Four decades after co-founding Microsoft, entrepreneur and philanthropist Paul Allen was still exploring the frontiers of technology and human knowledge, and working to change the future. Through his company Vulcan Inc. and the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, Allen was working to save endangered species, improve ocean health, tackle contagious diseases, research the human brain and build sustainable communities.
He died from complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma on Monday afternoon. He was 65 years old. Just last month, Allen spent $30 million to house 94 homeless and low-income families in south Seattle. With lifetime giving of more than $1.5 billion, Paul Allen pledged to leave a majority of his estate to philanthropy. We celebrate the legacy of this brilliant techno-philanthropist at The CSR Journal.
In all his endeavors, Allen constantly asked “What if…?” and pushed people to challenge conventional thinking, collaborate across disciplines and reimagine what’s possible. As the idea man and original technologist behind Microsoft, Allen pioneered the PC software industry in the late 1970s and early 1980s. In the years since, Mr. Allen has used his wealth to tackle a wide range of challenges, and to expand the horizons of human possibility.
For example, since 2003, he invested more than $350 million in brain research, primarily through the Allen Institute for Brain Science. The Institute has generated groundbreaking online public resources that integrate extensive genomic and neuroanatomical data, including interactive atlases of the mouse and human brain. These resources have become staple research tools for scientists worldwide, helping to lead them to insights about neurological function and brain-related diseases and disorders.
In 2014, he founded the Allen Institute for Cell Science and its inaugural project, the Allen Cell Observatory, which will accelerate disease research by creating predictive cell models.
Equally committed to earthly challenges, Paul Allen gave $100 million to fight the West African Ebola epidemic. Announced in 2014, his gift was the largest private donation in the world focused entirely on this deadly plague, and served as a catalyst to spur greater involvement from governments and other donors around the world. Allen’s philanthropy also encompasses history and the arts. An avid guitarist, Paul Allen’s love for the music of Jimi Hendrix inspired him to found the EMP Museum, which explores the ideas and risks that fuel pop culture. He is also the founder of the Flying Heritage Collection, a collection of rare WWII aircraft and artifacts restored to working condition, and the Living Computer Museum, a collection of restored vintage timesharing computer equipment.
He gave back to the community through the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, which works to transform individual lives and strengthen communities by supporting arts and culture, youth engagement, community development and social change, and scientific and technological innovation. He also gave directly, including $26 million in 2010 to Washington State University for the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health.
Paul Allen’s death was, of course, met with an outpouring of condolences from the corporate and tech leaders. Bill Gates, who co-founded Microsoft with Allen, put things into perspective when he said: “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.”
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The CSR Journal Team