Bill Gates talks bald facts with Stanford students


Bill Gates set aside technology Tuesday at Stanford University to talk to a packed Memorial Hall about his retirement plans, guitars and some bald facts about funding on disease research.

He compared baldness to malaria, in terms of the amount spent on prevention research.

"The ratio's about 50 to 1 for baldness," he said. "Malaria of course kills about a million people a year."

Gates, the Microsoft chairman and co-founder, talked about his philanthropy efforts and the key role that students and universities play in technological innovation today.

His talk coincided with an announcement by Microsoft that it would make its software-development tools available for free to high school and college students.

"Students have really been at the heart of a lot of breakthroughs," Gates said. "It's a wonderful time to be a student." He alluded to the fact that he began Microsoft while a student, but later dropped out of Harvard University as Microsoft began to take off.

Stanford students and faculty members filled the university's Memorial Hall to hear Gates, who plans to step away from a full-time role at Microsoft this year in order to concentrate on his work with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Gates launched his talk with a humorous video detailing his retirement plans, one of which was to replace The Edge as U2's guitarist.

The video included numerous celebrity cameos, including Bono, who vainly tried to convince Gates that there were no openings in the band.

Other appearances were by Steven Spielberg, Jon Stewart, Jay Z and George Clooney, who told Gates he could not star in "Ocean's 14" because there were no plans to make that film.

NBC anchor Brian Williams and Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama also made appearances.

On a more serious note, Gates praised Stanford and other universities for the role they play in innovation.

"One of the best investments any company makes is in its research group and in the relationship its research group has with universities," Gates said.

Gates said much of his philanthropic work is concentrated on curing diseases, especially those diseases that are life-threatening in the Third World. He lamented how little money is devoted to finding a cure for many of those diseases, such as malaria, which receives much less funding than the search for a cure for baldness.

-- Bay City News Service and Palo Alto Weekly staff


Like this comment
Posted by Baby Boomer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2008 at 10:22 am

Right on Bill, too much money is spent on baldness.

If baldness was a thing that affected more women than men, only a fraction of the money now spent on it would be spent and much more on more worthwhile medical research. How about all these "cures" donating $1 of each sale to breast cancer research?

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 22, 2008 at 4:21 am

I recall another time when Gates addressed an assembly at Stanford. He told the Homebrew Computer Club that, if we wanted him to continue developing software, we had to stop stealing it. That intellectual property argument is still alive today.

Like this comment
Posted by boomer
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 22, 2008 at 9:19 am

"If baldness was a thing that affected more women than men, only a fraction of the money now spent on it would be spent"

Doubtful. Cosmetics? Breast cancer vs. prostate cancer spending?

Like this comment
Posted by Baby Boomer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 22, 2008 at 9:32 am


Sorry, you are right. I meant the money spent on research into baldness which I think is what Bill was speaking of. I agree that women spend a horrendous amount on cosmetics. But, we do hear that cosmetics companies are getting better at not doing research on animals. I wonder if the same could be said by those doing research into baldness.

It also seems to me that although there are still a lot of men who are paying large amounts of money to prevent their hairloss, there is also the current trend of many balding men just to shave off all their hair to look better. Howie Mendell, among others, comes to mind.

Like this comment
Posted by Anna
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 9, 2010 at 11:12 am

I'm sorry, but I find Bill Gates' comments about baldness to be ignorant and offensive. He's older than dirt and has a full head of hair, what the hell would he know about what it's like to go bald? This is a problem that seriously affects a person's self-esteem and self-image. Especially for women. A lot of women have become suicidal over losing their hair. Obviously deadly diseases are more important, but there's no reason to act like baldness isn't a problem that deserves attention. I don't have a ton of sympathy for older people who are losing their hair, to be honest, but when it happens to teenagers and people in their 20s (which it does more often than you think) it really REALLY sucks. So I think Bill Gates needs to STFU and think about what he's saying before he says it.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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