A Tribute to Paul Allen

Kai Huang - 2A Computer Engineering
Posted on: October 31, 2018

On 15 October 2018, Paul Allen died of septic shock, caused by complications from non-Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of 65. While most know him only as the Co-Founder of Microsoft, he was a man of many interests whose work had a profound lasting impact in a variety of areas.

    Allen had an interest in space travel, which was first evident in 2004, when he was the sole investor backing the SpaceShipOne commercial suborbital spacecraft venture. The craft became the first privately funded effort to successfully put a civilian in suborbital space. He then went on to create Stratolaunch Systems, a proposed orbital launch system that would feature a jet aircraft ferrying a rocket to high altitude which would then separate and climb into orbit with its own engines. Test flights are currently proposed for 2019 and 2020, and if successful, would be the first privately funded space transport system.

    Allen also took steps into sports team ownership and had a significant effect on the Portland Trail Blazers and the Seattle Seahawks. He purchased the Trail Blazers for $70 million in 1988, and invested much of his time and money into the development and funding of their new arena, the Moda Center, finally purchasing it in 2007. He purchased the Seahawks in 1996 when they were under pressure from their former owner to move to Southern California. A former Seahawks minority owner, Herman Sarkowsky, remarked “I’m not sure anybody else in this community would have done what [Allen] did.”

    Allen, together with his sister, pursued filmmaking as the owners and executive producers of Vulcan Productions. Many of their films, especially documentaries such as Racing Extinction and Body Team 12, have been nominated for academy awards. In 2013, they co-produced the film Girl Rising, discussing the issue of education for girls in various parts of the world. The film helped raise over $2.1 million to help with this cause.

    Allen purchased an offshore service vessel in 2016, naming it the RV Petrel, and putting it through an extensive retrofitting in 2017 to become a deep submergence research vessel. Coordinating with historical organizations, Allen’s goal was to explore historically significant wrecks in the most challenging depths and conditions. Some of their most notable finds were the USS Indianapolis in August of 2017 and the wrecks of the entire Japanese attack force in Surigao Strait in November of 2017. In early 2018, Allen’s team on the Petrel also found USS Lexington, USS Juneau, and USS Helena.

    This is only a few examples of the innumerable fields that Allen had an impact in. Many of us, as engineers, know him for only his most famous role at Microsoft. He, like anyone else, had his own interests and hobbies, and he deserves immense respect for being generous enough to use his resources to make a lasting impact.

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