John D. Rockefeller's greatest business accomplishment was the founding of the Standard Oil Company, which made him a billionaire and at one time controlled around 90 percent of the oil refineries and pipelines in the United States. His other great accomplishment was the establishment of numerous philanthropic charities through which he gave away more than $500 million.
The son of a traveling salesman, Rockefeller worked his way through several odd jobs until he entered the oil business by investing in a refinery in Cleveland. He soon bought out his partners, took over the refinery, expanded it and formed the Standard Oil Company. Standard Oil's monopoly over the oil business aroused the ire of journalists and caused the U.S. Congress to pass the Sherman Antitrust Act, after which Standard Oil broke up into numerous smaller companies.
In 1896 at the age of 57, Rockefeller retired from the full-time running of his business and afterwards devoted himself to charitable pursuits. Among his philanthropic endeavors were the University of Chicago, the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research, the General Education Board, the Rockefeller Sanitary Commission and the Rockefeller Foundation. Through these foundations and institutions, he helped distribute donations to American schools and colleges, find cures for diseases such as meningitis, eradicate hookworm in the southern states, and promote medical research, scientific achievements and the arts.