George Soros was born August 12, 1930 as George Schwartz, in Budapest, Hungary to Elizabeth and Tivadar Schwartz. His mother came from a family that operated a prosperous silk shop and his father, Tivadar, was a lawyer who had been had previously been a prisoner of war until he was able to escape from Russia to return to Budapest.
Soros was born during World War II and at the time of the great depression, in chaotic times, when many Jews were being deported to the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Those Jews who were able to avoid being deported were subject to many anti-Jewish laws, making it harder for Jews to participate in many social and educational functions afforded to non-Jews.
In 1936, due to the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Hungary at the time, Tivadar changed the family name from Schwartz which means “black” in German, to Soros, which means “a successor” in Hungarian. Soros also means “will soar” in Esperanto, a language George Soros’ father was well acquainted with.
In 1947, two years after surviving the Battle of Budapest, Soros escaped the communist driven Hungary to live in England. As an impoverished student at the London School of Economics, Soros worked as a railway porter and as a waiter to try to make ends meet. A university tutor saw the potential in Soros and requested aid to help in his educational endeavors. He received £40 from a “Religious Society of Friends “(Quaker) charity.
Soros graduated from the London School of Economics, earning his BS Degree in Philosophy in 1952 and a PhD in Philosophy in 1954. During his time there, Soros studied the works of Karl Popper, his philosophy of science and his critique on totalitarianism, “The Open Society and Its Enemies”. This critique expressed the opinion that no philosophy or ideology should have the final word in any society on the truth. His work stated that societies can only grow and flourish in a democratic environment where the people are given freedom of expression, allowed for a diversity of opinions and where an individual’s rights are respected and protected.
Shortly after graduating from the London School of Economics, Soros moved to New York City to work as an arbitrage trader for F.M. Mayer from 1956 to 1959 and as an analyst for Wertheim & Co. from 1959 to 1963. During this period of time Soros developed the theory of reflexivity which was based on the ideas of Karl Popper. This theory posited that the value of any market produces cycles either “virtuous or vicious” that will further affect the market. This philosophy attempts to explain how feedback from traders in market values can change the market value.
In 1963, Soros was offered and accepted a position as vice-president at Arnhold and S. Bleichroeder. He continued, during this time, to perfect his reflexivity theory, looking forward to the time he could finally assert himself as an investor to make reflexivity a profitable reality.
In 1967, Soros had the opportunity to run an offshore investment fund for First Eagle Funds as well as the Double Eagle Hedge Fund in 1969.
In 1970, Soros founded Soros Fund Management and became its chairperson, with his sons holding senior positions along with Jim Rogers, Stanley Druckenmiller and Keith Anderson, to name a few notables who worked for him.
In 1973, because of regulatory restrictions that limited his ability to run the funds, Soros resigned from his First Eagle funds and established the Quantum Fund. In 2013 the Quantum fund made over $5 billion, giving it the distinction of being the most successful hedge fund in history. The fund has generated over $40 billion since its inception in 1973.
Soros had not forgotten where he came from and was very concerned with helping others to overcome their own political and social obstacles. In 1979 Soros set up a fund to help provide support for black students to attend the University of Cape Town in apartheid South Africa.
Around this time, Soros also began funding dissident movements in communist countries, helping the people to organize and voice their opinions, in a time when organizations were banned and dissident opinions were considered anti-state propaganda and could result in prison or worse.
On May 28, 1984, Soros signed a contract between the Soros Foundation (New York) and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences which is the founding document of the Soros Foundation Budapest. After this contract was put into effect, many foundations were established throughout the region to help countries turn from communism.
In 1993, demonstrating his commitment to democracy, Soros funded the Open Society Institute, to help support foundations in Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The Open Society Institute later changed its name to OSF (Open Society Foundation) in order to better reflect its goal of funding civil societies across the globe.
Soros strongly believes that the principal of reflexivity apply not only to financial markets but as to political and social ideals, and that there can be no absolute answers to political questions.
The Soros Foundations network has connections in more than 60 countries and has provided more than $8 Billion to support Human Rights Campaigns and movements and to provide access to basic public health and educational requirements in over 70 countries.