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Bill Gates
Head and shoulders photo of Bill Gates
Gates in March 2018
William Henry Gates III

(1955-10-28) October 28, 1955 (age 63)
ResidenceXanadu 2.0 in Medina, Washington, U.S.
OccupationBusiness magnate, investor, author, philanthropist, humanitarian
Known forMicrosoft
Net worth$95.6 billion[1] (November 2018)
Board member of
Melinda French
(m. 1994)
William H. Gates III

William Henry Gates III, KBE, DFBCS (born October 28, 1955) is an American business magnate, investor, author, philanthropist, and humanitarian. He is best known as the principal founder of Microsoft Corporation.[2][3] During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of chairman, CEO and chief software architect, while also being the largest individual shareholder until May 2014.

In 1975, Gates and Paul Allen launched Microsoft, which became the world's largest PC software company.[4][a] Gates led the company as chief executive officer until stepping down in January 2000, but he remained as chairman and created the position of chief software architect for himself.[7] In June 2006, Gates announced that he would be transitioning from full-time work at Microsoft to part-time work and full-time work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which was established in 2000.[8] He gradually transferred his duties to Ray Ozzie and Craig Mundie.[9] He stepped down as chairman of Microsoft in February 2014 and assumed a new post as technology adviser to support the newly appointed CEO Satya Nadella.[10]

Gates is one of the best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution. He has been criticized for his business tactics, which have been considered anti-competitive. This opinion has been upheld by numerous court rulings.[11]

Since 1987, Gates has been included in the Forbes list of the world's wealthiest people, an index of the wealthiest documented individuals, excluding and ranking against those with wealth that is not able to be completely ascertained.[12][13] From 1995 to 2017, he held the Forbes title of the richest person in the world all but four of those years, and held it consistently from March 2014 to July 2017, with an estimated net worth of US$89.9 billion as of October 2017.[1] However, on July 27, 2017, and since October 27, 2017, he has been surpassed by Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who had an estimated net worth of US$90.6 billion at the time.[14] As of August 6, 2018, Gates had a net worth of $95.4 billion, making him the second-richest person in the world, behind Bezos.

Later in his career and since leaving Microsoft, Gates pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors. He donated large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.[15] In 2009, Gates and Warren Buffett founded The Giving Pledge, whereby they and other billionaires pledge to give at least half of their wealth to philanthropy.[16] The foundation works to save lives and improve global health, and is working with Rotary International to eliminate polio.[17]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ 'A Conversation with Bill Gates' Q&A at Harvard University
  • ✪ How Bill Gates reads books
  • ✪ Bill Gates vs the Average American - How Do They Compare - Celebrity Comparison
  • ✪ The Story of How Melinda Gates Met Bill Gates
  • ✪ Bill Gates's Top 10 Rules For Success (@BillGates)


