Excerpt from The PC Pioneers
Linus Torvalds, a 21-year old second-year computer science student, wrote a new UNIX kernel using the available GNU tools and issued his software under the GNU general public licence.
Torvalds called it Freax, a contraction of free, freak and the ‘x’ taken from Unix, but the Helsinki University of Technology server administrator convinced him to rename it Linux.
The software was released as a copyleft product named Linux 0.01 in September 1991.
Torvalds picked a penguin called Tux as its logo and mascot, though apparently his first encounter with a real penguin resulted in him being bitten when he tried to pat it!