12. Bill Gates
for taking the efficiency of Microsoft to the poorest of the poor.
Philanthropist | Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation | Seattle
Last February, Gates unleashed a jar full of mosquitoes on an unsuspecting conference audience. "There's no reason why only poor people should have the experience" of malaria, he said. The bugs were not carrying the pathogen, but the point was clear: Gates, the man who redefined the computer, is today redefining the fight against neglected diseases -- with malaria, diarrheal diseases, pneumonia, and tuberculosis topping the list. Now Gates is moving into agriculture as well, acknowledging that good health requires more than just good medicine.
This is the first full year that Gates has spent more time at his $30 billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation than at Microsoft. And the influence of a private-sector guru on the world of global charity has already proved immeasurable. The foundation's model is becoming the new force majeure, with all the efficiency of the business world suddenly injected into aid. But more than just using his knack for sharp execution, Gates is pushing big ideas, such as the notion that all forms of development are connected and that advancing any one objective must come with equal gains elsewhere. Call it the new Gates network theory -- and it has the potential to be even more complex, and more influential, than his last.
Read more: "The Big Thinkers of Giving," by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green