With a net worth of approximately $US79.4 billion, Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates is the wealthiest person in the world.
Gates has been a public fixture ever since he and Paul Allen started a computer revolution in the 1980s. He has all of the toys you would expect from the world’s richest man, from a private jet to a 66,000-square-foot home he nicknamed Xanadu 2.0.
Yet as his wealth has grown, Gates has done more and more philanthropy work, donating billions of dollars to charity projects through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In honour of his 60th birthday Wednesday, we’re taking a look back at his incredible life thus far.
His parents enrolled him at the Lakeside School, a rigorous Seattle private high school that future Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen also attended. Gates often credits his discovery of computers to the tools he gained at Lakeside. 'The experience and insight Paul Allen and I gained here gave us the confidence to start a company based on this wild idea that nobody else agreed with -- that computer chips were going to become so powerful that computers and software would become a tool that would be on every desk and in every home,' he said in a 2005 speech at the school.
Two years later, Gates dropped out of school to found Microsoft with Allen. Though Gates never earned his bachelor's degree, Harvard awarded him an honorary doctorate in 2007. 'I'm a bad influence. That's why I was invited to speak at your graduation,' he said at the commencement ceremony. 'If I had spoken at your orientation, fewer of you might be here today.'
While he was still in school, Gates started developing software for MITS Altair, the world's first personal computer. In 1977, Gates and Allen moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where MITS was based, to set up their young software company. Pictured here are the 11 original Microsoft employees.
In 1995, Gates became the richest man in the world, with an estimated fortune of $12.9 billion. He's been at or near the top of the list of the world's richest ever since.
In 1998, Microsoft was brought to court on charges that the company was abusing its power as a software monopoly. Gates had a very mixed public reputation at the time.
Bill, Melinda, and their three children live in this massive, high-tech home in Medina, Washington. The home has some incredibly futuristic features, including an underwater sound system in the pool and computerised pins that the house can read to customise music, temperature, and lighting. The house has an astonishing 24 bathrooms, plus a garage that can accommodate up to 23 cars. It's worth an estimated $121 million.
Included in his mansion's many rooms is a huge domed library filled with books. Gates is an avid reader, and he reportedly hired a rare-books dealer to stock his library for him. Among his possessions is Leonardo da Vinci's 'Codex Leicester,' a 15th-century manuscript that Gates bought at auction for $30.8 million in 1994.
Gates has an extensive art collection as well. In 1998 he set a record for American art when he paid $36 million for Winslow Homer's 'Lost on the Grand Banks.' He also owns pieces by American artists Andrew Wyeth and William Merritt Chase.
In 2013, Gates paid $8.7 million for a Mediterranean-style home in Wellington, Florida. The family had previously rented the house when in Florida for daughter Jennifer's equestrian competitions. The home includes several horse-friendly features, like a 20-stall barn and a show-jumping arena.
In 2014, Gates purchased a 228-acre horse farm in Rancho Santa Fe, California. According to property records, the purchase price was a cool $18 million.
The property, known as the Rancho Paseana, includes a 3/4-mile racetrack, guesthouse, office, veterinarian's suite, orchard, and five barns.
Gates likes to take educational trips with his son. They have toured mines, electric plants, and missile silos, and they have even taken a trip to the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva. 'He likes learning along with me,' Gates said to Quartz.
Paul Allen had to bail him out of jail after one such incident in 1977. The Porsche 911 was auctioned off for $80,000 in 2012.
When Gates bought his Porsche 959 in the late 1990s, the car was held up at customs because it had not yet met EPA standards. Gates, along with several other wealthy Porsche owners, put up such a fight that the Clinton administration passed the 'Show and Display' law, which allows certain imported vehicles to be exempt from Federal Motor Safety Standards if the car is historically or technologically significant.
Playing tennis is one of Gates' favourite hobbies. Here he high-fives Jeff Bezos during a 2001 charity match.
Gates stepped down from his position as CEO of Microsoft in 2000, taking on a more limited role as chairman. Nowadays, he serves as technology adviser to current CEO Satya Nadella. When he's not working on something with Microsoft, Gates and Melinda travel to do charity work through their foundation.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has had its hand in a number of projects, from eradicating diseases in remote corners of the world to developing richer sources of food for impoverished people. Gates has also donated millions to improving education in the US.
In 2010, Bill and Melinda teamed up with Warren Buffett to start a campaign called 'The Giving Pledge,' which encouraged fellow billionaires to donate at least half of their wealth to philanthropy. Paul Allen, Larry Ellison, Steve Case, and Mark Zuckerberg are among those who have signed the pledge so far.
Gates has made a number of investments in startups like Hampton Creek, which aims to find plant replacements for eggs. He is also backing several projects developing next-generation condoms, in the hopes that they could help stop the spread of HIV and AIDS.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.