Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

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Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation,

philanthropic institution founded in 1994 by Microsoft chairman Bill GatesGates, Bill
(William Henry Gates 3d), 1955–, American business executive, b. Seattle, Wash. At the age of 19, Gates founded (1975) the Microsoft Corp., a computer software firm, with Paul Allen. They began by purchasing the rights to convert an existing software package.
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 and his wife, Melinda, to improve the lives of the poor throughout the world, primarily through grants for projects relating to global health care, education, libraries, and the Pacific Northwest. Known as the William H. Gates Foundation until 1999, it was merged in 2000 with the Gates Learning Foundation (earlier the Gates Library Foundation, est. 1997). The world's wealthiest charitable foundation, it had assets of more than $30 billion in 2006, when investor Warren BuffetBuffett, Warren Edward
, 1930–, American financial executive, b. Omaha, Nebr., studied at Wharton School of Finance (1947–49), grad. Univ. of Nebraska (B.S., 1950), Columbia (M.S., 1951).
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 pledged donations totaling an additional $31 billion. That year Bill Gates announced that, over the next two years, he would lessen his involvement with Microsoft in order to devote more time to the foundation. The Gates Foundation has its headquarters in Seattle, Wash. and is particularly noted for its efficient operation, accountability, and adherence to strict business practices.

Some 60% of foundation's resources are committed to global health programs, particularly in developing countries, focused mainly on the prevention of infectious diseases and the promotion of reproductive and child health. Particular areas of concern include HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, polio, and vaccine research and production. Support for American education is also significant, with programs frequently aimed at raising high school graduation rates; educational assistance is offered through school and research grants, professional development programs, scholarships, and other projects. Other programs provide libraries with Internet-ready computers, support endeavors benefitting the Pacific Northwest, and fund special projects.