Well I've been at a lot of events in this room but that is the warmest welcome I think Frank Doyle has ever had. Thank you all for being here. This is not too subtle I am very pleased to welcome my college classmate Bill Gates and I just want to say a word or two about Bill. The first I ever heard about Bill was when we were freshmen and a friend of mine, another classmate told me keep an eye keep an eye out for Bill Gates. He's going to do some really amazing things and this classmate was pretty impressive himself somebody who I expected great things of and I dare say that none of us could have predicted the great things that Bill would do. When I was an undergraduate, when Bill and I were undergraduates you have to understand that the world especially when it came to computation look very different. To the best of my knowledge and Bill may correct me about this the only computer on Harvard campus was in the Science Center. Now I was a research assistant as an undergrad and I would work at a building that was on Cambridge Street where CJIS North is today and I would cross the street to go to the Harvard computer center where CGA CJIs South is today where I would run jobs there wasn't absolutely a computer there the computer was at MIT so we were just connected to the mainframe at MIT and in those days the greatest anxiety that anybody could have in a job like mine was to drop the box of punch cards, because if you did that you would lose maybe a week's worth of work. Bill had a vision and I understand it went back even then that computing would be ubiquitous it would be part of all of our lives and indeed as you all know he executed on that vision and the world today has changed so dramatically in large part due to the work that Bill has done throughout the years so indeed he has changed the world he has done amazing things in technology. Arguably he has done even more if you want to call it that his second career as a philanthropist. Bill has an incisive analytic mind. He demands rigor, he relies on data, and he looks at outcomes. If any of us reflect for a little bit about the good things that we try to do the altruistic acts that we engage in we have to admit that from time to time we wonder whether we're doing it more to make ourselves feel good about doing the right thing or whether we're actually helping the people we want to help. Bill has removed all doubt about helping other people because the measures and the effects of his philanthropy has simply have simply been profound. Today the New England Journal of Medicine published an article, I kid you not the name of the study is Mordor, a study about the use of some very simple antibiotics given twice a year to preschool children in three countries in Africa and on average it reduced childhood mortality by 13% and what's even more encouraging the effects were larger in Niger which had the greatest childhood mortality rates this is a cheap easy to implement intervention and this work was sponsored by the Gates Foundation. There is example after example of the work that Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have supported over the year that have transformed health and maybe not as much as Bill would like as we just heard from him, education as well. Few people in history have had as profound an impact on mortality and on human well-being as Bill has and I dare say that none of us will know the full impact during our lives the work that he has done will pay off for many many years. So to close let me just say my friend whose name as Bill probably knows, is Steve Ballmer, he's not always right but he's often right, and in this case he was right but he probably had no idea how right he would be when he said "Bill will do amazing things", so Bill-thank you for the amazing things you do, thank you for the inspiration, and we all look forward to your dialogue with Frank, please welcome again Bill Gates. Well it's terrific to welcome you back here to Harvard I'm hoping you can explain this piece of paper that's projected up on the screen here break the ice. Well I took a course called 2010 that was at my expense taught on microeconomics and that's part of my final. My whole thing was that I didn't want to attend to any of the course I was signed up for and I had all these other courses that I attended. I remember when I went into that final everybody was in my study group was kind of mad at me because, "Hey you never showed up, what you know now all of a sudden here you are." But it was an amazing course, the people of majored in economics were at a disadvantage because knowing math was very helpful in that fact course. But it was fantastic. The people in the back, I don't know if you can read it, but the instructors comment in the lower corner there says 'arithmetic error no sweat'. Well Bill we just had a really fun hour and a half, two hours with the robotics folks in the engineering school here, touring various labs, and I'm wondering if you would share with this community, your impressions of what you saw happening in robotics and the implications of that technology for humans. The impact good, bad, and otherwise. Well robotics is a very broad field at a very early stage and there's some exciting and promising things that come out of it. Normally when we think that we think of a human-sized sort of a lot of metal type contraption that's doing things humans would do like cleaning up a room or being an infantry soldier are some sort of manufacturing job. The work here is taking robotics in in many dimensions, into different realms. So I saw the robot bee which is a tiny little pea-sized robot that can fly around, it doesn't quite go anywhere yet but it's a I'm sure they'll get that figured out. I also saw a lot of what they called 'soft robotics' where instead of having metal parts you have actually fabric and either through hydraulics or pneumatics you're manipulating this, you know, I wore a glove that the air pressure pneumatically would provide gripping and so it's both thinking of enhancing humans who have normal functionality and taking people who have had a stroke or ALS, and and allowing them to do normal functions despite that disability. So robotics is very cool because it's a lot of sciences there, yes there's some good software that's in it, but actually, looking at evolution how do insects fly, you know understanding Reynolds numbers, and turbulence and how you modeled, that which at small scale it's amazing.Nobody really understands how insects fhy slowly but surely we're figuring it out so I saw a variety of robots that are really amazing and of course nowadays people share their latest ideas so the collaboration between the various teams was amazing to see. You know, as I was preparing for this, I went back and I found one of your former professors, who's still on the faculty. Harry Lewis, in computer science, to try to get some insight into your character. Back in the day when the picture we saw earlier was a reflection and one of the things Harry recalled was you had this voracious appetite for reading, you have this immense capacity for learning, a sense of curiosity that as we've watched over your career that doesn't seem to have narrowed any. Especially as we think about in Alan's introduction the the array of topics that your foundation touches on that you have expertise in the knowledge in from public health to education reform to renewable energy. How is it that where many of us who get to a certain level in our career dive deep, and narrow, and specialized, you've managed to not narrow and keep your curiosity very very broad. Yes, certainly during the time I was Harvard I wasn't sure what I was going to do. The idea that where it was this field that was the opportunity was unbelievable that became more obvious during the three-year period I was here. But my dad had been a lawyer, I thought of mathematics you know like doing him all on the Putnam that was the coolest thing and the computer software I didn't think those people were smart just the math people. So it's like, well am I gonna go into the easy field, or this really hard field, but anyway math was fantastic, when I finally picked and decided to go do Microsoft. Then I got into a period from age 19 to about 40 where I wasn't able to look at the latest on you know how tornadoes work or how mitochondria at work I was pretty monomaniacal and when I was able to ask Steve, this is the year 2000, Steve Ballmer, he he mistakenly graduated, [laughter]he started at Stanford, I was trying to hire him but his parents told him you're supposed to graduate; which was fine, but then he started at Stanford Business School and he was in his first year and I thought, 'oh this is perfect I'll get him to drop out of Stanford Business School!', so in a certain sense he is a dropout and he was very key to the success of Microsoft. I mean he knew a lot of things but during that period I didn't get to do much at Harvard you know I took all these courses because it was just so amazing that people were interested in talking about my and I I have to say I never went to a lecture during reading period or any anything because the courses that I was actually signed up for I finally started to work on those so I was in Hallel the minute would open to the minute it would close during reading period trying to catch up on on that other set of courses. So people say I'm a dropout which is literally true but because I like college courses the online college courses there's a company called the learning company that I buy tons and tons of their stuff and I do in at least four or five courses a year. In a sense I like going to college more than anyone so I'm sort of made sure my job certainly post Microsoft, that I get to spend my time meeting with scientists, learning new things, you know, seeing what the hard problems are, in some cases giving money to people to take on those very very hard problems. So knowing you have such a passion for education reform and you touched on MOOCs what's your vision of how MOOCs will or will not transform education there's been a lot of prophecies about the doom of universities as we know it and that mercifully has not come to pass; but what are your thoughts about where MOOCs are going to fit in, whether at the k-12 level,or at the the higher level? Well education is essentially a social construct, it's not that the universities have secret knowledge that only they have available. You know I took these numbers, this won't make any sense anymore, but the hardest freshman math class was called math 55, I assume it's not called that anymore, but it was it was a group of of 80 people whose personal positioning was, they were the best person at math that they had ever met, so there were 79 frauds. One person who really was the the best at math. The guy who came in first in the class is a lawyer in New York now, the guy who came in second is a professor of chaos theory at Princeton, and then I came in third. So I knew, 'okay Math- jeez that's interesting', anyway I didn't take physics 55 but I read the Fineman book and so if you're motivated, seriously, you don't have to take a course the Fineman book if you're hardcore, just read the Fineman and book and work through the problems, if you want to learn to do software, read the Art of Computer Programming - good luck doing the problems. But you know anyone that's rated 30 or harder is like super hard to do and so a MOOC in a sense doesn't change what counts you know it's always been in the textbook but the percentage of students who just buy textbooks and and read them and know the subject is vanishingly small you kind of have to have this thing where a bunch of kids all come at the same time and you know if you don't study you're gonna get a bad grade and your parents may not like that you have to create all these social things in order for people to get into this mode of hyper concentrating and actually understanding why should I concentrate you know, if I'm a high school student they put X's and Y's up on the board, 'how does that relate to my life now?', if you understood that being good at math lets you get a good job, travel the world, you might say 'okay it does relate to me' but that's a very indirect thing and the kind of discipline to care about that, to concentrate, that's what's missing, and so MOOCs - to the degree that it's easier to take a MOOC than it is to read a textbook - yeah that's nice, it's a little bit interactive there's a video, that's part of the what I like about the Learning Company, like all their economics, there's a guy named Timothy Taylor who has five courses on economics, I super recommend and you learn to like him and his way of explaining things. So a MOOC is a slightly more digestible form of learning but it doesn't take particularly for somebody at a young age it in no way changes this question of - why should people engage in that learning and how do you create the environment and the sense of achievement and the sense of capability that sitting in there and you know looking at X's and Y's manipulating them seems like a smart thing to do. Terrific insights. Well Bill let me ask you to kind of reflect back to when you were the age of the folks in the room here, 20 or so, with the experience that you've accumulated since that time. We've got a bunch of incredibly smart ambitious, creative folks in the room here who are going to be the future doers and makers and influencers. What advice would you, in part based upon your recollection when you were sitting in this seat at that age? Well I think it's if anything a more interesting time to be lucky enough to be a student at Harvard. The ability to take innovation and solve problems including the class of problems I'll call 'inequity problems', how do you, you know, how low-income students do as well as high income students, how do you go to Africa and help the health and education taken the incredible population growth that will be there and make that a positive asset for that continent. These are very tough problems and you know they've eluded being solved. So obviously the easy problems are not the ones you'll you'll get to work on so whether it's you know, health costs, or climate change, or you know robots that do good things and not bad things or the policies around those things; this is a fascinating time to be alive you know. I don't know what it'll be like 50 or 60 years from now or what the problems will be but in your generation you know cancer, infectious disease so many things will be solved and the societal framework of how you avoid polarization and how you maintain trust, those things will also need some brilliant breakthroughs. Terrific, good, I hope you're all inspired. I could sit here and ask him questions all day but we've got some really inquisitive folks out here in the audience so I know Shirley has some questions. Let me remind you of some of the Harvard ground rules here, so first of all introduce yourself, say what school or what concentration you're coming from second keep your question brief, third make it a question, it's something that ends with a question mark as opposed to a statement. Okay we've got some mic runners we're going to go around and I'm going to start with this person right here we could get a mic halfway up right at the aisle there yeah. Thank you very much Mr. Gates so I'm a 3L and Harvard Law School and my name is David and I'm from China. I also went to a University of Washington for my graduate studies I got my PhD there so my question is uh so University of Washington is a great public school and you also you and Mr. Paul Allen helped us grow so much but to be honest in the U.S. the public schools have a hard time competing with private schools especially for undergraduate studies so I wonder how you see this problem and is there going to be any change in the future? Thank you very much. Yeah our Foundation has two things that we work on one which is global in nature; improving health and we now complement that with agriculture and a few other things, and then here in the US about 20% of what we do is U.S. education. So we did a thing called the Millennium Scholarship which was 20,000 diverse kids who got scholarships but a lot of what we do is try to be the R&D funding. You can look at industry by industry you know pharmaceutical, software and say 'okay how much do they work on their next breakthrough?' if your thought 'okay what are the returns to society?' you'd probably want education to have the highest R&D percentage, in fact, it effectively has a zero percent R&D, you know public schools don't do R&D, Department of Education essentially doesn't, there's a little bit of money. So we thought 'okay that's a market failure a systems failure' we can go in and, there's a professor here Tom Kane, who we supported a lot he came to us early on and said, "Hey there are some teachers are super good and if you could just move people, the average teacher, to be at the boundary of the top quartile, then US education would be as good as Singapore. Which is- Singapore, Korea, and Shanghai are the three best in the world, and so that was very intriguing. So we went around and did 20,000 hours of video of the really good teachers, and then we did 20,000 hours of the other teachers and compared and learned a lot about how good teachers interact. They were way more interactive with their class than the others and we thought 'ok we'll put this online, people will watch this they'll all learn how to teach like those people.' Well so far we haven't managed to move the the needle on that in a big way. But you know we're working hard. There are very good schools, you know maintenance schools that sort of cheat by picking their student body, there are charter schools that even in the inner city some of them like Kipp do extremely well by creating a culture and the cost of those schools is not as high as the nearby public school which can often have 50 percent type dropout rates so at the micro level it feels like we understand some tactics. Some of the tactics involve the use of computers and software but that may be less profound than you might think at the early grades because it's all about this motivational stuff and just computerizing it a little bit in math you can get to somebody's level and therefore they're feeling more positive feedback so that that is working but that's not the whole equation. So in education we're spending 800 million a year and our goal which was to move the average quality of the US education up into that top 3 we have had no noticeable impact after almost 20 years of working in that space but we we're committed we're going to keep keep doing it. Frustratingly inertial system. There was a hand up here earlier, the young lady and the black sweater. Hi I'm Danica Gutierrez, I am a sophomore at the college studying economics and I'm a Gates Millennium scholar and I just I just wanted to personally thank you for supporting my education and the ambitions of other students like me and my question for you is, "what is something that you regret doing or maybe not doing while you were here at Harvard? Thank you. Well, I wish I'd been more sociable. [Laughter] I think they got rid of them, but there were these things called Men's Clubs and I was so anti social I would have even known they existed but Steve Ballmer decided I needed to have some exposure to I guess drinking so he got me punched for the Fox Club so I'd go to those events and that that was highly educational but that I think they shut them down or something cuz they couldn't cure...that's' sensitive... so anyway I'm no I'm not's fine, there's lots of places to drink. So you know I wish I'd mixed around a bit more you know. I just, it was a fun time though because you know you had people around you could talk 24 hours a day and you know the classes were so so interesting and they fed you. I lived up a career because she could get hamburger and for every meal you could have a hamburger for breakfast or lunch or dinner and the the male-female ratio was one-to-one which that was an unusual thing at the time. It didn't help me but [laughter] it was a visual improvement for me so yeah I wish I'd gotten to know more people. I was just so into being good at the classes and taking lots of classes, it you know it worked out in the end but I missed a lot of well. I never went to a football game or a basketball game or whatever other sports teams Harvard might happen to have just a few right? So maybe from this side of the room this time right over here. Hi my name is Angelina Yee I'm from Sycamore Illinois and I'm a sophomore at the College so as someone as famous and has like, has done so much in society, outside of your family, I was wondering what something what is something that you're most proud of and you feel like is your biggest accomplishment? Well in work you know the saw the Microsoft work I'm very proud of, the magic of software, and how software's empowering people. You know the Foundation,the fact that we took a field of helping, you know, the poor countries, the developing countries, really improve their health systems in a dramatic way I'd say the statistic that I'd be most proud of is that when we got started there are 11 million children a year under the age of 5 would die every year and now that number has been cut more than in half so it's little over 5 million. Now and that's because we've gotten new vaccines and drugs out in you know India, Africa, all of these developing countries and so you know having it be in half, that's pretty amazing and we did not expect to do that. I thought improving the U.S. education system would be way easier than that. We're on a path by 2030 to cut it in half again so it'll go to less than two and a half million which will mean that only at that point only about two percent of children will died before the age of five, that's pretty incredible because for a variety factors it's hard even for a rich country to get much full of 1% so it means the risk of death in a poor country is only about a factor of 2 higher. There are a few places left in the world where 15% of the kids die that's sort of central Africa including northern Nigeria historically before medicine came along that number was about 35% no matter what your wealth was but then as countries got richer you've got this huge gap particularly because you had diseases like malaria that nobody once the rich world solved their malaria problem then there was zero dollars going into it there was no market incentive if it's only very poor people who have a disease. So I hope that, so I feel good about where we are. I hope that we get polio done we're very close that would be a big day to have polio be fully eradicated. [Applause] And you know then that would give the world the energy and hopefully the commitment to go get malaria which would be about a 20-year quest and requires a lot of breakthroughs you know. I I'm also trying to be a good parent which is harder to measure and like twice as good a parent as I was ten years ago or anything like that but I put a lot of effort in into that. Fantastic, alright how about in the middle of the back there yeah exactly. Hi my name is Shanti Scott Norman I am an arts and education student at the Graduate School of Education I'm a middle school art teacher and I commend you for the work that you do in public education and I'm curious to know about your thoughts on teacher pay especially these days. I don't think education public education is going to get much better if teachers don't get paid more. Yeah absolutely the you know education in the U.S., the way K through 12 is funded is very different than the way higher education is funded. So let me just talk about the biggest part which is the K through 12. We definitely want more resources to go into that sector but at the state level the trends unfortunately are not favorable because the amount of money that's raised at the state level as a percentage of GDP is is quite flat often slightly down because they tax goods and not services and often are fairly regressive as you look at the demands on that resource pool: the pension costs which have been approximately mis- accounted, and the medical costs, the prison system, current employees, retired employees, Medicaid, those are all going up very dramatically and so unless a state is willing to increase its tax level what happens is; first they start cutting all the maintenance of everything then they start cutting the higher ed piece and so you've seen state university tuition triple over the the last decade and then K through 12. is a priority but so many states have cut so much that they're actually in some cases cutting it and you've seen recently to some teacher strikes that came out of the fact that they had quote 'reformed the tax system' had not have enough money to pay for K through 12 and so I'm hopeful that the percentage of GDP we put into the K through 12 system can go up but it won't go up by a factor of two you know even if we raise taxes in an appropriate progressive way because of those other liabilities if we were really smart we put another 20 or 30 percent in, most of which would go to increase salaries so that it's attractive to be in that profession. It is a profession that has an unusual salary structure that the younger teachers are relatively paid less than they should - anyway - and you know so - this is all decided state by state and there's a factor of three variation. Massachusetts actually spends a lot of money on K through 12 I wouldn't suggest it needs to spend more but there's only about eight states that you can say that for the rest of them are at about ten thousand per student per year and it's it's it's not enough. As these systems get squeezed right now what they're doing is they're taking out a lot of elective activities which have extremely high returns relative to the amount of money put into them but you know all the music, after school athletics, those things get squeezed so the system actually is when you see a funding cut say you see a negative 4% cut your image should be that that system is working twenty percent worse because they're not actually very rational about how they do things, but you know it's going to be a political fight. You know being pro tax, you know not many people, you know I've been fighting for the estate tax to be bigger and higher you know a higher percentage and it's a lonely thing to be a pro tax person especially much my peers. The gentleman in the salmon colored shirt. Hi my name is Peter Jankowski, freshmen here at the college studying applied math and I am from California, San Fransisco. I just wanted to ask you if you think there's a lack of scientific literacy in U.S. politics right now and if so how do you go about tackling that challenge. Well definitely there are several topics like climate change or reducing medical costs or using the latest techniques to make food productivity and nutrition better, so-called GMO techniques, the understanding of that is very limited. But it's not just the politicians, if you take an issue like GMOs and you ask the general public or you ask about, you know evolution, so the electorate, the problem is when you get issues climate change maybe the best example, where the science and understanding is fairly important because the sacrifices have to be made now in order to get the benefits later. You know if the effect of climate change your neighbor you were seeing it today you would it would be politically different. HIV is like that, where you get infected and you go almost eight years before you start to get sick. So motivating people to behave so they protect themselves particularly in a very poor country where your time horizon, that you think about trade-offs, is much shorter than we would typically have, so yes we you know in the same way that, the women's movement is doing a great job of identifying candidates and they have more candidates we're gonna run for office in this midterm election cycle than ever before you know there's other attributes like being good at managing things and understanding science and we don't need you know half the politicians but enough and you know if they can specialize in push in those areas.It's the anti science that's a problem. It's not there was a book that was written called Physics for Future Presidents and it's great. You know explains why fear of radiation is kind of insane and why getting rid of gasoline because it's so energy dence and might be a lot harder than we might think. We we need to push back right now, we're sort of in a dip in terms of that science being an argument for good policies. So can I pick it up on that for a minute and just say even with what was happening in Washington three weeks ago four weeks ago with Mark Zuckerberg the question of data privacy and technology the kind of questions they're near and dear to your heart again seem to be something that is sorely lacking in understanding and experience in the Congress, how do we close that gap? I realize I'm not going to train a bunch of computer scientists to be elected officers but how can we bridge the divide between the current state of knowledge and what they really should know to do effective regulation? Well the they there are some very cutting-edge issues that even if I think if we took this audience and say 'okay what do we think the solutions these problems are the ideas would be, you know hundred times better than asking the Congress, but the boundary is even so though the boundary between hate speech and free speech is super complicated the idea that people like to listen to things that that are agreeable to them even if they're not true that reinforce their biases and that society is becoming more polarized in terms of what we read where we live and the digital tools are sort of the ultimate accelerator of this polarization. What do you do do you force people to see things they disagree Should Facebook sign up to the 'hey you know 25% of articles will piss you off' pledge ? Yyou know so that we're reading the same headlines and that we can see that some of the facts are are not facts I think those are super tough things. It was kind of nice for Mark that at least a few of the questions were malformed enough they did get a little bit of a break. Refreshing way of looking at it but if we swing back here maybe down near the front with the HLS jacket we get a mic right over down front in the middle here. Hi my name's Lawrence David I'm from Harvard Law School LLM student from Canada. So you've mentioned a few issues that are currently plaguing American society whether its scientific illiteracy, education things of that nature. I know your foundation focuses a lot on improving educational outcomes, what do you regard as the most significant challenge facing the United States today and moving forwards in the coming decades? Well you had to pick one I'd say the quality the education system I mean there's a country that has essentially a credo of equal opportunity more than anything else and the only way you really execute equal opportunity is by having a great education system. There are a few other issues like, staying out of wars would be a good thing, and making sure that some negative events like a pandemic, either naturally caused or from