The 5 Most Generous Philanthropists in History

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Since the industrial giants of the early 20th century found it fit to give away their hard-earned millions (billions in today’s dollars), philanthropy has been a major part of American life. Today philanthropic donations have a global impact, improving the health and well-being of people around the world. A great deal of research and charitable work would not be possible if it were not for the contributions of these five most generous philanthropists in history.

5 Bill Gates

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Bill Gates will not only be remembered as a founder of Microsoft, but also as one of the most generous philanthropists of all time. To date, Gates has given $28 billion to philanthropic causes through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation’s primary mission has been to help fund the eradication of polio and malaria around the world. Gates’ net worth as of 2013 was $67 billion. Together with Warren Buffet, Gates launched the “Giving Pledge” campaign and recruited nearly 100 other billionaires to pledge at least half of their fortunes to charity.

4 Warren Buffet

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Dubbed the “Oracle of Omaha” for his investment prowess, Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet pledged to give away virtually all of his money to charity during his lifetime. As of March 2013, Buffet’s net worth was a whopping $53.5 billion. So far during his lifetime, Buffet already gave away $17.3 billion. Many of his donations have gone to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other educational and children’s charities.

3 John D. Rockefeller

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Oil magnate John D. Rockefeller was the first billionaire in American history and one of the most generous, giving away more than $550 million during his lifetime. That was the equivalent of $8.67 million in 2012. Rockefeller gifts helped fund scientific breakthroughs, including the vaccine for yellow fever and the discovery of DNA. He also helped fund education, including college for free black slaves.

2 George Soros

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George Soros, a Hungarian-born hedge fund manager, is one of the most generous philanthropists alive today, giving away a total of $8.5 billion of his fortune as of 2013. That is nearly half of his total net worth of $19.2 billion. Soros’ giving has funded many causes, including human rights, education, public health and fighting poverty. Born in 1930, Soros lived through the Nazi occupation of his birth country and would later immigrate to the United States where his financial wizardry made him a billionaire.

1 Andrew Carnegie

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Andrew Carnegie, one of the first recognized philanthropists, is still one of the most generous to this day. Before he died in 1919, Carnegie gave away more than $350 million, which was the equivalent of more than $4.59 billion in 2012. Carnegie earned his fortune producing steel and later selling his company to become the richest man in the world at the time. His philanthropy funded universities, libraries, worker pensions and the arts, including New York’s Carnegie Hall.


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