Banker to the Poor
The concept of microcredit, which Yunus pioneered, paid him back again last week when he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Through the Grameen Bank, which he founded and with which he is splitting the prize, Yunus, 66, has lent about $5.7 billion—mostly in amounts averaging $130—to some 7 million people, while his innovation has benefited many millions more and attracted celeb supporters like Bono, Brad Pitt and Bill Clinton. "By treating the poor like they have something good to contribute," says actor Hugh Jackman, a supporter, "he has put his finger on the thing that can save the world."
The third of 14 children born to a businessman and his wife, Yunus studied economics in the U.S. before returning to Bangladesh to implement his idea. He lives modestly in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with second wife Afrozi and daughter Deena. (His other daughter, Monica, 29, lives in New York.) He plans to use part of his share of the $1.4 million Nobel prize to open eye hospitals. His ultimate goal? "Putting homelessness and destitution," he recently said, "in a museum."