bioterrorism that were prepared for those things, which are fairly low probability things. Tomorrow I give the thing called the Shattuck lecture which is about how we should get organized for pandemics and it it won't take you know 0.2% of society's resources to be more ready for those things. So overall I'm quite optimistic and my general framework is a very optimistic framework you know the there's a book by Hans Rolsing that just came out that I super recommend it's called FAQ from us very easy to read that kind of creates a framework okay of what problems have we solved and why when asked questions about the state of the world do people pick the wrong answers? Not at a random level but a way worse than random level and actually, university professors were the worst group they polled you know, so they'd say like what's happened to poverty in the last 25 years? It's you know gone up stayed the same been cut in half, four percent of university professors picked the right answer. Which is kind of weird because you'd think they would have this notion of okay this country did it well. I've seen what Vietnam did I've seen what China did their whole framework would be in the frame of how time has improved things so you know we have the innovation on our side the US has one problem that it won't be as unique a country in the future despite percent two people in terms of political power and scientific discovery won't be as much at the center as the other ninety five percent which is a good thing by most ways of looking at it. Getting us used to the fact that we're in a multilateral world particularly given current attitudes is is an adjustment problem but education is if I out of wand if I don't want for the world I fix malnutrition and want for the u.s. I fix education. How about the gentleman sitting right there. Hello I'm Michael Chang I'm a junior at the college studying physics and electrical engineering and I admire you because you did what you love, you seized the right opportunities and you gave back to society when you succeeded. So my question for you is besides dropping out of Harvard what was; what were some of the best things that you did looking back and what at the time made you think of doing these things? Well I've been you know so lucky in terms of my progression you know I had parents who read a lot and came and shared even at the dinner table like my dad was working on lawsuits and my mom was working on various social service type things and so I had an exposure to that and they gave me an arbitrary budget to buy books so I got to just just read a lot. They sent me to a super nice school for high school then they sent me into a super nice school for college and you know they basically paid for it so it the idea that computers were going to be a change agent you know I was lucky enough to meet Paul Allen and early on we brainstormed about this chip and the chip changed the rules I mean most things don't get a million times better not you know engine efficiency or you know most things have theoretical minimums. Computation is something that we're not even close to the theoretical minimum and yet we've improved so much; so seeing that that was going to come and weirdly that most people didn't see that was going to come so, you know, even people at IBM were still thinking in terms of big computers you know now all the the software and service turbine companies are worth even more than IBM. When I was growing up IBM was the monolith and it was always 'okay are we going to beat them are we gonna join him those bastards?' Actually there were very nice people but we always thought of them and they, they sort of stood for these big computers that only big companies and governments could get the benefit for so actually we played off of that, power to the people personal computing type thing of course now we're a big company and somebody can play off of us. You know it's hard to say what the benches are I mean being able to concentrate on something in an extreme way you know is that nature is it nurture? Maintaining curiosity a lot of people lose curiosity in their 20s or 30s so if you hand them a big thick book they're like "what am I gonna read that?'. I used to tell everybody to read Steven Pinker but i think it which is if if you want to it's the it's even as an intellectual framework even better than Rosling but I'm afraid a lot of people don't make time to read what's a fairly academic and super profound, both Better Angels of our Nature and Enlightenment. Now and then you know I was born at a time where I can go out and learn all these things and then I have friends you know if I'm trying to understand quantum computing a lot of times I get confused so it helps to have friends who can come and say try to straighten you out and it makes your willingness to try to learn something even trying to understand poor Nadeau's which are this funny 3d thing you know having somebody could show me where the visualization was and okay what are the unique conditions I don't think I would have done that if I didn't have a group of people that had stayed in electric curious and that we had the internet to kind of feed us access to the the latest thing so I think you know the time I was born in a meeting Paul seeing the microprocessor. The idea that a young person could start a company here is a super nice thing because although people at first are skeptical as soon as they realized their normal model of what I knew and what I could do that I didn't fit that normal model then they assumed I knew way more than I did and I could solve all sorts of problems I had no clue you know how to solve but you know it was nice that people were kind of a gog that we had built this company and done these things from a young age. So I think the culture of America that you know almost the American Dream type success story worked out and then you know not being in Silicon Valley but not being far from Silicon that ended up I think working for the company in a great way but way. In the back there and gentlemen yeah right there you still have your hand up yep you. [Inaudible] Yeah if you want to have impact usually delegation is important although you know individual contributors in terms of inventing a drug or a new approach to things that's phenomenal so when Microsoft first got started I wrote most of code and everybody else's code I read and kind of rewrote [laughter] and that got us up to ten people and then I had to say to myself okay we were gonna ship code that I didn't edit and that was hard for me but I you know I kinda got over that then I still said okay I'm gonna interview everyone and I'm at least look at samples of their code well that got us up to about forty people and that was at a point where I had sold way more software than we could write because everybody was so impressed and I thought well I need to keep enough collect enough money to you know keep hiring all these people but the demand was so high that you know we were actually falling behind. That's when I hired Steve and Steve figured out a how to control what promises I made to people and B how to hire lots of people and good really good people and create organizations and teams. So I delegated to Steve that and he was constantly saying to me okay we're gonna hire programmers that you've never met and I'd say 'no we're not' and then he would show me numerically that the constraint wasn't gonna work you know so then I said okay then I would you know know all the man interests of the people and so over time and of course you know I could say the quality per person was falling monotonically [laughter] according to me but you know large problems if you want to know right the most popular office productivity software that one person absolutely can't do that you can write pretty code so everyone has to decide what scale of organization they want to work in eventually you know my role was very much as a leader and a reviewer of managers but the top people and I hired some super experienced people I would make sure they were pursuing a common vision and they were well coordinated but in terms of a lot of management stuff they were way better than I was and I had to have the framework to know what mix of skills that we needed and you know when they were working well enough together but a lot of you know my value added was picking say to do graphics user interface or to do an integrated office type thing or to go global and not use agents to have Microsoft be present all over the world and so yeah picking what you're good at and how you find the other people to fill in those things that's super important and most founders don't aren't able to scale that up and kind of give up the hands-on things that they used to get a lot of pleasure and comfort from. Careful balance - by the way if people are interested in seeing a piece of code there's a piece of bills code from 1975 that adorns the wall at Maxwell Dworkin so...That is a great piece of code! [laughter] How about over here in the the red sweater about half way up yeah. Hi I'm Venteen I'm a PhD student in chemistry and I really admire your work your effort, in training, improving the education overall so I wonder what is your general parenting philosophy say if your daughter wants to drop out of college as well? Mmm thank you for example if your daughter wanted to drop out of college? well she my eldest graduates from Stanford in June so I'm I'm optimistic. she won't follow in my footsteps they there's a group of writings that all come under the heading Love and Logic which is my philosophy of parenting and it's basically a view that no matter what you say your kid will look at how you deal with the world and they'll end up dealing with it like you do and so if you're calm and predictable you set rules you enforce those rules in a non-emotional very straightforward way then their whole sense of the world the world is not chaotic the world can be predictable they and if they you know behave in certain fashions it'll work out that way I was not raised that way. So I decided okay this is how I'm gonna do it so far so good I have to say I've delegated 80% of not delegated but my wife does 80 percent of and she is way better parent than I am she's not a perfect love and logic person so every once in a while a certain emotional will come into her tone that she just looks at me and you know she knows I'm like hey can you get rid of the emotion but you can't totally do it but that there's some brilliant books and online courses about this I think partnering was the word you were looking for. Yeah absolutely! How about right here? Young lady so can we get a mic over [Inaudable] Well when I was in high school I thought "hey I'm a good student and therefore I should go be like a professor mathematics' and those are the hardest problems to solve and you know I like hard problems and you know there's a certain purity to it and then the computer came along and it was actually my original partner Paul Allen who said to me 'oh you think you're so smart can you figure out this computer' and I was like 'well yes I can' and you know it was very actually then together he and I went on this journey that even when I was here at Harvard he got a job when was out here and we were brainstorming and then decided that because we saw in Harvard Square this first computer of the microprocessor it was time to drop out and go really build Microsoft to be the first in that business so you know that idea of a being an academic to being a CEO manager, leader type that sort of developed over time. Even the idea that Microsoft would be a big company I never would admit that to myself because I was always so into cost control that I always thought okay we'll double in size but that's it and I didn't want to get ahead of myself that I couldn't pay people someday because we had a lot of customers that would go out of business and not pay us so that you know I didn't want to be- well Digital Equipment and Wang were two companies I grew up, you know thinking those were Godlike companies and Wayne went bankrupt fairly early on even though they had great innovation and later Dec essentially goes bankrupt and that that was the coolest company ever and boom it's gone so at least it does create a model that hey things are risky you better not miss a turn in the road. Then you know as Microsoft was becoming super successful the idea of okay what am I going to do with this money you know I could spend a little bit on myself you know and I could give some to kids and you know make sure they got a good education whatever but it's a percentage even the max and under those two outlets you know became tiny and so then it was ok what do philanthropist do and studying Rockefeller and all sorts of people who done all that stuff I thought oh well this is interesting are there research topics that aren't getting enough money and that's where I started to learn about global health and realized that like malaria nobody was putting any money into malaria. The US Army historically had put money in because troops were exposed to malaria but then they got these drugs prophylactic drugs like math laQuan Laurium larium ah and so they didn't need to put him for money into it and so our first 30 million we became the biggest funder in a disease that kills a million children a year at that at that time we're down to 400,000 now so it was a progression you know meeting working with Paul Allen and high school working with Steve Ballmer at Microsoft then meeting and marrying Melinda each of those you know were very very important in getting my mind you know shaping whatever abilities I have toward something worthwhile. Terrific well I know the hour is almost up we've got time for one more question how about the gentlemen here in the white shirt yeah. Hi thank you Bill for coming I really appreciate your letter to the... annual letter..I literally forgot the name okay well anyway my name is Jerry I'm a freshman at the college studying stem cell biology and my question to you is, if you suddenly found yourself to be say a sophomore in college at Harvard what do you think you would study and how do you think you spend your time engaging activities? Well the thing that you're likely to be world-class at is whatever you obsessed over from say age 12 to 18 you know in my case it was writing software. Where I would think I was good and then I would meet somebody who would tell me I wasn't and I would look at their code and I went through four sort of comeuppance --is of oh that's what a really good programmer looks like and part of the reason I worship Digital Equipment was eventually it was a couple of their very best programmers who came and shared with me how they thought about how they did thing and I had studied their code and and that and there there were several people who are so key am i doing that so today I would go into you know software which today that means going into artificial intelligence you know computers still can't read they they cannot take a book of information and say pass an AP test on that book and that's a solvable problem but it's a knowledge representation problem and you know I've always want me to solve that problem I'm jealous that maybe one of you gets to work on that I'm you know unlikely to go back and be hands-on in that in that way but it's the juiciest problem ever I've thought about it for a long time so I I would go into AI. Well Bill it has been a privilege to have you here for the hour please join me in thanking Bill - come back and visit anytime. [Applause] Thank You good luck good luck on your finals you have to send it to me alright thank you.


