Bill Gates: Biography
William H. Gates Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Microsoft Corporation
William (Bill) H. Gates is chairman and chief executive officer of Microsoft
Corporation, the leading provider, worldwide, of software for the personal
computer. Microsoft had revenues of $8.6 billion for the fiscal year ending June
1996, and employs more than 20,000 people in 48 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 began his career in personal computer software, programming computers at age
In 1973, Gates entered Harvard University as a freshman, where he lived down the
hall from Steve Ballmer, now Microsoft’s executive vice president for sales and
support. While at Harvard, Gates developed the programming language BASIC for
the first microcomputer — the MITS Altair.
In his junior year, Gates dropped out of Harvard to devote his energies to
Microsoft, a company he had begun in 1975 with 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
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. A significant portion 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 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 $2 billion on research and
development in the current fiscal year.
As of December 12, 1996, Gates’ Microsoft stock holdings totaled 282,217,980
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. Published in the U.S. by Viking, the
book was on the NYT 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
redeploying Microsoft around the Internet, Gates thoroughly revised The Road
Ahead to reflect his view that interactive networks are a major milestone in
human history. The paperback second edition has also 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 Darwin Molecular, a subsidiary of British-based
Chiroscience. He also founded Corbis Corporation, which is developing
one of the largest resources of visual information in the worlda
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 globe to provide worldwide two-way broadband telecommunications
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.
Gates was married on Jan. 1, 1994 to Melinda French Gates. They have one child,
Jennifer Katharine Gates, born in 1996.
Gates is an avid reader and enjoys playing golf and bridge.