Gordon and Betty Moore: Tech Grants

NET WORTH: $8.4 billion


FUNDING AREAS: Environment, Health, Scientific Innovation, San Francisco Community

OVERVIEW: Gordon and Betty Moore founded the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The foundation supports environmental conservation, patient care, scientific research and projects in the San Francisco Bay Area.

BACKGROUND: Gordon Moore grew up outside San Francisco and attended San Jose State for two years before transferring to Berkeley. He did graduate work at CalTech, receiving a Ph.D. in chemistry with a minor in physics. He continued to do postdoctoral work at Johns Hopkins for two years before going to work with fellow CalTech alumnus William Shockley at the Shockley Semiconductor Laboratory. He did not last long there, however, as the working environment under Shockley was not to his liking. Simon Fairchild persuaded Moore and seven others from the Lab to come work for him at one of Silicon Valley’s first tech incubators, which became the famous Fairchild Semiconductors. A few years later, his colleague Robert Noyce founded NM Electronics, which later became the Intel Corporation. Moore is now retired, though he still holds the position of chairman emeritus at Intel.


ENVIRONMENT: The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation prioritizes programs that support long-term environmental conservation and sustainability. Its major initiatives include an Andes-Amazon Initiative, a Marine Conservation Initiative, a Wild Salmon Ecosystems Initiative, and a land conservation initiative in the San Francisco Bay Area. Grants of $1 million or more are not uncommon for the Moore Foundation; more than three dozen environmental organizations have received over 1 million dollars over the years, the largest by far being Conservation International, which has received more than 30 grants for a total of more than $600 million. See the foundation's website for full details.

HEALTH: In the health sector, the Moore Foundation prioritizes patient care. Gordon’s wife Betty seems to be the main driver of these initiatives; the University of California, Davis, named its nursing school after her in the wake of a $100 million contribution. Some of the grantees have a focus that is national in scope, but most are more local, with donations largely focused on organizations based in Northern California. See the foundation's website for full details. 

SCIENTIFIC INNOVATION: The Moores fund a great variety of projects that prioritize scientific and technological innovation. These most often support research labs at universities; the largest recipient is Cal Tech, where Gordon did his graduate work and is now on the board of trustees. In 2001, Moore made $600 million in grants to the university for programs including Quantum Information Science, the Center for Analysis of Higher Brain Function, and a program dedicated to improving solar energy technology. Other areas of interest include early warning systems for earthquakes, more powerful telescopes for studying the stars, plant research geared toward medical discovery, marine microbiology, and most recently, a collaborative initiative aimed at unleashing the power of big data to spur scientific breakthroughs. Moore gave an additional $200 million to CalTech in 2007 for the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope, the world's second-largest optical telescope. See the foundation's website for full details. 

SAN FRANCISCO COMMUNITY: Much of the Moores' grantmaking supports the San Francisco Community, and Northern California at large. Moore has made several hundred million in grants to land trusts and conservation efforts in the area, and much of their grantmaking in the health arena is focused here, as well. Apart from this, they support science and technology museums. Their largest contribution in this area has been to the Exploratorium, which has received over $30 million in contributions.

ARTS & CULTURE: While most of the Moore’s grantmaking in this area has supported the San Francisco Bay Area, they have made notable contributions to the Smithsonian and Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History. The purpose of the latter, however, is closely tied to environmental causes, and deals with identifying species and habitats in need of protection, and the purpose of the former is related to scientific discovery and involves developing x-ray technology for use in astronomy.

LOOKING FORWARD: In his late 80s, Moore has already made a significant mark on a number of different causes, and it does not seem very likely there will be any major shifts in his philanthropy.


Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
1661 Page Mill Road
Palo Alto, CA 94304
(650) 213-3000