Early life

Gates was born in Seattle, Washington, on October 28, 1955. He is the son of William H. Gates Sr.[b] (b. 1925) and Mary Maxwell Gates (1929–1994). His ancestry includes English, German, Irish, and Scots-Irish.[18][19] His father was a prominent lawyer, and his mother served on the board of directors for First Interstate BancSystem and the United Way. Gates' maternal grandfather was J.W. Maxwell, a national bank president. Gates has one older sister, Kristi (Kristianne), and a younger sister, Libby. He is the fourth of his name in his family, but is known as William Gates III or "Trey" because his father had the "II" suffix.[20] The family lived in the Sand Point area of Seattle in a home that was once damaged by a rare tornado when Gates was nine years old.[21] Early on in his life, Gates observed that his parents wanted him to pursue a law career.[22] When Gates was young, his family regularly attended a church of the Congregational Christian Churches, a Protestant Reformed denomination.[23][24][25] The family encouraged competition; one visitor reported that "it didn't matter whether it was hearts or pickleball or swimming to the dock ... there was always a reward for winning and there was always a penalty for losing".[26]

At 13, he enrolled in the Lakeside School, a private preparatory school[27] and wrote his first software program.[28] When Gates was in the eighth grade, the Mothers' Club at the school used proceeds from Lakeside School's rummage sale to buy a Teletype Model 33 ASR terminal and a block of computer time on a General Electric (GE) computer for the school's students.[29] Gates took an interest in programming the GE system in BASIC, and was excused from math classes to pursue his interest. He wrote his first computer program on this machine: an implementation of tic-tac-toe that allowed users to play games against the computer. Gates was fascinated by the machine and how it would always execute software code perfectly. When he reflected back on that moment, he said, "There was just something neat about the machine."[30] After the Mothers Club donation was exhausted, he and other students sought time on systems including DEC PDP minicomputers. One of these systems was a PDP-10 belonging to Computer Center Corporation (CCC), which banned four Lakeside students – Gates, Paul Allen, Ric Weiland, and Kent Evans – for the summer after it caught them exploiting bugs in the operating system to obtain free computer time.[31][32]

At the end of the ban, the four students offered to find bugs in CCC's software in exchange for extra computer time. Rather than use the system via Teletype[clarification needed], Gates went to CCC's offices and studied source code for various programs that ran on the system, including programs in Fortran, Lisp, and machine language. The arrangement with CCC continued until 1970, when the company went out of business. The following year, Information Sciences, Inc. hired the four Lakeside students to write a payroll program in COBOL, providing them computer time and royalties. After his administrators became aware of his programming abilities, Gates wrote the school's computer program to schedule students in classes. He modified the code so that he was placed in classes with "a disproportionate number of interesting girls."[33] He later stated that "it was hard to tear myself away from a machine at which I could so unambiguously demonstrate success."[30] At age 17, Gates formed a venture with Allen, called Traf-O-Data, to make traffic counters based on the Intel 8008 processor.[34] In 1972, Bill Gates served as a congressional page in the U.S. House of Representatives.[35][36]

Gates was a National Merit Scholar when he graduated from Lakeside School in 1973.[37] He scored 1590 out of 1600 on the Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT) and enrolled at Harvard College in the autumn of 1973.[38][39] He chose a pre-law major but took mathematics and graduate level computer science courses.[40] While at Harvard, he met fellow student Steve Ballmer. Gates left Harvard after two years while Ballmer would stay and graduate magna cum laude. Years later, Ballmer succeeded Gates as Microsoft's CEO. He maintained that position from 2000 until his resignation from the company in 2014.[41]

In his second year, Gates devised an algorithm for pancake sorting as a solution to one of a series of unsolved problems[42] presented in a combinatorics class by Harry Lewis, one of his professors. Gates' solution held the record as the fastest version for over thirty years;[42][43] its successor is faster by only one percent.[42] His solution was later formalized in a published paper in collaboration with Harvard computer scientist Christos Papadimitriou.[44]

