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Bill Gates in American History

Updated on November 30, 2017



Who is Bill Gates?

According to a study that was conducted by Pew Research Center in 2014, it was shown that about 83 percent of Americans can identify Bill Gates in a photograph. This shows that Gates is still one of the most popular and relevant individuals in the United States. Growing up, Bill Gates was already showing his competitive side and is today regarded to as a cultural icon having made a name for himself in one of the most competitive industries with very little history. Apart from the success he has achieved in the world of technology, Gates is also one of the most popular philanthropists, who have consistently supported countless projects and researches aimed at improving the quality of human life globally. In this article, I focus on the significance of Bill Gates in the history of the United States, his achievements and contributions in technology and research as well as why it is important to know him in studying American History.

Achievements and significance

Gates had always been interested in computers from a young age. After dropping out of Harvard, Gates and his friend, Paul Allen went on to create the very first version of Microsoft. After a partnership with IBM, Gates went on to become the president of Microsoft after some great success, but later ended the partnership due to differences with the company (IBM). By 1993, He had become the richest man in the world with his wealth briefly surpassing $101 billion in 1999. As the co- founder of Microsoft, Gates has been exceedingly successful in many areas.

As a pioneer in the world of personal computer software, Gates has had an impact on various areas of our lives. By 1997, almost all businesses in America had computers while as many as 40 percent of all homes also had computers. Only a few years later, 88 percent of all American homes had computers with over 80 percent of these homes using windows OS. This resulted in the People Magazine (1983) writing that "Gates is to software what Edison was to the light bulb - Part innovator, part entrepreneur, part salesman and full- time genius". This shows the extent to which Gates had impacted America as a whole. With Allen, Gates literally inspired the era of home computers given that it was not until they produced their version for the Altair 8800 that it really became popular, which makes it one of his greatest achievements.

In 1997, according to Janet Lowe (1998) a poll that had been conducted by Fortune magazine found out that 73 percent of company executives at the time considered Microsoft to be one of the greatest businesses in the United States while an overwhelming 59 percent of 500 leading entrepreneurs at the Inc. Magazine's conference chose Gates as their most admired entrepreneur (he was followed by Ted Turner who came in second with 8 percent). With these findings, it becomes evident that many others also admired his achievements and contributions.

Through his work in the tech industry, Gates also made contributions to the economy of the United States as was noted in the Congressional Record. Here, Gates was not only acknowledged for creating a high- tech boom, but also creating employment opportunities and enhancing consumer shopping experience: "..By 200, nearly 50 million Americans will be shopping online, spending almost half a trillion on the Web. There is endless speculation about which companies will be successful. The big winner will be consumers. They will see better prices, more choice, more opportunities to do the things they want to do" (13810). This has become reality today, where a good majority will look up things on the internet to make informed decisions before they can purchase anything. In this case therefore, Gates positively impacted consumer behaviors.




Apart from being a very successful individual in the tech world, Gates is a well known philanthropist, who had given sixty percent of his wealth charity by 2002. As early as 1991, Gates had started contributing substantial amounts of money to assist the needy as well as research organizations in medicine. For instance, in 1991, Gates helped endow a molecular biology research lab at the University of Washington (donating $12 million) which was followed by $10 million for scholarships in 1994. About two years later, he helped about 200 inner-city libraries get the necessary software and information that would help the most needy citizens. As a philanthropist, Gates has been shown to use a strategic approach, where he deals with issues at their core level in order to make real change.
In the United States, BMGF (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) has been shown to be the largest charitable foundation. As of 2007, endowment from the foundation had been estimated to have been at $33 billion of which it awards about $1.6 billion in grants. To achieve its goal of reducing inequalities and improve lives globally, BMGF largely focuses on global health, global development as well as US programs that involve education and access to technology among low- income communities.
Through these contributions and a string stand on research to find cures, BMGF has had some influence on public health policy as exemplified by the requirement that all of the Grand Challenges for Global Health have to draft a plan regarding how to make health products that result from their research affordable to those in developing nations . In addition, the foundation held that all the AID- vaccine grantees have to share their results so as to more the field forward (Chase, 2006). These are just a few examples of how Bill Gates has also become an important figure in health care and education. This is so much so that he went on to educate himself about the measles epidemic and concluded that a twenty five cent vaccine was required by then (2001- 2002) These, among other charitable have seen Gates receive a number of awards including the Jefferson Award for the Greatest Public Service benefiting the disadvantaged in 2002.
One of the other achievements for Bill Gates if that he is still one of the richest people in the world. By 39, he had become the richest man in the world, staying number one at the Forbes list of the richest people in the World until 2007. According to Lowe (1998) he was a survivor and victor in a savage industry who became a billionaire by age 31 and he wealthiest man in the world before the age of 40. Through this accomplishment, he "...obliterated the incorrect yet persistent notion that big ideas come only from philosophers, writers, or academic circles" (Lowe, 11)

Gates in America

According to Lowe (1998) Gates also excelled at something else "He brought to a roiling boil all the conflicted feelings our society has about capitalism- Our national longing for economic success and dominance...”. The story of Bill Gates dropping out of school to pursue his interests and become a success story at a young age is popular to a majority of Americans, and particularly young entrepreneurs. As such, he has become an inspiration to not only these youth, but also a good majority of business executives and employees. It is for this reason that he is asked to various academic institutions to talk and inspire young minds. Although there are mixed feelings and attitudes towards capitalism, Gates, like many other entrepreneurs has influenced many business oriented individual to work towards their ideas, which has not only resulted in increased innovations and entrepreneurships, but also opened many employment opportunities across the United States.

Bill Gates in American History
It is important for students to know Bill Gates when reading history, not only because he is one of the wealthiest men today, but also because of the impact he has made in America. Through his work, Gates was able to bring computing to the masses, which was one of his biggest achievements. Given that computers were largely available in larger businesses before he introduced his products, he was able to make it easier for homes to access computers, thereby introducing the computing era for most Americans. Through this, Gates proved that any American could achieve their dreams as long as they worked hard for it. On the other hand, Gates' generosity as a philanthropist is unparalleled. With his wife Melinda, Gates has committed to giving 95 percent of their wealth to charity over time. This also influenced other billionaires like Warren Buffet to give out billions. This has resulted in the two launching a campaign whereby the wealthy will give away at least half of their fortunes to philanthropy. Most Americans are more likely to remember him for this rather than the fact that he is one of the wealthiest men to date. This should also be one reason to know about him when learning about American History. Despite being the richest man alive, the entrepreneur has committed to a range of activities that involve among others enhancing the health of Americans and ensuring that the needy get the education they need to continue building America. As a man who has lived the American dream, Gates has taken it upon himself to ensure that many other Americans get the same opportunity, which makes him more important in American history than a good number of politicians. While he has had significant impact on a good number of American youth and entrepreneurs as well businesses, Gates will continue to impact many more people in the future as one of the biggest American success story.


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