William H. Gates is chairman and chief software architect of Microsoft Corporation.
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.
In 1999, Gates wrote Business @ the Speed of Thought. The book was published in 25 languages and is available in more than 60 countries. Gates is also the author of The Road Ahead, published in 1995. 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, one of the world's largest resources of visual information.
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. 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 is married 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.