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In Memoriam: Bill Gates, Sr.—Who Brought Curiosity and Vision to Science Philanthropy
Bill Gates, Sr. © Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

“Private life has its rewards,” Bill Gates, Sr. wrote in his stirring, soaring memoir, Showing Up for Life, “but I think it’s important—and makes one’s life richer—to be a part of something larger.” Today, we at the Science Philanthropy Alliance join the community of all those who seek to build a better world—a more equitable world touched by the joy of curiosity, the spirit of collaboration, and the commitment to scientific endeavor—to say farewell to Bill Sr., a man who embodied each of these qualities and more.  

A moral titan, a remarkable optimist, a public servant, a visionary philanthropist, Bill Sr. shaped the ways that philanthropy can make our world a better place. The causes that moved him—and excited him—are too many to list, but one of those causes was funding scientific research. Over his storied philanthropic career, Bill Sr. showed up time and again for the scientific community—helping solidify scientific research as a mainstream funding endeavor. And in showing up for basic science, which is the heartbeat of humanity’s instinct to learn, to grow, to discover, Bill Sr. influenced the model for 21st century scientific philanthropy.  

Bill Sr. helped not only to influence humanity’s scientific curiosity—but to fund it. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is one of the 10 largest supporters of scientific research across the world, and under Bill Sr.’s leadership, the Foundation has been a frequent collaborator with the Alliance. We are grateful to know that as we continue to fund and advance scientific discoveries—discoveries in urgent need, as the world faces down climate change, infectious and neurodegenerative diseases, disparities, and economic downturn—we will turn to the Foundation as a steadfast, curious, and visionary partner, just as Bill Sr. himself was in everything that he did.  

In a moving tribute, Bill Gates, Jr., said yesterday that his father was “the real Bill Gates.” Bill Sr. will be remembered as a giant in modern philanthropy on whose shoulders we stand today, and will stand forever. We are grateful to salute him for his extraordinary life and service. Our deepest sympathies go out to Bill, Melinda, and the entire Gates family, as they mourn the loss of a wonderful father, husband, grandfather, colleague, mentor, visionary, and friend to so many.