William (Bill) H. Gates III is co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Microsoft
Corporation, the world’s leading provider of software for personal computers.
Bill Gates was born on October 28, 1955. He and his two sisters grew up in Seattle. Their father, William H. Gates II, is a Seattle attorney. Mary Gates, their late mother, was a schoolteacher, University of Washington regent and chairwoman of United Way International.
Gates attended public elementary school before moving on to the private Lakeside School in North Seattle. It was at Lakeside that Gates began his career in personal computer software, programming computers at age 13.
In 1973, Gates entered Harvard University as a freshman, where he lived down the hall from Steve Ballmer, who is now Microsoft’s president. While at Harvard, Gates developed a version of the programming language BASIC for the first microcomputer – the MITS Altair. BASIC was first developed by John Kemeny and Thomas Kurtz at Dartmouth College in the mid-1960s. In his junior year, Gates dropped out of Harvard to devote his energies full-time to Microsoft, a company he had started in 1975 with his boyhood friend Paul Allen. Guided by a belief that the personal computer would be a valuable tool on every office desktop and in every home, they began developing software for personal computers.
Gates’ foresight and vision regarding personal computing have been central to the success of Microsoft and the software industry. Gates is actively involved in key management and strategic decisions at Microsoft, and plays an important role in the technical development of new products. Much of his time is devoted to meeting with customers and staying in contact with Microsoft employees around the world through e-mail.
Under Gates’ leadership, Microsoft’s mission is continuously to 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, which is reflected in its investment of some $2.6 billion for research and development during the current fiscal year.
In 1995 Gates wrote The Road Ahead, his vision of where information technology will take society. Co-authored by Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s chief technology officer, and Peter Rinearson, The Road Ahead held the No. 1 spot on the New York Times’ bestseller list for seven weeks, and remained on the list for a total of 18 weeks. Published in more than 20 countries, the book sold more than 400,000 copies in China alone.
In 1996, while strategically redeploying Microsoft to take advantage of the emerging opportunities created by the Internet, Gates thoroughly revised The Road Ahead to reflect his view that interactive networks are a major milestone in human communication. The paperback second edition also has become a bestseller. Gates is donating his proceeds from the book to a non-profit fund that supports teachers worldwide who are incorporating computers into their classrooms.
In addition to his passion for computers, Gates is interested in biotechnology. He sits on the board of the ICOS Corporation and is a shareholder in Chiroscience Group of the United Kingdom and its wholly owned subsidiary, Chiroscience R&D Inc. (formerly Darwin Molecular) of Bothell, Wash. He also founded Corbis Corporation, which is developing one of the largest resources of visual information in the world – a comprehensive digital archive of art and photography from public and private collections around the globe. Gates also has invested with cellular telephone pioneer Craig McCaw in Teledesic, a company that is working on an ambitious plan to launch hundreds of low-orbit satellites around the Earth to provide a worldwide two-way broadband telecommunications service.
In the dozen years since Microsoft went public, Gates has donated more than $800 million to charities, including $200 million to the Gates Library Foundation to help libraries in North America take advantage of new technologies and the Information Age. In 1994 Gates established the William H. Gates Foundation, which supports a variety of initiatives of particular interest to Gates and his family. The focus of Gates’ philanthropy is in four areas: education; world public health and population; non-profit, civic and arts organizations; and Puget Sound-area capital campaigns.
Bill and Melinda French Gates were married on January 1, 1994. They have one child, Jennifer Katharine Gates, who was born in 1996.