. That’s what made growing up difficult. For a number of years there was no respite. You get chased around by gangs at school who tried to beat the (expletive) out of me, and then I’d come home, and it would just be awful there as well.”

If there was a point of bright escape for Musk, it was technology. When he was only 10, he became acquainted with programming via the Commodore VIC-20, an inexpensive home computer. Before long, he had become proficient enough to create Blastar – a video game in the style of Space-Invaders. He sold the BASIC code for the game to a magazine called PC and Office Technology for $500.

At 17, Musk moved to Canada to avoid serving in the South African military, whose main duty in the late 1980s was enforcing apartheid. He would later obtain Canadian citizenship through his mother.

After emigrating to Canada, Musk enrolled in Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. It was there that he met Justine Wilson, an aspiring writer. They would marry and have five sons together, twins and triplets, before divorcing in 2008.

Musk's Education in the U.S.

After two years at Queen's University, Musk transferred to the University of Pennsylvania. He took on two majors, but his time there wasn’t all work and no play. With a fellow student, he bought a 10-bedroom fraternity house, which they used as an ad hoc nightclub.

Musk graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physics, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the Wharton School. The two majors speak to the direction Musk’s career would take later, but it was physics that made the deepest impression on his thinking.

“(Physics is) a good framework for thinking,” he’d later say. “Boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there.”

Musk was 24 years old when he moved to California to pursue a PhD in applied physics at Stanford University. With the internet exploding and Silicon Valley booming, Musk had entrepreneurial visions dancing in his head. He left the PhD program after just two days. (Related: Dropping out of School to Start a Business)

In 1995, with $28,000 and his younger brother Kimbal at his side, Musk started Zip2, a web software company that would help newspapers develop online city guides.


Elon Musk: Success Story
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