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Bill Gates - a Modern Day Renaissance Man?

Published: 04.03.2014, Updated: 05.03.2017
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Bill Gates in Mme Tussauds

If you ask young people whom we should remember from our century, many would come up with Bill Gates. A confirmation of his significance is the fact that he is on display in Mme Tussauds in New York. Look at the picture of the model. What is it about this man that makes him one of the most influential of our time?

the human da Vinci:The Human Body  LeonardoLeonardo da Vinci Microsoft Microsoft  Steve JobsSteve Jobs

Steve Jobs' Graduation Speech to Students at Stanford University

 Stay Hungry – Stay Foolish 


The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby 


  1. In many ways Bill Gates is the living image of the American Dream. How would you characterize him from what you see in the picture? Is he a pessimist or an optimist, do you think? Try to find five different words that describe him based on what you see.
  2. Bill Gates is often referred to as a modern day Renaissance Man. What is implied in the concept Renaissance Man? What does Bill Gates have in common with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo?
  3. What do you associate with Microsoft?

MicrosoftMicrosoft Office logo 


Bill Gates (1955 -)

GatesBill and Melinda Gates and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon


For many years Bill Gates was ranked as the wealthiest man on earth. Born into an academic family in Seattle, his interest in computers started in his teens, when he was a student at Lakeside Preparatory School. He showed extraordinary talents, and was enrolled at Harvard University at the age of 18. He did not graduate, however, because he saw the unique opportunity to start his own computer company together with Paul Allen. The adventure was about to start, and in 1975 Micro-Soft was established. One year later the hyphen was dropped, and Microsoft appeared in its familiar form. After Microsoft he and his wife Melinda established a charitable fund - Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. As their credo the couple has chosen: 

We seek to unlock the possibility inside every individual. We see equal value in all lives. And so we are dedicated to improving the quality of life for individuals around the world. From the education of students in Chicago, to the health of a young mother in Nigeria, we are catalysts of human promise everywhere.



Bill Gates has had many titles. Look up the following, and explain in your own words in English what they imply:

  • Business magnate
  • Investor
  • Programmer
  • Inventor
  • Philanthropist
  • CEO
  • Chief software architect
  • Technology advisor

Make a Survey

Make a survey at your school, using the following statements.The interviewee answers yes or no. Make a table showing the information you collect.

  1. A man who has the nickname Bill often has the real name William.
  2. Bill Gates was born and grew up in New York.
  3. He went to a private preparatory school.
  4. When he was 18 he was enrolled at Harvard.
  5. He dropped out of Harvard.
  6. Microsoft was first written with a hyphen.
  7. Bill's wife is called Melinda.
  8. Bill stepped down as Chairman of Microsoft in 2014.
  9. Bill Gates has a private collection of original Leonardo da Vinci manuscripts.
  10. The list naming the richest persons in the world is published in FORBES magazine.

The American Dream

  1. Bill Gates is a passionate reader, and it is said that on the ceiling of his library he has a quote from The Great Gatsby. If you don't know this story, look up summaries and facts. Do you see any features Bill Gates and Jay Gatsby may have in common?
  2. In 1987, Gates was listed as the world's youngest self-made billionaire. In this way he fulfills something that has been a part of the American Dream for centuries. Find two other examples of people who have succeeded in America, show how their contributions have made a change in society.
  3. "People always fear change. People feared electricity when it was invented, didn't they? People feared coal, they feared gas-powered engines... There will always be ignorance, and ignorance leads to fear. But with time, people will come to accept their silicon masters".
    Discuss this quote by Bill Gates. How did the computer revolution create fear and uncertainty? How has this changed over the last 4 decades?

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Study Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's homepage here 

  1. How do they describe:
    • Who they are?
    • What they do?
    • How they work?
  2. What is your overall impression? Do you think this foundation is able to make a difference? Why, or why not?
  3. They also say something about what they do NOT fund. Mention some examples.
  4. What might be their reasons for rejecting these groups/interests?

A Renaissance Man

The expression Renaissance Man originated in Italy in the 1400s which was a period of great cultural change and development and it signifies "a man that can do all things if he will". The Renaissance ideal was humanism, and humans replaced God in the center of the universe. Humans were seen as limitless when it came to their capacity for development, and it was considered an obligation to further these talents and gifts as fully as possible. Leonardo da Vinci is a notable example of a Renaissance Man from this period of time. Today we tend to use the term about men or women that have a few of these characteristics:

  • a prodigy
  • multi-talented
  • proficient in many skills
  • excel in many areas of life
  • cultured and educated
  • wide variety of interests
  • humanist

To what extent do you think Bill Gates qualifies for the charaterization: A Modern Renaissance Man? Use the information in this article and what you can find on the web and comment on each individual quality listed above.

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs

Compare Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. What do they have in common, and what is different. You will find information about Steve Jobs in the frame to the right.