A Tribute to William H. Gates III
Hall of Financial Giants
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Estimated wealth: $61.7 billion
American computer billionaire. The only son of a lawyer and an educator, Bill Gates was a math whiz kid and underachiever until he learned about computers in Harvard. By the time he was twenty-one, while still in Harvard, he built a computer and developed software with Paul Allen. When their program worked, they licensed the first BASIC compiler to the manufacturers of the first microcomputer, dropped out of Harvard and cofounded Microsoft.
Microsoft started skyrocketing in 1980, when IBM asked it to design an operating system, MS-DOS. Microsoft went public in 1986 after developing Excel, Word, and Windows. By 1991 he was worth some $4.4 billion. They sold MS-DOS to IBM five years later. Gates married Melinda French in 1994. They built a $50 million house lakeside on Seattle's Lake Washington. Now he is estimated to be worth 61.7 Billion, although much of it is in stock, which can lose or gain billions in value overnight.
In the decade since Microsoft has gone public, Gates has donated more than $270 million to charities, including $200 million to the William H. Gates Foundation. The focus of Gates' giving is in three areas: education, population issues and access to technology.
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