Andrew Carnegie started out with nothing, the son of a poor Scottish weaver in Dunfermline. He emigrated to America with his parents when he was just 13 and built a fortune in the steel business that in today's money was worth $100bn. He was richer than Bill Gates.
Extracts from the accompanying The Greatest Scot television programme are being added to these biographical notes as the programme is broadcast between November 9 and 13. If you live outside the UK, you will not be able to see these, but you may enjoy other videos about some of the subjects which are available via links in the text. Here is a video about the Carnegie museum in Dunfermline.
In 1900, aged 65, when he sold Carnegie Steel to J.P. Morgan for $480 million, the financier told him, "Congratulations, Mr. Carnegie, you are the richest man in the world." Carnegie proved himself to be a philanthropist of unusual fervor, as over the next decade he gave away $350 million with the same creativity and energy that led to its accumulation. As he said, "The man who dies rich, deis disgraced."
He funded venues such as the Carnegie Hall in New York (and Dunfermline), theatres, libraries, public parks, and schools and colleges in Britain and America. Carnegie scholarships have paid for more than 100,000 students to attend Scottish universities. And his many trusts were so well funded that they're still going strong today.
Millions of dollars went to support education, a pension plan for teachers, and the cause of world peace. Most famous as a benefactor of libraries, he funded nearly 3,000 around the world. He preached the obligation of the wealthy to return their money to the societies where they made it.
He was a business genius who created a steel empire that made America the most prosperous economy in the world. The implications of his low-cost steel were enormous for the American economy. Carnegie's struggle with the unions would determine the role of labor in industrial America. Frick's lawsuit against him was the biggest at that point in American history.
Carnegie was a legendary figure in his own time. A nineteenth century icon. He embodied the American dream - the immigrant who made it from rags to riches whose schoolhouse was the library.