Gates did not have a definite study plan while he was a student at Harvard,[45] and he spent a lot of time using the school's computers. Gates remained in contact with Paul Allen, and he joined him at Honeywell during the summer of 1974.[46] The MITS Altair 8800 was released the following year. The new computer was based on the Intel 8080 CPU, and Gates and Allen saw this as the opportunity to start their own computer software company.[47] Gates dropped out of Harvard at this time. He had talked over this decision with his parents, who were supportive of him after seeing how much their son wanted to start his own company.[45] Gates explained his decision to leave Harvard, saying "... if things [Microsoft] hadn't worked out, I could always go back to school. I was officially on [a] leave [of absence]."[48]

Mugshots of 22-year-old Gates following his 1977 arrest for a traffic violation in Albuquerque, New Mexico
Mugshots of 22-year-old Gates following his 1977 arrest for a traffic violation in Albuquerque, New Mexico



MITS Altair 8800 Computer with 8-inch (200 mm) floppy disk system
MITS Altair 8800 Computer with 8-inch (200 mm) floppy disk system

After Gates read the January 1975 issue of Popular Electronics, which demonstrated the Altair 8800, he contacted Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS), the creators of the new microcomputer, to inform them that he and others were working on a BASIC interpreter for the platform.[49] In reality, Gates and Allen did not have an Altair and had not written code for it; they merely wanted to gauge MITS's interest. MITS president Ed Roberts agreed to meet them for a demo, and over the course of a few weeks they developed an Altair emulator that ran on a minicomputer, and then the BASIC interpreter. The demonstration, held at MITS's offices in Albuquerque, was a success and resulted in a deal with MITS to distribute the interpreter as Altair BASIC. Paul Allen was hired into MITS,[50] and Gates took a leave of absence from Harvard to work with Allen at MITS in Albuquerque in November 1975. They named their partnership "Micro-Soft" and had their first office located in Albuquerque.[50] Within a year, the hyphen was dropped, and on November 26, 1976, the trade name "Microsoft" was registered with the Office of the Secretary of the State of New Mexico.[50] Gates never returned to Harvard to complete his studies.

Microsoft's Altair BASIC was popular with computer hobbyists, but Gates discovered that a pre-market copy had leaked into the community and was being widely copied and distributed. In February 1976, Gates wrote an Open Letter to Hobbyists in the MITS newsletter in which he asserted that more than 90 percent of the users of Microsoft Altair BASIC had not paid Microsoft for it and by doing so the Altair "hobby market" was in danger of eliminating the incentive for any professional developers to produce, distribute, and maintain high-quality software.[51] This letter was unpopular with many computer hobbyists, but Gates persisted in his belief that software developers should be able to demand payment. Microsoft became independent of MITS in late 1976, and it continued to develop programming language software for various systems.[50] The company moved from Albuquerque to its new home in Bellevue, Washington, on January 1, 1979.[49]

During Microsoft's early years, all employees had broad responsibility for the company's business. Gates oversaw the business details, but continued to write code as well. In the first five years, according to Bill Gates' own claims, he personally reviewed every line of code the company shipped, and often rewrote parts of it as he saw fit.[52][unreliable source?]

IBM partnership

IBM approached Microsoft in July 1980 in reference to an operating system for its upcoming personal computer, the IBM PC.[53] IBM first proposed that Microsoft write the BASIC interpreter. When IBM's representatives mentioned that they needed an operating system, Gates referred them to Digital Research (DRI), makers of the widely used CP/M operating system.[54] IBM's discussions with Digital Research went poorly, and they did not reach a licensing agreement. IBM representative Jack Sams mentioned the licensing difficulties during a subsequent meeting with Gates and told him to get an acceptable operating system. A few weeks later, Gates proposed using 86-DOS (QDOS), an operating system similar to CP/M that Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer Products (SCP) had made for hardware similar to the PC. Microsoft made a deal with SCP to become the exclusive licensing agent, and later the full owner, of 86-DOS. After adapting the operating system for the PC, Microsoft delivered it to IBM as PC DOS in exchange for a one-time fee of $50,000.[55]

Gates did not offer to transfer the copyright on the operating system, because he believed that other hardware vendors would clone IBM's system.[55] They did, and the sales of MS-DOS made Microsoft a major player in the industry.[56] Despite IBM's name on the operating system, the press quickly identified Microsoft as being very influential on the new computer. PC Magazine asked if Gates were "the man behind the machine?",[53] and InfoWorld quoted an expert as stating "it's Gates' computer".[57] Gates oversaw Microsoft's company restructuring on June 25, 1981, which re-incorporated the company in Washington state and made Gates the president of Microsoft and its board chairman.[49]


Microsoft launched its first retail version of Microsoft Windows on November 20, 1985. In August of the following year, the company struck a deal with IBM to develop a separate operating system called OS/2. Although the two companies successfully developed the first version of the new system, the partnership deteriorated due to mounting creative differences.[58]

Management style

Gates delivers a speech at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, January 2008.
Gates delivers a speech at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, January 2008.

From Microsoft's founding in 1975 until 2006, Gates had primary responsibility for the company's product strategy. He gained a reputation for being distant from others; as early as 1981 an industry executive complained in public that "Gates is notorious for not being reachable by phone and for not returning phone calls."[59] Another executive recalled that he showed Gates a game and defeated him 35 of 37 times. When they met again a month later, Gates "won or tied every game. He had studied the game until he solved it. That is a competitor."[60]

Gates was an executive who met regularly with Microsoft's senior managers and program managers. In firsthand accounts of these meetings, the managers described him being verbally combative. He also berated managers for perceived holes in their business strategies or proposals that placed the company's long-term interests at risk.[61][62] He interrupted presentations with such comments as "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!"[63] and "Why don't you just give up your options and join the Peace Corps?"[64] The target of his outburst then had to defend the proposal in detail until, hopefully, Gates was fully convinced.[63] When subordinates appeared to be procrastinating, he was known to remark sarcastically, "I'll do it over the weekend."[65][66][67]

During Microsoft's early history, Gates was an active software developer, particularly in the company's programming language products, but his basic role in most of the company's history was primarily as a manager and executive. Gates has not officially been on a development team since working on the TRS-80 Model 100,[68] but as late as 1989 he wrote code that shipped with the company's products.[66] He remained interested in technical details; in 1985, Jerry Pournelle wrote that when he watched Gates announce Microsoft Excel, "Something else impressed me. Bill Gates likes the program, not because it's going to make him a lot of money (although I'm sure it will do that), but because it's a neat hack."[69]

On June 15, 2006, Gates announced that over the next two years he would transition out of his day-to-day role to dedicate more time to philanthropy. He divided his responsibilities between two successors when he placed Ray Ozzie in charge of day-to-day management and Craig Mundie in charge of long-term product strategy.[70]

Antitrust litigation

Gates giving his deposition at Microsoft on August 27, 1998
Gates giving his deposition at Microsoft on August 27, 1998

Many decisions that led to antitrust litigation over Microsoft's business practices have had Gates' approval. In the 1998 United States v. Microsoft case, Gates gave deposition testimony that several journalists characterized as evasive. He argued with examiner David Boies over the contextual meaning of words such as, "compete", "concerned", and "we". The judge and other observers in the court room were seen laughing at various points during the deposition.[71] BusinessWeek reported:

Early rounds of his deposition show him offering obfuscatory answers and saying 'I don't recall,' so many times that even the presiding judge had to chuckle. Worse, many of the technology chief's denials and pleas of ignorance were directly refuted by prosecutors with snippets of e-mail that Gates both sent and received.[72]

Gates later said he had simply resisted attempts by Boies to mischaracterize his words and actions. As to his demeanor during the deposition, he said, "Did I fence with Boies? ... I plead guilty. Whatever that penalty is should be levied against me: rudeness to Boies in the first degree."[73] Despite Gates' denials, the judge ruled that Microsoft had committed monopolization and tying, and blocking competition, both in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.[73]

