Philanthropy and Philanthropists

Philanthropy Vs Charity

Philanthropy and charity are often used interchangeably but they are not quite the same. Although they are closely related, charity seeks to relieve humanitarian problems, while philanthropy focuses on solving the causes of the problems.

Philanthropy Through Time

The word philanthropy is of Greek origin and was first used by the ancient Greek tragedian Aeschylus who lived in the 5th century BC. He used it to describe one of his characters as philanthropos which literally translates into “humanity loving”. However, the word philanthropy came to be understood in the modern meaning only in the 17th and 18th centuries when the English upper-classes became increasingly active in helping the disadvantaged.

Philanthropic Pioneers

In 1741, English philanthropist Captain Thomas Coram opened the Foundling Hospital for poor and orphaned children which is regarded as the first incorporated charity in the world. Fifteen years later, another English philanthropic pioneer Jonas Hanway founded The Marine Society which became the world’s first seafarer’s charity organisation.

In the 19th century, philanthropic activity intensified and a growing number of the members of the social elite became active philanthropists, with some energetically campaigning for a greater cause such as William Wilberforce who later was honoured and became a baron. The English politician and philanthropist campaigned heavily for abolition of slave trade and led the parliamentary effort to end slave trade in the British Empire which was finally abolished with the Slave Trade Act 1807.

The example of the British elite was soon followed by some of the wealthiest and most influential men in America such as Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford, to mention only a few.