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Bill Gates timeline

Explore the Bill Gates Timeline, which highlights some of the most significant moments in his life and career.

Oct 25, 2018

10 min read

Last updated on April 22, 2024

Bill Gates was named one of the 100 most influential figures of the 20th century by Time magazine. Apart from launching a business that would become the largest PC software company worldwide, Mr. Gates’ merits also include a strong involvement in a variety of humanitarian causes that earned him awards and international recognition. 

No wonder his image is often correlated  with innovation and generosity. Yet, his legacy is shadowed by debates over Microsoft’s business practices, accusations of monopolistic behavior, and criticisms of his philanthropic activity.

To give prominence to one of the most powerful people in the world, according to Forbes, we have created the Bill Gates Timeline, which highlights some of the most significant moments in his life and career.

Bill Gates timeline

Bill Gates: key milestones

  • 1955: William Henry Gates III is born
  • 1968: Enrolls at Lakeside School
  • 1973: Enrolls at Harvard College
  • 1975: Drops out of college & co-founds Microsoft
  • 1980: Partners with IBM to write the BASIC for the IBM PC
  • 1981: Becomes president of Microsoft
  • 1987: Becomes the youngest billionaire after MS goes public
  • 1989: Founds Corbis
  • 1994: Marries Melinda French
  • 1995: The Road Ahead (book)
  • 1999: Business @ the Speed of Thought (book)
  • 2000: Steps down as CEO of Microsoft
  • 2000: Founds The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • 2005: Named Person of the Year by Time
  • 2006: The James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award
  • 2007: Receives honorary degree from Harvard
  • 2008: Donates for improved healthcare in India
  • 2010: Co-founds The Giving Pledge
  • 2010: The Silver Buffalo Award
  • 2011: Reinvent the Toilet Challenge
  • 2013: Polio eradication initiative
  • 2014:  Steps down as chairman of Microsoft’s board
  • 2015: Breakthrough Energy Ventures
  • 2015: The Padma Bhushan award
  • 2016: Presidential Medal of Freedom
  • 2017: Legion of Honor – France
  • 2019: Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates (documentary)
  • 2021: Bill and Melinda Gates announce divorce 2023: Health innovation partnership

Bill Gates timeline: the details

Let’s take a closer look at the events in Bill Gates’ life story, where each moment reveals something interesting that shaped his personality.

1955: William Henry Gates III is born

William Henry Gates III was born on October 28, 1955, in Seattle, Washington. His dad, William H. Gates II, was a famous lawyer, and his mom, Mary, was a teacher. As a boy, Bill was affectionately nicknamed “Trey” due to the III in his name.

1967: Enrolls at Lakeside School

Due to difficulties in public elementary school, Gates’s parents decided to enroll him at Lakeside School, a private preparatory school. It was at Lakeside where he was initially introduced to computers, and by the age of 13, he had already written a program to play tic-tac-toe that allowed users to play against the computer. Also, while at this school, he met Paul Allen, with whom he would found Microsoft in 1975.

1973: Enrolls at Harvard College

Graduating with one of the highest SAT scores ever recorded (1590 out of 1600), Gates entered Harvard University, where he created the programming language BASIC for the MITS Altair, world’s first personal computer. Young Gates displayed a remarkable level of intelligence devising innovative algorithms during his 2 years at Harvard. Yet, two years later, he opted to leave college to fully commit himself to establishing his own company – Microsoft.

1975: Drops out of college & co-founds Microsoft

At 19, Gates left Harvard in his junior year to pursue his business. Committed to the idea of bringing computers into every home and business, Bill Gates dropped out of college to co-found Microsoft with his childhood friend Paul Allen in 1975.

1980: IBM partnership – BASIC for the IBM PC

Microsoft partnered with IBM to write the BASIC programming language for the IBM PC. BASIC, which stands for Beginner’s All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code, was a popular language for beginners and allowed for the creation of simple programs and games. The partnership between IBM and Microsoft turned Microsoft into a top software company in the personal computer industry.

1981: Becomes president of Microsoft

In 1981, Microsoft became a private company, with Bill Gates as president and chairman, and Paul Allen as executive vice president. Microsoft became Microsoft, Inc., and the company saw significant growth under Gates’s leadership.

1987: Becomes the youngest billionaire after MS goes public

In 1987, when Microsoft went public, and started selling shares of the company to the public on the stock market, the value of the company’s stock went way up. This made Gates the youngest billionaire in the world, at just 31. This important milestone marked both Gates’ and Microsoft’s importance in the technology world.

1989: Founds Corbis

In 1989, Bill Gates founded Corbis Corporation in Seattle, Washington. It started as an art and photography digital archive, later becoming a digital media services provider (digital asset management and rights services) under Gates’s leadership.

1994: Marries Melinda French

In 1994, Bill Gates married Melinda French. Melinda had been working at Microsoft as a product manager. This union meant more than a partnership on the personal level. Together, they started doing charity work through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which they created in 2000.