Appearance in ads

In 2008, Gates appeared in a series of ads to promote Microsoft. The first commercial, co-starring Jerry Seinfeld, is a 90-second talk between strangers as Seinfeld walks up on a discount shoe store (Shoe Circus) in a mall and notices Gates buying shoes inside. The salesman is trying to sell Mr. Gates shoes that are a size too big. As Gates is buying the shoes, he holds up his discount card, which uses a slightly altered version of his own mugshot of his arrest in New Mexico in 1977, for a traffic violation.[74] As they are walking out of the mall, Seinfeld asks Gates if he has melded his mind to other developers. After getting a "Yes", he then asks if they are working on a way to make computers edible, again getting a "Yes". Some say that this is an homage to Seinfeld's own show about "nothing" (Seinfeld).[75] In a second commercial in the series, Gates and Seinfeld are at the home of an average family trying to fit in with normal people.[76]


Gates meets with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, February 2017
Gates meets with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, February 2017

Since leaving day-to-day operations at Microsoft, Gates has continued his philanthropy and works on other projects.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Gates was the world's highest-earning billionaire in 2013, as his net worth increased by US$15.8 billion to US$78.5 billion. As of January 2014, most of Gates' assets are held in Cascade Investment LLC, an entity through which he owns stakes in numerous businesses, including Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, and Corbis Corp.[77] On February 4, 2014, Gates stepped down as chairman of Microsoft to become Technology Advisor alongside new CEO Satya Nadella.[10][78]

Gates provided his perspective on a range of issues in a substantial interview that was published in the March 27, 2014 issue of Rolling Stone magazine. In the interview, Gates provided his perspective on climate change, his charitable activities, various tech companies and people involved in them, and the state of America. In response to a question about his greatest fear when he looks 50 years into the future, Gates stated: "... there'll be some really bad things that'll happen in the next 50 or 100 years, but hopefully none of them on the scale of, say, a million people that you didn't expect to die from a pandemic, or nuclear or bioterrorism." Gates also identified innovation as the "real driver of progress" and pronounced that "America's way better today than it's ever been."[79]

Gates has recently expressed concern about the existential threats of superintelligence; in a Reddit "ask me anything", he stated that

First the machines will do a lot of jobs for us and not be super intelligent. That should be positive if we manage it well. A few decades after that though the intelligence is strong enough to be a concern. I agree with Elon Musk and some others on this and don't understand why some people are not concerned.[80][81][82][83]

In a March 2015 interview, with Baidu's CEO, Robin Li, Gates claimed he would "highly recommend" Nick Bostrom's recent work, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies.[84]

In March 2018, Gates met at his home in Seattle with Mohammed bin Salman, the reformist crown prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia to discuss investment opportunities for Saudi Vision 2030.[85][86]


Gates with Bono, Queen Rania of Jordan, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, President Umaru Yar'Adua of Nigeria and others during the Annual Meeting 2008 of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland
Gates with Bono, Queen Rania of Jordan, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, President Umaru Yar'Adua of Nigeria and others during the Annual Meeting 2008 of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland

In 2009, Gates and Warren Buffett founded The Giving Pledge, whereby they and other billionaires pledge to give at least half of their wealth to philanthropy.[16]

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Gates studied the work of Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, and donated some of his Microsoft stock in 1994 to create the "William H. Gates Foundation." In 2000, Gates and his wife combined three family foundations and Gates donated stock valued at $5 billion to create the charitable Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which was identified by the Funds for NGOs company in 2013, as the world's wealthiest charitable foundation, with assets reportedly valued at more than $34.6 billion.[87][88] The Foundation allows benefactors to access information that shows how its money is being spent, unlike other major charitable organizations such as the Wellcome Trust.[89][90] Gates, through his foundation, also donated $20 million to Carnegie Mellon University(CMU) for a new building to be named Gates Center for Computer Science which opened in 2009.[91][92]

Gates has credited the generosity and extensive philanthropy of David Rockefeller as a major influence. Gates and his father met with Rockefeller several times, and their charity work is partly modeled on the Rockefeller family's philanthropic focus, whereby they are interested in tackling the global problems that are ignored by governments and other organizations.[93] As of 2007, Bill and Melinda Gates were the second-most generous philanthropists in America, having given over $28 billion to charity;[94] the couple plan to eventually donate 95 percent of their wealth to charity.[95]

The foundation is organized into four program areas: Global Development Division, Global Health Division, United States Division, and Global Policy & Advocacy Division.[96] The foundation supports the use of genetically modified organisms in agricultural development. Specifically, the foundation is supporting the International Rice Research Institute in developing Golden Rice, a genetically modified rice variant used to combat Vitamin A deficiency.[97]

Personal donations

Melinda Gates suggested that people should emulate the philanthropic efforts of the Salwen family, which had sold its home and given away half of its value, as detailed in The Power of Half.[98] Gates and his wife invited Joan Salwen to Seattle to speak about what the family had done, and on December 9, 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates, and investor Warren Buffett signed a commitment they called the "Giving Pledge." The pledge is a commitment by all three to donate at least half of their wealth over the course of time to charity.[99][100][101]

Gates has also provided personal donations to educational institutions. In 1999, Gates donated $20 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for the construction of a computer laboratory named the "William H. Gates Building" that was designed by architect Frank Gehry. While Microsoft had previously given financial support to the institution, this was the first personal donation received from Gates.[102]

The Maxwell Dworkin Laboratory of the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences is named after the mothers of both Gates and Microsoft President Steven A. Ballmer, both of whom were students (Ballmer was a member of the School's graduating class of 1977, while Gates left his studies for Microsoft), and donated funds for the laboratory's construction.[103] Gates also donated $6 million to the construction of the Gates Computer Science Building, completed in January 1996, on the campus of Stanford University. The building contains the Computer Science Department (CSD) and the Computer Systems Laboratory (CSL) of Stanford's Engineering department.[104]

On August 15, 2014, Bill Gates posted a video of himself on Facebook in which he is seen dumping a bucket of ice water on his head. Gates posted the video after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg challenged him to do so in order to raise awareness for the disease ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis).[105]

Since about 2005, Bill Gates and his foundation have taken an interest in solving global sanitation problems. For example, they announced the "Reinvent the Toilet Challenge", which has received considerable media interest.[106] To raise awareness for the topic of sanitation and possible solutions, Gates drank water that was "produced from human feces" in 2014 – in fact it was produced from a sewage sludge treatment process called the Omni-processor.[107][108] In early 2015, he also appeared with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show and challenged him to see if he could taste the difference between this reclaimed water or bottled water.[109]

In November 2017, Gates said he would give $50 million to the Dementia Discovery Fund, a venture capital that seeks treatment for Alzheimer's disease. He also pledged an additional $50 million to start-up ventures working in Alzheimer's research.[110]

Bill and Melinda Gates have said that they intend to leave their three children $10 million each as their inheritance. With only $30 million kept in the family, they appear to be on a course to give away about 99.96 percent of their wealth.[111] On 25 August 2018, Gates distributed $600,000 through his Melinda and Gates Foundation via UNICEF which is helping flood affected victims in Kerala, India.[112]


In 2007, the Los Angeles Times criticized the foundation for investing its assets in companies that have been accused of worsening poverty, polluting heavily, and pharmaceutical companies that do not sell to developing countries.[113] In response to press criticism, the foundation announced a review of its investments to assess social responsibility.[114] It subsequently canceled the review and stood by its policy of investing for maximum return, while using voting rights to influence company practices.[115] The Gates Millennium Scholars program has been criticized by Ernest W. Lefever for its exclusion of Caucasian students.[116] The scholarship program is administered by the United Negro College Fund.[117] In 2014, Bill Gates sparked a protest in Vancouver when he decided to donate $50 million to UNAIDS through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for the purpose of mass circumcision in Zambia and Swaziland.[118][119]

Charity sports events

On April 29, 2017, Bill Gates partnered with Swiss tennis legend Roger Federer in play in the Match for Africa 4, a noncompetitive tennis match at a sold-out Key Arena in Seattle. The event was in support of Roger Federer Foundation's charity efforts in Africa.[120] Federer and Gates played against John Isner, the top-ranked American player for much of this decade, and Mike McCready, the lead guitarist for Pearl Jam. Gates and Federer won the match 6–4. Overall, they raised $2 million for children in Africa.[121] The following year, Gates and Federer returned to play in the Match for Africa 5 on March 5, 2018 at San Jose's SAP Center. Their opponents were Jack Sock, one of the top American players and a grand slam winner in doubles, and Savannah Guthrie, a co-anchor for NBC's Today show. Gates and Federer recorded their second match victory together by a score of 6–3 and the event raised over $2.5 million.[122]


