Jeff Bezos was a gifted child; at the age of three, tired of sleeping in a crib, he found a screwdriver and took the crib apart. He subsequently tinkered with models and with a Radio Shack electronics kit. Every summer Bezos stayed at his grandfather's ranch, where he would repair windmills and the tractor and brand cattle, among other tasks. An avid young inventor, he created a solar microwave and a door buzzer that alerted him when his siblings were entering his room. When asked who his heroes were in a Time magazine interview, Bezos cited Thomas Edison and Walt Disney. He visited Disney World six times and was impressed with Disney's powerful vision: "He knew exactly what he wanted to build and teamed up with a bunch of really smart people and built it" (December 27, 2003).

Bezos was a model student who was profiled (under an assumed name) in the 1977 book entitled Turning on Bright Minds: A Parent Looks at Gifted Education, by Julie Ray. Bezos was named class valedictorian when he graduated from high school in 1982 and won the Silver Knight Award from the Miami Herald. He graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1986, earning Phi Beta Kappa membership.

Bezos's entrepreneurial spirit became evident when he obtained his first post-graduation position at Fitel, a start-up that focused on creating a network for international financial trade. After two years, when Fitel failed to get off the ground, Bezos moved on to Bankers Trust, where he was responsible for developing software applications for pension-fund clients. He eventually became a vice president at Bankers Trust. He then moved on to D. E. Shaw & Company, a financial-trading company on the cutting edge of computer technology. David Shaw, the company's founder, was an inspiration to Bezos. Shaw was likewise impressed with Bezos and rapidly promoted him to senior vice president. In an interview with Time, Shaw characterized Bezos as "sort of an entrepreneurial odd-jobs kind of a person" (December 27, 2003). In 1994 Bezos left D. E. Shaw, having decided to build and operate his own company.

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Santosh Puthran
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