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The Forum > General Discussion > Should Einstein be TIME's Man of the Second Millennium

Should Einstein be TIME's Man of the Second Millennium

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In 2000 TIME Magazine dubbed Albert Einstein the "Person of the Twentieth Century".

Some pundits argued that TIME got it wrong. Hitler, they argued, had a greater influence on the history of the 20th Century than Einstein.

On balance I think TIME got it right. Here's why.

Think back to those two 17th Century figures, Oliver Cromwell and Isaac Newton. Outside the English speaking world few have heard of Cromwell; but every educated person knows about Isaac Newton. Similarly, I think Einstein's contribution to science will be remembered long after Hitler has been relegated to the status of obscure European warlord of interest only to a few historians.

But who deserves the title "Person of the Second Millennium"? Who, between AD 1000 and AD 2000 had the greatest impact on history?

Does Einstein get that title as well?

My vote goes to Charles Darwin though some would argue he should share the honour with Alfred Russell Wallace*. In 1859 the Theory of Evolution through NATURAL SELECTION was a BRILLIANT leap of scientific imagination.

In its early days the theory faced many obstacles. No one could imagine what sort of fuel could keep the sun burning for the hundreds of millions of years needed for evolution to work its magic. The actual mechanism of inheritance was unknown. Even the supposed age of the Earth 400 million years at the outside said Lord Kelvin, one of the foremost scientists of his time presented a problem. In reality, back in 1859, Darwinian evolution was not so much a "theory" as an "hypothesis".

But, in the end, Darwin's theory triumphed and the world has never been the same. The publication of "On the Origin of the Species" heralded a true discontinuity in human history.

As runners up I nominate Galileo Galilei and Isaac Newton.

Do other posters have any thoughts?

*See http://www.wku.edu/~smithch/index1.ht
Posted by stevenlmeyer, Friday, 9 October 2009 3:37:45 PM
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My runners up for "Person of the 20th Century" would be Werner Heisenberg and Max Born for the uncertainty principle, Linus Pauling for his work on the nature of the chemical bond and James Watson and Frances Crick for the structure of DNA.
Posted by stevenlmeyer, Friday, 9 October 2009 4:42:40 PM
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In terms of Australia, I don't really think you can go past John Howard.

If you believe most of the left wing political commentators, SMH letters contributors, and many of the OLO community this man had absolutely astounding influence on the very fabric of Australia. He had such amazingly wide ranging influence on the populace, in such a wholly negative way, reaching to the very core (and non-core) beliefs of every single citizen.

I mean Keating said 'if you change the Prime Minister, you change the country', but I'm sure he had no idea how fully and to what scale this was possible. The very fabric of Australian culture and personal values of each person was forever changed by this one man, John Winston Howard.

But on a world scale, well, who could go past Tom Cruise.
Posted by Houellebecq, Friday, 9 October 2009 4:53:10 PM
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I think whoever discovered/invented electricity should win. It is the one most fundamental discovery that has led to everything else and without it we would have nothing.
Posted by mikk, Friday, 9 October 2009 5:22:23 PM
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Steven
Wow what a topic.
Nominations should include:
Pope Clement VII in that he excommunicated Henry VIII ( because he had one more I than him?) caused the schism in religion that arguably changed the world.

Pope Urban II that created the problem between the Christians and Muslims (first Crusade) it's still persists today.

Columbus he found America (before it was lost) and that has changed the world

Dirk Hartog because he found Australia but rightly described it as worthless. Dutch wisdom.

Gandhi because I like salt (?) (historical joke) because he introduced non violent protestation, a good idea.

Henry Ford he introduced road pollution in a systematic way, still with us today and has changed our world

How about the man that set up McDonald's he's changed food and the body weights of of the people in half the world.

Griggs Chandler the man who founded coca cola. As above and add god to dentists.

Neil Armstrong because he cocked up his speech that is now history

and me because I'm the best Zionist plot detector ever.

LOL Examinator
Posted by examinator, Friday, 9 October 2009 6:56:07 PM
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Some others that had big influences in their fields of endeavour:

Genghis Khan
Sam Adams (freeing up trade in the US)
Andrew Carnegie (building up the US steel industry)
Nikola Tesla (developing AC motors, a vastly more efficient technique than DC electricity, amongst other things)
George Westinghouse (for industrialising the US in the early 1900s)
Louis Pasteur (father of modern microbiology)

The trouble with picking the most influential person is on what criteria? Greatest practical benefit to mankind, the best idea, the best individual talent? Then you have to acknowledge that the modern greats stand on the shoulders of their predecessors. IMO, it's impossible to pick just one.
Posted by RobP, Friday, 9 October 2009 7:47:57 PM
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