July 11, 2009
William (Bill) H. Gates is chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft Corporation, the worldwide leader in software, services and Internet technologies for personal and business computing. Microsoft had revenues of $22.96 billion for the fiscal year ending June 2000, and employs more than 39,000 people in 60 countries.
Born on October 28, 1955, Gates and his two sisters grew up in Seattle. Their father, William H. Gates II, is a Seattle attorney. Their late mother, Mary Gates, was a schoolteacher, University of Washington regent, and chairwoman of United Way International.
Gates attended public elementary school and the private Lakeside School. There, he discovered his interest in software and began programming computers at age 13.
In 1973, Gates entered Harvard University as a freshman, where he lived down the hall from Steve Ballmer, now Microsoft’s president and chief executive officer. While at Harvard, Gates developed a version of the programming language BASIC for the first microcomputer – the MITS Altair.
In his junior year, Gates left Harvard to devote his energies to Microsoft, a company he had begun in 1975 with his childhood friend Paul Allen. Guided by a belief that the computer would be a valuable tool on every office desktop and in every home, they began developing software for personal computers. Gates’ foresight and his vision for personal computing have been central to the success of Microsoft and the software industry.
Under Gates’ leadership, Microsoft’s mission has been to continually advance and improve software technology, and to make it easier, more cost-effective and more enjoyable for people to use computers. The company is committed to a long-term view, reflected in its investment of more than $4 billion on research and development in the current fiscal year.
In 1999, Gates wrote Business @ the Speed of Thought, a book that shows how computer technology can solve business problems in fundamentally new ways. The book was published in 25 languages and is available in more than 60 countries. Business @ the Speed of Thought has received wide critical acclaim, and was listed on the best-seller lists of the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and Amazon.com. Gates’ previous book, The Road Ahead, published in 1995, held the No. 1 spot on the New York Times‘ bestseller list for seven weeks.
Gates has donated the proceeds of both books to non-profit organizations that support the use of technology in education and skills development.
In addition to his love of computers and software, Gates is interested in biotechnology. He sits on the board of ICOS, a company that specializes in protein-based and small-molecule therapeutics, and he is an investor in a number of other biotechnology companies. Gates also founded Corbis, which is developing one of the world’s largest resources of visual information – a comprehensive digital archive of art and photography from public and private collections around the globe. In addition, Gates has invested with cellular telephone pioneer Craig McCaw in Teledesic, which is working on an ambitious plan to employ hundreds of low-orbit satellites to provide a worldwide two-way broadband telecommunications service.
Philanthropy is also important to Gates. He and his wife, Melinda, have endowed a foundation with more than $21 billion to support philanthropic initiatives in the areas of global health and learning, with the hope that as we move into the 21st century, advances in these critical areas will be available for all people. To date, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed more than $2 billion to organizations working in global health; more than $500 million to improve learning opportunities, including the Gates Library Initiative to bring computers, Internet Access and training to public libraries in low-income communities in the United States and Canada; more than $200 million to community projects in the Pacific Northwest; and more than $29 million to special projects and annual giving campaigns.
Gates was married on Jan. 1, 1994, to Melinda French Gates. The couple has two children: a daughter, Jennifer Katharine Gates, born in 1996; and a son, Rory John Gates, born in 1999.
Gates is an avid reader, and enjoys playing golf and bridge.
- See essays by this author:
- Not Your Father's Internet