Steve Jobs and Gates at the fifth D: All Things Digital conference (D5) in 2007
Steve Jobs and Gates at the fifth D: All Things Digital conference (D5) in 2007

In 1987, Gates was listed as a billionaire in Forbes magazine's 400 Richest People in America issue. He was worth $1.25 billion and was the world's youngest self-made billionaire.[13] Since 1987, Gates has been included in the Forbes The World's Billionaires list and was the wealthiest from 1995 to 1996,[123] 1998 to 2007, 2009, and has been since 2014.[1] Gates was number one on Forbes' 400 Richest Americans list from 1993 through to 2007, 2009, and 2014 through 2017.[124][125]

Time magazine named Gates one of the 100 people who most influenced the 20th century, as well as one of the 100 most influential people of 2004, 2005, and 2006. Time also collectively named Gates, his wife Melinda and U2's lead singer Bono as the 2005 Persons of the Year for their humanitarian efforts.[126] In 2006, he was voted eighth in the list of "Heroes of our time".[127] Gates was listed in the Sunday Times power list in 1999, named CEO of the year by Chief Executive Officers magazine in 1994, ranked number one in the "Top 50 Cyber Elite" by Time in 1998, ranked number two in the Upside Elite 100 in 1999, and was included in The Guardian as one of the "Top 100 influential people in media" in 2001.[128]

According to Forbes, Gates was ranked as the fourth most powerful person in the world in 2012,[129] up from fifth in 2011.[130]

In 1994, he was honored as the 20th Distinguished Fellow of the British Computer Society (DFBCS). In 1999, Gates received New York Institute of Technology's President's Medal.[131] Gates has received honorary doctorates from Nyenrode Business Universiteit, Breukelen, The Netherlands, in 2000;[132] KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, in 2002;[133] Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan, in 2005; Tsinghua University, Beijing, China, in April 2007;[134] Harvard University in June 2007;[135] the Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, in 2007,[136] and Cambridge University in June 2009.[137] He was also made an honorary trustee of Peking University in 2007.[138]

Gates was made an Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2005.[139] In November 2006, he was awarded the Placard of the Order of the Aztec Eagle, together with his wife Melinda who was awarded the Insignia of the same order, both for their philanthropic work around the world in the areas of health and education, particularly in Mexico, and specifically in the program "Un país de lectores".[140] Gates received the 2010 Bower Award for Business Leadership from The Franklin Institute for his achievements at Microsoft and his philanthropic work.[141] Also in 2010, he was honored with the Silver Buffalo Award by the Boy Scouts of America, its highest award for adults, for his service to youth.[142]

In 2002, Bill and Melinda Gates received the Jefferson Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged.[143] He was given the 2006 James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award from the Tech Awards.[144] In 2015 Gates, along with his wife Melinda, received the Padma Bhushan, India's third-highest civilian award for their social work in the country.[145][146] Barack Obama honored Bill and Melinda Gates with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for their philanthropic efforts in 2016,[147] and François Hollande awarded Bill and Melinda in the following year with France's highest national award – the Legion of Honour for their charity efforts.[148]

Entomologists named Bill Gates' flower fly, Eristalis gatesi, in his honor in 1997.[149]

Personal life

Gates and his wife Melinda, June 2009
Gates and his wife Melinda, June 2009

Gates married Melinda French on a golf course on the Hawaiian island of Lanai on January 1, 1994; he was 38 and she was 29. They have three children: Jennifer Katharine (born 1996), Rory John (born 1999), and Phoebe Adele (born 2002). Gates' oldest daughter Jennifer is an equestrian rider who competed in the 2018 Longines Global Champions Tour.[150] The family resides in Xanadu 2.0, an earth-sheltered mansion in the side of a hill overlooking Lake Washington in Medina, Washington. According to 2007 King County public records, the total assessed value of the property (land and house) is $125 million, and the annual property taxes are $991,000. The 66,000 sq ft (6,100 m2) estate has a 60-foot (18 m) swimming pool with an underwater music system, as well as a 2,500 sq ft (230 m2) gym and a 1,000 sq ft (93 m2) dining room.[151]

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Gates stated in regard to his faith:

In the same interview, Gates said:

Gates purchased the Codex Leicester, a collection of scientific writings by Leonardo da Vinci, for $30.8 million at an auction in 1994.[153] Gates is an avid reader, and the ceiling of his large home library is engraved with a quotation from The Great Gatsby.[154] He also enjoys playing bridge, tennis, and golf.[155][156]

In 1999, his wealth briefly surpassed $101 billion.[157] Despite his wealth and extensive business travel, Gates usually flew coach in commercial aircraft until 1997, when he bought a private jet.[158] Since 2000, the nominal value of his Microsoft holdings has declined due to a fall in Microsoft's stock price after the dot-com bubble burst and the multibillion-dollar donations he has made to his charitable foundations. In a May 2006 interview, Gates commented that he wished that he were not the richest man in the world because he disliked the attention it brought.[159] In March 2010, Gates was the second wealthiest person behind Carlos Slim, but regained the top position in 2013, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires List.[160][161] Carlos Slim retook the position again in June 2014[162][163] (but then lost the top position back to Gates). Between 2009 and 2014, his wealth doubled from US$40 billion to more than US$82 billion.[164] Since October 2017, Gates was surpassed by founder Jeff Bezos as the richest person in the world.[14]

Gates has held the top spot on the list of The World's Billionaires for 18 out of the past 23 years.[165]

Gates has several investments outside Microsoft, which in 2006 paid him a salary of $616,667 and $350,000 bonus totalling $966,667.[166] In 1989, he founded Corbis, a digital imaging company. In 2004, he became a director of Berkshire Hathaway, the investment company headed by long-time friend Warren Buffett.[167] In 2016, he was discussing his gaming habits when he revealed that he was color-blind.[168]

In a BBC interview, Gates claimed, "I've paid more tax than any individual ever, and gladly so... I've paid over $6 billion in taxes."[169] He is a proponent of higher taxes, particularly for the rich.[170] Gates' days are planned for him on a minute-by-minute basis, similar to the U.S. President's schedule.[171]

External business ventures and investments

  • Cascade Investments LLC, a private investment and holding company incorporated in the United States, controlled by Bill Gates and headquartered in Kirkland, Washington.
  • bgC3, a new think-tank company founded by Gates.
  • Corbis, a digital image licensing and rights services company.
  • TerraPower, a nuclear reactor design company.
  • Eclipse Aviation, a defunct manufacturer of very light jets. Gates was a major stake-holder early on in the project.
  • ResearchGate, a social networking site for scientists. Gates participated in a $35 million round of financing along with other investors.[172]

Books, films, social media and radio


Gates has written two books:


Feature films

Social media

In 2013, Gates became a LinkedIn Influencer.[177]

Video and film clips


Gates was the guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs on January 31, 2016, in which he talks about his relationships with his father and Steve Jobs, meeting Melinda Ann French, the start of Microsoft and some of his habits (for example reading The Economist "from cover to cover every week"). His choice of things to take on a desert island were, for music: "Blue Skies" by Willie Nelson; book: The Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven Pinker; and luxury item: a DVD Collection of Lectures from The Teaching Company.[178]

See also


  1. ^ Gates regularly documents his share ownership through public U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission form 4 filings.[5][6]
  2. ^ While his father was named William H. Gates II, he is now generally known as William H. Gates, Senior, to avoid confusion with his son.



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Further reading

External links

Business positions
First Chief Executive Officer of Microsoft
Succeeded by
Steve Ballmer
First Chairman of Microsoft
Succeeded by
John W. Thompson
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Warren Buffett
World's richest person
Succeeded by
Hassanal Bolkiah
Preceded by
Hassanal Bolkiah
World's richest person
Succeeded by
Warren Buffett
Preceded by
Warren Buffett
World's richest person
Succeeded by
Carlos Slim
Preceded by
Carlos Slim
World's richest person
Succeeded by
Jeff Bezos

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