He earned both his bachelor's degree in 1975 in mathematics and his master's degree in 1978 from the Technion in Israel. At the University of Washington, he earned another master's degree in 1981 and his Ph.D. in computer science in 1982.
He has won a Presidential Young Investigator Award in 1985, 3 best-paperawards, and the Usenix annual Software Tools User Group Award software award in 1999. He developed suffix array, a data structure for string matching, with Gene Myers.
He was a professor at the University of Arizona and authored several articles while there. He wrote Introduction to Algorithms — A Creative Approach (ISBN 0-201-12037-2), a book on algorithms.
He became the chief scientist at Yahoo! in 1998.
In 2002, he joined Amazon.com, where he became "chief algorithms officer" and a vice president. He later was appointed CEO of the Amazon subsidiary company A9.com. He filed a patent on behalf of Amazon.
In 2006, he was hired by Google as one of their vice presidents of engineering. In December 2007, he announced Knol, Google's new project to create a knowledge repository.
As of October 13 2010 he is also responsible for all the search products at Google.