United States

Bill and Melinda Gates
Co-Chairs, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The largest philanthropic organization in the world, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was formed in 1999 by amalgamating previously existing Gates charities. Guided by the philosophy that, “Every life has equal value, the…Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives.  In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty”.

Bill Gates was born in Seattle in 1955, and by the age of 17 had sold his first computer program, a timetabling system for his school.  It was at that school where he met fellow student Paul Allen; they subsequently both attended Harvard University, where they wrote the first computer language program for a personal computer.  They established Microsoft in 1975, and Mr. Gates dropped out of Harvard to work on the new company.  Melinda French, born in Dallas in 1964, attended Duke University.  She obtained a BA and an MBA before joining Microsoft, where she met her future husband.  According to the Forbes 2012 list of the world’s richest men, Bill Gates is currently #2.

In 2008, Bill Gates stopped working full-time for Microsoft in order to concentrate on the Foundation.  He opted to begin giving the large majority of his wealth to the Foundation to distribute.  In 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates, along with Warren Buffett, established the Giving Pledge, which encourages the richest people to give away most of their wealth to charitable causes.  Two of the entities receiving enormous funding from the Foundation, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and the Global Fund to Fight HIV/Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, have delivered vaccines to over 250 million children in underdeveloped countries and prevented more than five million deaths.  The Foundation has helped to eradicate polio in India, and is funding development of a malaria vaccine.

Bill and Melinda Gates are not only the biggest philanthropists in the world; they are also viewed as role models for other philanthropists.

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