The co-founder of Microsoft (1975) , Paul G. Allen, has already given over 2 billion dollars to establish several far-sighted new research institutes. He is a free-thinking man with numerous activities and widespread interests, ranging from music to professional sports and spaceflight. This dispatch briefly summarizes the remarkable scope of Allen’s dynamic activities, and then discusses how his philanthropy is benefiting scientific research in a big way; a following article will discuss the very novel features of his latest innovative program for stimulating the progress of scientific research. (POSTSCRIPT on June 5, 2016: readers should note that there is a followup posting about Paul Allen (see: http://dr-monsrs.net/2016/04/14/replacing-research-grants-how-paul-g-allen-is-doing-it/ )!
Background about a vigorously independent individual: Paul G. Allen [1-3]!
Paul Allen is an author, business owner and investor, entrepreneur and industrialist, explorer of history and geography, founder of several museums, inventor, moviemaker, owner of several professional sports teams, promoter of urban projects in Seattle (his hometown!), rock guitarist, supporter of education and the arts, technological visionary, yachtsman, and, one of the world’s leading philanthropists. In addition to working with his sister, Jody Allen, on many of those activities, he has utilized his Allen Family Foundation to greatly benefit several universities in the state of Washington, start the Allen Distinguished Educators program that rewards particularly creative and effective education developments by teachers in primary and secondary schools, support a non-governmental organization, Elephants Without Borders, to further the conservation of wild elephants in Africa, establish the Paul G. Allen Ocean Challenge as a public contest for improving the health of our oceans, along with stimulating a variety of other programs, projects, and personal explorations. Most of this is carried out by his company, Vulcan, Inc.; one of its many activities is Vulcan Aerospace, a division including a collaborative space exploration project with the noted engineer, Burt Rutan (see: “Stratolaunch Systems, A Paul G. Allen Project” ).
Tying all these many explorations together is Paul Allen’s extensive curiosity, diverse personal interests, determination to make ideas flow into new knowledge, affection for going where no-one has tread before, and, his optimistic belief that anything is possible. For him, the future can be opened right now! In 2005, Paul Allen published an autobiographical book, Idea Man, A Memoir by the Cofounder of Microsoft, recounting his experiences in co-originating Microsoft; 10 short videos based on this book graphically illustrate his youth and development of operating systems in the early days of personal computing (see “Idea Man Part One: Roots” ).
Paul G. Allen has advanced scientific research in revolutionary ways [1-3]!
For trying to push science and research beyond all their usual goals and practices, Paul Allen founded and funded the Allen Institute for Brain Research in 2003, the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence in 2013, and, the Allen Institute for Cell Science in 2014. These research centers in Seattle feature technologically advanced experimental research by scientists and engineers, and involve such very large and complex research questions as how does the brain work (i.e., how do some 86 billion neurons interact to furnish memory and reasoning?), what can artificial intelligence do for humans (i.e., as individuals and as society?), and how do our cells conduct their varied functions (i.e., in health, disease, and regeneration?). These giant research investigations at these Institutes all are in the realm of “big science”.
The goals of Paul Allen are nothing less than to revolutionize science and speed up the progress of research. To do that, he brought the practices of industrial research to bear at the Allen Institutes; these feature numerous doctoral specialists working as teams supported by a large staff and advanced research instrumentation facilities. At the Institutes, there is little of the problems characterizing science at universities (i.e., massive individual competition, constant worries about continued research grant funding, and, doing niche studies needing only shorter periods of time). Jumps of discovery are encouraged by creativity, innovation, and interactive teamwork. Output of these large-scale science projects is made available as internet resources for use by other researchers throughout the world; examples include several Allen Atlases for the mouse and human brains in adulthood and during embryonic growth, the Allen Brain Cell Types Database, the Mouse Neural Connectivity Atlas, and The Animated Cell, a multiscale virtual model that integrates all knowledge about cells and can predict changes in their behavior.
The vision, organization, and goals of these research institutes mostly come from Paul himself. He sees that science and technology can make dreams become real; he values unconventional new ideas that stimulate groundbreaking findings and jump into the future. All this aims to benefit the entire world and all people.
Paul G. Allen is a most dynamic individual! He deserves admiration for using his own money to benefit science and engineering, the arts, Seattle, Africa, oceans, wildlife, museums, and people everywhere. He clearly is making a big difference in the conduct of scientific research, by promoting a new design for research on very fundamental large-scale questions. It is easy to predict that the outcome of his vision of what science and research should be doing will be nothing short of wonderful!
VIDEOS: Many videos about Paul G. Allen both inside and outside science are available on the internet! For a glimpse of the man himself, I recommend the following 3!
(1) “Paul Allen on Gates, Microsoft” by CBS (2011); this presentation involves a hostile interviewer!
(2) “Stratolaunch Systems: A Paul G. Allen Project” by Vulcan, Inc. (2011); turning ideas into reality!
(3) “Paul G. Allen on Art” by Vulcan, Inc. (2015); presents Allen’s many activities to make good art available to the public!
 @PaulGAllen, 2016. “Home page” . Available on the internet at: http://www.paulallen.com/ . NOTE: explore the different headings!
 Allen Institute for Brain Science, 2013. “Allen Institute for Brain Science: Fueling Discovery” . Available on the internet at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HclD7T9KFg .
 Allen Institutes, 2016. “About” . Available on the internet at: http://www.alleninstitute.org/about/ . NOTE: explore the variety of headings indicating the diversity of Paul Allen’s many activities!
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