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A captain of industry is an extremely successful entrepreneur who dedicates some part of his or her wealth to charitable pursuits. The term came into common usage during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, when business barons gained tremendous power and wealth as a result of the booming new industries. There have been many famous captains of industry throughout history, each dedicated to improving conditions and communities by applying wealth and business acumen to noble causes. Some of the most famous include Andrew Carnegie, Invar Kamprad, and Bill Gates.
Andrew Carnegie is frequently cited as one of the first great captains of industry in the Industrial era. The child of Scottish immigrants and boasting little education, he rose through the ranks of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, becoming primarily responsible for the Pittsburgh steel industry. Despite his meteoric success, Carnegie warned others frequently of the dangers of wealth, and devoted much of his money toward philanthropy. He became instrumental in the creation of public libraries throughout the United States and the United Kingdom, while also giving generously to universities, scientific laboratories, and orchestras.
The modern era has no shortage of business leaders. Invar Kamprad, a man dedicated to the principles of simplicity and economy, turned these passions into gold with the founding of the IKEA® furniture chain in the 1940s. Now considered one of the richest people of the early 21st century, Kamprad is famous for driving a decades-old car and turning most of his profits over to his charitable foundation, one of the largest in the world.
In the technological revolution of the late 20th century, Bill Gates rose to the forefront of business as the owner of Microsoft®. For many years, he ranked as the wealthiest person in the world thanks to the booming success and growth of computer technology. Retired from active work in 2006, Gates turned his focus to his immense charitable foundation. In the tradition of Carnegie, the foundation actively supports education and the creation of free public libraries. Additionally, Gates' foundation donates millions to improving global health care, creating and researching financial opportunities in poverty-stricken areas, and the development of new agricultural technology.
Captains of industry are quite distinct from business leaders solely interested in the possession of personal wealth. Unlike robber barons, they actively pursue the betterment of society through their wealth. While some maintain lavish personal lifestyles, the defining characteristic of these entrepreneurs is a dedication to the improvement of the world.