bill gates vertical

the man can jump, but how high?

“Hard-working, modest, easygoing — it would seem, to a fault. Of course, he does have at least one secret, but we’ll fix that,” Connie Chung says near the beginning of a 1994 segement of her news program Eye To Eye. She is talking about Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft and its CEO at the time.

“Is it true that you can leap over a chair from a standing position?” she asks Gates.

“It depends on the size of the chair, but this chair, probably so,” Gates replies.

“Will you do it?” she asks.

“Well, I don’t know with the microphone on if it’s doable,” Gates qualifies. He says this although he has already stood up and is calculating his approach to the chair. Chung warns him to watch the studio lights. “I’ll cheat a little bit,” Gates says before taking one step towards the chair and thrusting his entire body upwards. As he reaches the apex, he quickly thrusts his knees towards his chest, tucks in, and carries his body over the standard office chair. He lands a bit off-kilter, but largely sticks it. Chung lets out an ecstatic “Yes!!”

Because I have brain disease, I think of this every time I see a mention of Bill Gates. Specifically, the above video from 2011 that plays a bit of Geto Boys over a slo-mo replay (the clip is virtually identical to a 2008 upload, but with the music added). More than anything else, the things I know about Bill Gates are that he was in charge of Microsoft, he’s very rich, and he can jump over a chair from a standing position.

It is… so funny to see this. Like, imagine Mark Zuckerberg doing this. Imagine Jeff Bezos doing this. Imagine Elon Musk doing this. I can’t. First of all, how did he develop this party trick? Second of all, how often was he doing this that Connie Chung asked him about it on national television and he felt rehearsed enough to pull it off. Imagine if he beefed it!

Like, look at this:

That screenshot and this ancient JPEG have similar energies.

I was thinking about the video (Bill Gates jumping over chair) today, as I often do, and realized that I did not actually know how high Bill Gates was able to jump over the chair. So now I will try to answer this question. (I’m about to do some lazy math so if you’re a math freak, you will probably get mad. I’m not a math freak, and in fact might be genuinely bad at it. Please send all angry comments to ImMad@whitehouse.gov.)

The first step for determining how high Bill Gates jumped was to get a baseline. One potential is Bill Gates’ full height, which I couldn’t nail down. CelebHeights.com currently has Gates at 5 feet and 9.5 inches, but this footage is 27 years old, and I can’t be sure that Gates hasn’t shrunk in the interim. The comments speculating on his height only go back to 2005.

One thing I did discover is that, while Bill Gates’s Wikipedia page does not include a height, the page for Gates’s father, William Gates, Sr., does. Did you know that Bill Gates’s dad was really tall? I did not. Wikipedia says the elder Gates was 6’7” but the University of Washington alumni article it cites says 6’6”. Regardless, we have a definitive measurement.

Unfortunately, any picture of them standing side by side is usually only from the waist up, making it impossible to establish an official Father-Son Gates Ratio. There’s even a contemporaneous picture from Gates’s secret 1994 wedding that I found on some random website that gets us so close but not quite there.

So we need a new benchmark. Gates’s 1977 arrest was a possible lead, but records of the arrest have been lost, so I don’t even know how tall he was 17 years before the Chung interview. Wire photos of Gates from 1993-1995 are often shot from the waist up, and there is not much I can do with these to establish a definitive measurement.

Luckily, here’s a pretty good picture where Gates’s limbs are straight, making measurement relatively simple. We’ll come back to this later.

With a full-body shot banked, I found some other photos that could be the key to unlocking this whole thing. The first features Bill Gates holding a basketball. Let’s assume it’s a regulation NBA basketball. That would make its circumference 29.5” and its diameter 9.4”

In the photo, the diameter of the basketball is 372 pixels. So:

  • 372 pixels = 9.4 inches

  • Bill Gates chin-to-buckle distance = 624 pixels

  • (624/372) x 9.4 = 15.76 inches, buckle to chin

That’s enough for me to determine Gates’s full height using contemporaneous photos, but the 16-inch torso measurement seems off. I attribute this to the fact that Gates is holding the ball out towards the camera, making it appear bigger. Let’s try and verify this. The good news is there’s another basketball picture, and it features the ball right next to his shin.

The math:

  • 200 pixels = 9.4 inches

  • 366/200 = 1.83

  • 9.4 inches x 1.83 = 17.2 inches, ankle to shin

Okay! We’re making progress! Now let’s go back to office Bill.

As previously established: 17.2 inches from ankle to shin.

  • 278 pixels = 17.2 inches

  • Gates full height = 525 + 448 pixels = 973 pixels

  • (973/278) x 17.2 inches = 60.2 inches

No!!! By our calculations, Bill Gates is a 5-foot-tall short king, but that definitely isn’t true. He’s not a foot and a half shorter than his dad. Clearly my internet sleuthing is off. But absent a definitive inch measurment, we can use the ratios we’ve established, specifically that Bill Gates’s ankle-to-shin segment makes up 28 percent of his height. If we assume that Gates is 5’10 (rounding up from CelebHeights.com and included shoe sole), then his lower legs are 19.6 inches.

I found a higher-quality version of the interview, and we can use these shots, plus the length of Gate’s lower leg, to try and determine jump height.

Let’s apply what we know to the ratios in this image.

  • 61 pixels = 19.6 inches

  • Chair height = 129 pixels

  • (129/61) x 19.6 = 41.45 inches

The video is low-res but Gates barely clears the back of the chair during his leap, so the margin of error here is slight. If we gave him a couple more inches as a courtesy (he’s rich), I’d estimate that…

Bill Gates jumped 43.5 inches (3.625 feet) over the office chair.

Pretty impressive! I wonder if he can still do it. Bill, if you care to let the public know if you do or do not still have ups, please email me or Venmo me. Thank you, Bill!


Elsewhere…


Thank you for reading BNet. Sorry about the math, which I bet is wrong somehow.