Unpacking Paul Allen’s Legacy In Science, Tech, and the Arts
By now, you’ve probably heard that Microsoft co-founder and Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen has passed on at age 65 from complications related to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Since Vulcan Inc. and the Paul Allen Network’s announcement on October 15th, pundits across the web have been reminiscing on Paul Allen’s contributions to Seattle, the northwest United States, and to the world at large. And when you look at the guy’s contributions to technology, scientific progress, and the arts, it’s not hard to see why.
A Legacy Built on Technology
Of course, much of Allen’s legacy has been well-established. He famously co-founded Microsoft alongside Bill Gates back in 1975, and since his passing, has been acknowledged by Microsoft’s current CEO, former CEOs, and Gates himself for his “indispensable” contributions to the world of personal computing.
Allen was also known for being the owner of the Seattle Seahawks football team, the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team, and part-owner of the Seattle Sounders soccer team—making him a crucial figure in the professional sports scene across Washington and Oregon. (Including a brief stint as savior, during the Seahawks’ infamous and ill-fated near-move to Anaheim back in 1996.)
But other details of Allen’s life are less known, including some of his philanthropy, scientific efforts, commitment to wildlife conservation, and yes—search for alien life.
Like all Washington companies involved in tech, we owe a lot to Allen, and as such, we’d like to discuss a few of his lesser-known efforts as our way of paying tribute.
Aside from his role at Microsoft and team ownerships, Allen is perhaps best known for his philanthropic efforts in science and technology.
Most famously, he founded the Allen Institute: A Seattle-based international research organization designed to study bioscience, neurology, and the intersection of technology and health. This organization spearheaded numerous sub-organizations, including the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Allen Institute for Cell Science, and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence.
And as a billionaire with a penchant for scientific progress, these investments branched out to other areas—include space travel. As far back as 2000, Allen contributed funding to the development of private spacecraft with the goal of turning commercial space travel from a dream into a reality. He also contributed $30 million to SETI—the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.
Of course, Allen’s philanthropy was often a bit more grounded. He was well-known for love of wildlife and led numerous conservation efforts through his foundation, including the NGO Elephants Without Borders (EWB), designed to preserve declining elephant populations across Botswana, Zambia, and beyond.
According to Forbes, Allen had donated over $2 billion of his personal fortune to philanthropic efforts at the time of his death.
As if that weren’t enough, Allen was an amazing musician—according to Quincy Jones in an interview with Vulture from earlier this year. To hear Jones tell it, Allen could play guitar and sing “just like” Jimi Hendrix, describing jam sessions on Allen’s yacht with the likes of David Crosby, Joe Walsh, and Sean Lennon.
It’s hard to summarize a life like Allen’s in a single article, and these achievements are only scratching the surface of the projects, organizations, and initiatives that he contributed to. His sudden passing was shocking for all of us—including those who knew him personally and those who only knew him from a distance—but thanks to the tremendous efforts he undertook, he won’t be forgotten any time soon.
Image courtesy of Jordanatvulcan at Wikipedia Commons