Vitalik Buterin left academia four years ago to pursue a career in crypto. Now, the Ethereum founder’s contributions to the industry (and the computer science field at large) have earned him an honorary Ph.D. — in the same year he might have eventually completed his undergrad degree.
In 2014, disenchanted with academics, Buterin accepted a Thiel Fellowship for his preliminary work on Ethereum and dropped out in his freshman year at the University of Waterloo to work on the smart contract platform.
Today, the University of Basel's Faculty of Business and Economics has awarded him an honorary doctorate. The distinction was given at the Dies Academicus celebration, an annual event that commemorates the opening of the university.
Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Basel, Prof. Dr. Aleksander Berentsen calls Buterin's blockchain innovations "game-changing," adding that he has "blazed a trail for science and industry to follow and work together."
"I’m honored to have received an honorary doctorate from the University of Basel the oldest university in Switzerland. Switzerland is well known for its innovative blockchain research,” Buterin stated.
Buterin first introduced his concept for the groundbreaking Ethereum in a white paper titled "A Next-Generation Smart Contract and Decentralized Application Platform" in 2013, wherein he proposed the development of a new platform with a more flexible scripting language than Bitcoin for building applications on the blockchain. Coinciding with the awarding of its creator’s honorary degree, this month marks the fifth anniversary since the paper was published.
Before his work on Ethereum, Buterin also co-founded Bitcoin Magazinealongside Mihai Alisie, serving as the site’s lead writer. He also held an editorial board position at Ledger, a scholarly cryptocurrency and blockchain journal.
Buterin has continued to contribute to the application of blockchain technoloies through essays on topics such as consensus protocols, Plasma and Casper.
Buterin was born to Russian parents on January 31, 1994, in the ancient city of Kolomna in Moscow, before he emigrated to Canada where he was able to explore and develop his love for math, programming and economics.
He first learned about Bitcoin from his father when he was 17. After travelling the world in 2013 to interacting with other developers, especially those working on Mastercoin, he published a whitepaper that proposed Ethereum the following year. From July 22 to August 30, 2014, Ethereum raised $15.5 million in an initial coin offering and went on to launch on July 30, 2015.