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Five Ways Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen Changed the World for Good

Dominique Adams

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Paul Allen co-founder of Microsoft sitting in a plane

On Monday 15th October, the co-founder of Microsoft and renowned philanthropist, Paul Allen, passed away at the age of 65. To mark his passing DIGIT has put together a list of ways in which Allen changed the world for the better with his charitable endeavours.

Paul Allen, who was first diagnosed with cancer in the 1980s, died on Monday due to complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to a statement released by his family.

Allen, alongside Bill Gates, helped to usher in the revolution of the personal computer (PC), which saw Microsoft, the company he named and co-founded, become the dominant PC software company on the market.

Both he and Gates became billionaires as a result of the company’s success – Bloomberg estimated that Allen had a net worth of $26.1 billion. Aside from his renown within the business world, Allen was a distinguished philanthropist who championed a number of charities and research facilities.

During his lifetime he donated more than $2.5bn toward non-profit groups dedicated to the advancement of science, technology, education, the environment, and the arts. He also funded the Allen Institute for Brain Science in 2003 and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in 2014.

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Allen’s Charitable Legacy to Live On

Allen’s philanthropy was a transformative force behind the rejuvenation of the city of Seattle. He also made huge contributions globally to biodiversity, science, climate change, health and communities. He has ensured that his many initiatives will continue beyond his death through his privately held company, Vulcan Inc, which will manage his estate.

Below we have selected what, in our opinion, are the top five ways he made a positive impact on the world.

1. In 2014, Allen committed $100 million (£76 million) to tackling Ebola. He was the largest individual donor during the West African Ebola crisis. He donated a further $11m in grants to prevent and limit any further Ebola outbreaks. He was also one of the first to pledge support for efforts to halt the Zika outbreak. The funding supported the development of new tools to detect Zika, while mounting broad community engagement efforts to mitigate the outbreak’s impact.

2. He donated $7m (£5.3m) to Botswana-based Elephants Without Borders for the pan-African census (completed in 2016), which showed a 30% decline in Africa’s savanna elephant population due largely to the poaching crisis. He also funded research on illegal ivory trafficking through the Allen Family Foundation. Through DNA analysis of confiscated ivory, researchers were able to identify its geographic source revealing Africa’s two worst poaching hotspots.

3. After his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, he created the Allen Institute for Brain Science in 2003. Since establishing the institute he gave it more than $500m (£380m) to advance the understanding of the human brain in health and disease.

4. In 2010, he gave away half of his fortune through the Giving Pledge, a campaign to encourage wealthy people to contribute a majority of their wealth to philanthropic causes. At the time, Allen said: “The Giving Pledge reminds us that our net worth is ultimately defined not by dollars by rather by how well we serve others.”

5. Earlier in the year, Allen gave $30m (£22.8m) to a project to house homeless and low-income people in Seattle. His funding was part of a collaboration with the city’s government to create a $46m (£35m) apartment complex designed to house 95 homeless or low-wage families. His contribution was the largest single donation in Washington’s history for a single housing or homeless project.

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Dominique Adams

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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