Born in New York to a travelling doctor, John D. Rockefeller got an early grounding in philanthropy from his mother who gave a lot of their money away to various charities. An astute businessman from a young age, Rockefeller worked hard to earn money and then make it work for him.
He was also an excellent mathematician and learned bookkeeping, commercial history and banking among other subjects at Folsom’s Commercial College. He began a career as a bookkeeper where he gained great respect as a diligent and trustworthy man.
He moved into business at the age of 19 selling hay, grain and meat, turning a healthy profit in a very quick time. A keen eye for the changing of the times led him to move into refining oil. He expanded his business rapidly and within three years his company was the largest oil refiner in the world.
He continued to build and build on his success, eventually amassing a fortune of $318.3 billion dollars in today’s money.
He has given away hundreds of millions of dollars, including $75 million to the University of Chicago, $50 million to the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research and $235 million to the Rockefeller Foundation, which helped fund free education.
Bill Gates has been the richest man in the world for most of the last 30 years due to his position as the founder and head of Microsoft. The sales and licensing of software, hardware and operating systems has meant that he has a vast wealth that has only been surpassed in recent years by Mexican telecoms giant Carlos Slim, although he has recently regained top spot.
Gates was a Harvard drop-out but had a huge interest in computer programming and set up Microsoft with friend Paul Allen. It went from strength to strength as Microsoft established itself as the market leader in information technology.
Gates has also given away hundreds of millions of dollars and has set up the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that has assets of over $37 billion, helping initiatives in education and health.