William H. Gates, III, shall ultimately be remembered as the most significant person of his generation. It may not be for the reasons you think.
Bill Gates is eligible for consideration by virtue of founding Microsoft. For fourteen out of the fifteen years from 1995 to 2009 he was the richest person in the world. Such achievements, however, will likely seem small in the scope of history.
Consider the scale of the Gateses’ philanthropy. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through which their philanthropy flows is, according to Wikipedia, the largest “transparently operated private foundation in the world.” Since inception, the Foundation has made grants of over $26 billion, including $15 billion in global health alone.
The annual giving of just the GlobalHealth program of the Foundation is about $800 million and approaches the scale of the United Nations World Health Organization.
A significant contribution to the Foundation was made by Warren Buffet in 2006, but most of the money in the Foundation has been provided by the Gateses.
Gates is also famous for asking other billionaires to commit to giving away half their fortunes. Bill and his wife Melinda have committed to giving 95% of their fortune to charity over time; that is an astounding measure of generosity.