Photo: Miles Harris / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
Born: January 21, 1953
Born Place: Seattle, Washington, United States
Died: October 15, 2018
Death Place: Seattle, Washington, United States
Net Worth: US$20.3 billion (October 2018)
Paul Gardner Allen (January 21, 1953 – October 15, 2018) was an American business magnate, researcher, investor, and philanthropist. He was best known for co-founding Microsoft Corporation with childhood friend Bill Gates in 1975, which helped spark the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s, later making Microsoft the world’s largest personal computer software company. Allen was ranked as the 44th-wealthiest person in the world by Forbes in 2018, with an estimated net worth of $20.3 billion at the time of his death.
Allen left active operations at Microsoft in early 1983 after a Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis, remaining on its board as vice chairman. He and his sister, Jody Allen, founded Vulcan Inc. in 1986, a privately held company that managed his various business and philanthropic efforts. He had a multi-billion dollar investment portfolio including technology and media companies, scientific research, real estate holdings, private space flight ventures, and stakes in other sectors. He owned the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League and the Portland Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association, and was part-owner of the Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer. In 2000 he resigned from his position on Microsoft’s board and assumed the post of senior strategy advisor to the company’s management team.
Allen was also the founder of the Allen Institutes for Brain Science, Artificial Intelligence and Cell Science, as well as companies like Stratolaunch Systems and Apex Learning. He gave more than $2 billion to causes such as education, wildlife and environmental conservation, the arts, healthcare, community services and more. In 2004, he funded the first manned private spaceplane with SpaceShipOne. He received numerous awards and honors in several different professions and was listed among the Time 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2007 and 2008. Allen was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2009. He died of septic shock related to the cancer on October 15, 2018.
Allen was born on January 21, 1953, in Seattle, Washington, to Kenneth Sam Allen and Edna Faye (née Gardner) Allen. He attended Lakeside School, a private school in Seattle where he befriended Bill Gates, with whom he shared an enthusiasm for computers, and they used Lakeside’s Teletype terminal to develop their programming skills on several time-sharing computer systems. They also used the laboratory of the Computer Science Department of the University of Washington, doing personal research and computer programming; they were banned from the laboratory in 1971 for abuse of their privileges there.
Gates and Allen joined with Ric Weiland and Gates’ childhood best friend and first collaborator, Kent Evans, to form the Lakeside Programming Club and find bugs in Computer Center Corporation’s software, in exchange for extra computer time. In 1972, after Evans’ sudden death due to a mountain climbing accident, Gates turned to Allen for help finishing an automated system of Lakeside’s entire class scheduling procedure. They then formed Traf-O-Data to make traffic counters based on the Intel 8008 processor. According to Allen, he and Gates would go “dumpster diving” in their teenage years for computer program code.
Allen attained a perfect SAT score of 1600 and went to Washington State University, where he joined the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity. He dropped out of college after two years to work as a programmer for Honeywell in Boston near Harvard University where Gates was enrolled. Allen convinced Gates to drop out of Harvard in order to create Microsoft.
Allen was diagnosed with Stage 1-A Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1982. Although his cancer was successfully treated by several months of radiation therapy, Allen was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2009. Likewise, the cancer was successfully treated until it returned in 2018, which ultimately caused his death by septic shock on October 15, 2018. He was 65 years old.
Several Seattle-area landmarks, including the Space Needle, Columbia Center and CenturyLink Field, as well as various Microsoft offices throughout the United States, were illuminated in blue on November 3, 2018, as a tribute to Allen. He was also honored by his early business partner and lifelong friend Bill Gates, who said in a statement:
Paul loved life and those around him, and we all cherished him in return. He deserved much more time, but his contributions to the world of technology and philanthropy will live on for generations to come. I will miss him tremendously.
AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS
Allen received numerous awards in many different areas, including sports, philanthropy, and the arts:
- In 2004, Allen, Burt Rutan, Doug Shane, Mike Melvill, and Brian Binnie won the Collier Trophy for SpaceShipOne.
- On March 9, 2005, Allen, Rutan, and the rest of the SpaceShipOne team were awarded the 2005 National Air and Space Museum Trophy for Current Achievement.
- In 2007 and 2008, Allen was listed among the Time 100 Most Influential People in The World.
- He received the Vanguard Award from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association on May 20, 2008.
- On October 30, 2008, the Seattle-King County Association of Realtors honored Allen for his “unwavering commitment to nonprofit organizations in the Pacific Northwest and lifetime giving approaching US$1 billion”.
- In 2009, Allen’s philanthropy as the long-time owner of the Portland Trail Blazers was recognized with an Oregon Sports Award.
- On October 26, 2010, Allen was awarded the W. J. S. Krieg Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the field of neuroscience by the Cajal Club.
- On January 26, 2011, at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall, Allen was named Seattle Sports Commission Sports Citizen of the Year, an award that has been renamed the Paul Allen Award.
- In 2011, Allen was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
- On October 15, 2012, Allen received the Eli and Edythe Broad Award for Philanthropy in the Arts at the National Arts Awards.
- On February 2, 2014, Allen received a Super Bowl ring as the Seattle Seahawks won the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
- On October 22, 2014, Allen received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Seattle Business magazine for his impact in and around the greater Puget Sound region.
- On December 31, 2014, online philanthropy magazine Inside Philanthropy made Allen their inaugural “Philanthropist of the Year” for his ongoing effort to stop the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, breaking ground on a new research center in Seattle, and his battle to save the world’s oceans.
- In 2014, Allen was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame.
- On July 18, 2015, Ischia Global Film and Music Festival recognized Allen with the Ischia Humanitarian Award. Event organizers honored Allen for his contributions to social issues through his philanthropic efforts.
- On August 25, 2015, Allen was named a recipient of the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy for his work to “save endangered species, fight Ebola, research the human brain, support the arts, protect the oceans, and expand educational opportunities for girls”.
- On October 3, 2015, the Center for Infectious Disease Research presented Allen with the 2015 “Champion for Global Health Award” for his leadership and effort to fight Ebola.
- On December 10, 2016, Allen, as co-owner of the Seattle Sounders, won the 2016 MLS Cup.
- On October 3, 2019, Allen was posthumously inducted into the Seattle Seahawks Ring of Honor.
- Honorary degree from Washington State University. The university bestowed its highest honor, the Regents’ Distinguished Alumnus Award, upon him.
- Honorary doctorate in Philosophy from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
- Honorary doctorate of Science from the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s Watson School of Biological Sciences.
- Honorary degree from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne.