Conservation News

News, views and stories from the front lines of conservation


All recent news

Gordon Moore, digital pioneer and philanthropist, dies at 94

© Rod Mast

Digital pioneer, business leader and philanthropist Gordon Moore died at his home in Hawaiʻi on March 24, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation announced. He was 94.

Moore co-founded the semiconductor chip maker Intel and helped set the breakneck pace of Silicon Valley innovation. His prophetic 1965 observation that computer processing powers would double every two years — in turn, catapulting the developments of the digital age — is known as Moore’s Law.

And while Moore was best known as a titan of the tech world, his contributions to the natural world via philanthropic investments in science and environmental conservation were equally pathbreaking. 

In 2000, with his wife, Betty, he created one of the largest private grantmaking institutions in the United States, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The following year, the newly established foundation pledged to Conservation International what was then the largest-ever gift to a private conservation entity — a series of grants totaling $261 million over a period of 10 years. The foundation’s support for Conservation International continued with subsequent grants, propelling research, field programs and partnerships that are tackling some of the biggest challenges of our time: biodiversity loss and climate change.

“Nature has lost one of its greatest champions,” said Conservation International CEO M. Sanjayan. “Gordon Moore’s historic gift to Conservation International was nothing short of transformational, allowing us to work with unprecedented speed and impact, in the world’s biodiversity hotspots. His humility, decency and sense of humor left a fond and indelible mark on all of us lucky enough to spend time with him.” 

Referencing Moore’s eponymous law, Sanjayan added: “I can think of no better way to honor his legacy than to accelerate our efforts and ensure Moore’s Law is also applied to the protection and restoration of our planet in this decisive decade.” 

Though Moore’s headline-grabbing contributions changed the course of Conservation International’s work, his commitment began modestly with a $100 check sent through the mail.

Conservation International Chairman and founder Peter Seligmann recalled meeting Moore for the first time at Intel: “I was led through a maze of identical cubicles, only to find him sitting inside one of them,” Seligmann said. “That was his office. It was indistinguishable from the others — a reflection of his unique humility.” 

“When we sat down, he looked at me, lifted an eyebrow, and said, with his signature wit: ‘Do you personally visit everybody who cuts you a $100 check?’” 

“No,” replied Seligmann, an avid sportsman. “But not everybody who gives us $100 loves to fish as much as you do.” 

It was the beginning of a steadfast partnership — and Moore’s unparalleled support for Conservation International’s mission.

“Throughout his three decades of service to Conservation International, Gordon was an indispensable advisor, an exceptional friend and an unflinching pragmatist,” Seligmann said. “He understood that time is our most valuable commodity, and he pushed us to secure as much biodiversity as possible, as quickly as possible — so that when the world finally caught up to his thinking and realized how important it was, there would still be something left to value.” 

Moore served on Conservation International’s Board of Directors from 1990 through 2012 and was instrumental in establishing some of the organization’s landmark programs — from protecting biodiversity in the tropics to safeguarding the health of oceans and marine life. Today, Conservation International’s Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Science, one of the world’s premier conservation research institutes, stands as a monument to his generosity and vision.

Moore has been described by his biographers as a “quiet revolutionary;” a thoughtful listener well known for his lack of pretense.

Reflecting on his foundation’s work, Moore once said: “We thought we had an opportunity to make a significant impact on the world. And really that is what was attractive. To do something permanent and hopefully on a large scale.”

Moore is survived by his wife, Betty, their sons Kenneth and Steven, daughters-in-law Kris and Kathleen, and four grandchildren.

Vanessa Bauza is the editorial director at Conservation International. Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates here. Donate to Conservation International here.