Massimo Marchiori could have been one of the wealthiest Silicon Valley billionaires. Instead, he’s a $3,000 per-month computer-science professor and mathematician at University of Padua, Italy.

It was 17 years ago that he showed the world his Internet search engine. Sitting in the audience at an Internet conference in Santa Clara, California, when Marchiori unveiled the breakthrough, was a student, four years younger than the speaker, who listened with rapt attention. That guy was Larry Page, and he hadn’t yet invented Google with his Stanford University friend, Sergey Brin. More >