1995: The Road Ahead (book)

In 1995, Bill Gates wrote The Road Ahead, a bestselling book about the future of technology and its effects on society. In the book, Gates discusses his vision of a digital future, foreseeing the integration of computers and the internet into everyday life.

1999: Business @ the Speed of Thought (book)

In 1999, Bill Gates wrote Business @ the Speed of Thought, a bestseller about how digital technology can revolutionize business practices. The book stresses the importance of data-driven decision-making and highlights the potential of emerging technologies.

2000: Founds the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

In 2000, Bill Gates and his wife Melinda founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation focuses on improving global healthcare, and expanding educational opportunities, contributing over the years to healthcare and disease eradication research, access to education and reducing poverty.

2000: Steps down as CEO of Microsoft

In 2000, Bill Gates stepped down from his role as CEO of Microsoft, transitioning to the position of Chief Software Architect. This move allowed him to focus more on long-term strategy within the company, while Steve Ballmer took over as CEO.

2005: Named Person of the Year by Time

In 2005, Bill and Melinda Gates were named Time magazine’s Persons of the Year for their significant contributions to philanthropy and global health through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

2006: The James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award

In 2006, Bill Gates was honored with the James C. Morgan Global Humanitarian Award for his outstanding contributions to humanitarian efforts and his commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of millions of people around the world.

2007: Receives honorary degree from Harvard

In 2007, Bill Gates received an honorary law degree from Harvard University, marking a significant recognition of his achievements in technology, business, and philanthropy.

2008: Donates for healthcare in India

In 2008, Bill Gates donated a substantial amount of his wealth to support initiatives aimed at improving healthcare in India. The donation contributed to funding healthcare projects and programs aimed at reducing mortality rates and improving healthcare access for millions of people in India.

2009: Co-founds The Giving Pledge

In 2009, Bill Gates, along with Warren Buffett and Melinda Gates, co-founded The Giving Pledge, an initiative aimed at encouraging the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to commit the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. A decade later, more than 200 billionaires have publicly promised to give half or more of their money away to those who need it.

2010: The Silver Buffalo Award

In 2010, Bill Gates received the Silver Buffalo Award from the Boy Scouts of America. This prestigious honor is the highest commendation given by the organization, awarded “to recognize registered Scouters and others of exceptional character who have provided distinguished service at the national level.”

2011: Reinvent the Toilet Challenge

In 2011, the “Reinvent the Toilet Challenge” launched through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, aimed to develop toilet technologies to improve sanitation in areas lacking traditional infrastructure.

2013: Polio eradication initiative

On 25 April 2013, the new Endgame Plan was presented at the Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi. Same year, later, on June 25, 2013, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Rotary International revealed an expansion of their ongoing fundraising collaboration. The new agreement stipulated that the Gates Foundation will triple every new dollar Rotary dedicates to polio eradication, annually through 2018. This effort resulted in India’s certification as polio-free by the World Health Organization in 2014. This left only three countries still battling the disease.

2014: Steps down as chairman of Microsoft’s board

In February 2014, Bill Gates stepped down from his role as chairman of Microsoft’s board and continued to serve as a member of the board of directors until 2020, with an advisory role.

2015: Breakthrough Energy Ventures

In 2015, Bill Gates started Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a venture capital fund focused on investing in new and smart technologies that can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make clean energy.

2015: The Padma Bhushan award

On India’s Republic Day, January 26, 2015, India honored Bill Gates and his wife Melinda with one of its highest civilian awards for their social and philanthropic efforts.

2016: Presidential Medal of Freedom

In 2016, Bill Gates received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, for his contributions to technology and global health.

2017: Legion of Honor – France

In 2017, Bill Gates received France’s highest national honor, the Legion of Honor, for his contributions to technology, philanthropy, and global health and his dedication to improving lives. The French Legion of Honor is awarded to people from various countries who have made exceptional contributions to humanity, regardless of their nationality.

2019: Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates

In 2019, the documentary series “Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates” premiered, offering a comprehensive exploration of Gates’s life, accomplishments, and philanthropic work.

2021: Bill and Melinda Gates announce their divorce

In 2021, Bill and Melinda Gates announced their divorce after 27 years of marriage, surprising many. Despite this personal decision, they affirmed their commitment to continue working together on their philanthropic efforts through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

2023: Health innovation partnership

On October 11, 2023, the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a €1.1 billion financing partnership to eradicate polio, improve access to health innovations, and strengthen health systems for vulnerable populations.

To this day, Bill Gates continues to lend his support to global health initiatives. He supports health research, vaccine development, and improvements in healthcare infrastructure, stressing the importance of collective efforts in enhancing global health.

Frequently asked questions about Bill Gates

Let’s address some frequently asked questions about Bill Gates, shedding light on lesser-known aspects of his life.

About the Bill Gates timeline

The Bill Gates chronology was built with Office Timeline, a lightweight add-in for PowerPoint that enables users to quickly create professional-looking timelines and Gantt charts. The image is free to download and share and can be restyled or updated using the Office Timeline free trial.

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