At 22, Stephen Wolfram already had a great career as a physicist.
So why did he ditch the academic life to make software? He didn't really like school, and he didn't really like doing calculations. And a multitude of scientists, financial analysts and engineers are glad he did because Wolfram's new path lead to the creation of one of the most famous and powerful software programs for highly technical mathematics.
Today, the 56-year-old Wolfram runs his own company called Wolfram Research, which created the Wolfram Language — a programming language embedded in products such as Raspberry Pi computers and Intel's Edison — made for wearables and "internet-of-things" devices. His search-engine-on-steroids, Wolfram Alpha, is used by Apple's Siri to answer computational questions. And the company's original product, Mathematica, remains one of the most highly regarded programs for mathematics and computation.
All of this grew out of two things: Wolfram's frustration and boredom with the academic life and his desire to make complex mathematics and programming easier and more efficient, even for people without technical backgrounds.