With a net worth of over $24 billion, financier George Soros ranks as one of the 400 richest people in America, according to Forbes. Most people know the 85-year-old Hungarian-born billionaire philanthropist is to liberal causes what the Koch Brothers are to the Right.
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Some things you might not know about Soros:
1. He has given away some 45 percent of his net worth. In 2013, Soros’ charitable donations totaled $734 million, according to Forbes,
putting him No. 5 on their list of philanthropists, after donors such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, and Mark Zuckerberg, but none of them have given such a huge percentage of their fortunes.
2. He started out with nothing. After surviving the Nazi occupation of his native Hungary and escaping Communist rule, Soros wound up a penniless teenage refugee in England. He worked as a railroad porter and a waiter and accepted handouts from charities while going to college. Forbes
called his life “a Horatio Alger-esque journey” akin to that of Oprah Winfrey.
3. Soros has a Ph.D. in philosophy from the London School of Economics. Studying philosophy under Sir Karl Popper at the London School of Economics, he originally planned to become a philosopher, according to Encyclopedia Britannica.
Soros’ original name was György Schwartz. When György was 6, wrote biographer Michael T. Kaufman in Soros: The Life and Times of a Messianic Billionaire,
the boy's parents changed their family name from Schwartz to Soros in fear of the anti-Semitism rife in pre-World War II Hungary.
4. The name Soros means somebody destined to go far. Soros told Kaufman that his father liked the new name because it was a palindrome that means “designated successor” in Magyar, as well as the future tense of the Esperanto word “sori” — “to soar.” In Magyar, the name was pronounced “shorosh,” but when Soros moved to England and then the U.S., it morphed into “sorose.”
5. That wasn’t Soros’ only name change. While hiding from the Nazis, Soros posed as a Christian youth from Romania named Sandor Kiss.
6. Soros is probably the wealthiest native speaker of Esperanto in the world. Few people grow up speaking the artificial language introduced in the 19th century by L.L. Zamenhof, but, according to Kaufman, Soros’ father was an avid Esperantist who learned the language while a prisoner of war in Siberia and taught his children. An Esperanto conference in Switzerland provided 17-year-old George with grounds for the passport that allowed him to escape Soviet Hungary in 1947.
“It was a very useful language,” the one-time refugee told a 2010 symposium of the Universal Esperanto Association, “because wherever you went, you found someone to speak with.” The event, according to New York Times blogger Alison Leigh Cowan,
coincided with the English translation of the Esperanto memoir Soros' father had written about the escape he led from a Siberian prison camp in 1920.
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