The Most Influential Person of the 20th Century

  • #1
Who do you believe is the most influential person of the 20th century? I am talking about on a global level. I am doing some research on this topic, and I find it rather difficult to select one.
 

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  • #2
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I think you'd have to give the credit to someone vital to the Communist movement.

What else dramatically affected so many people's lives as Communist rule of around 1/3 of the world? It lasted for so very long, and was so dramatic. It set up almost all of geo-politics for over 4 decades; nearly every conflict in the world between WWII and 1991 could be traced to the Cold War.

Either that, or Hitler. Because without Hitler, perhaps the West wouldn't have aquiesced quite so much to Stalin, and Communism would've never spread like it did. Plus, without Hitler's agressive tendency to take over other nations, many of the Western colonial powers might not have been influenced to give up their posession of Eastern nations. I'm pretty convinced that there'd have been no reason for Britain to let up its control on India were it not for Hitler, in one way or another. Then of course, there was all that killing Hitler was involved in. I heard somewhere he killed quite a few people for some very unusual reasons...
 
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  • #4
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Need the person have been alive in the 20th century, or can we nominate the person we think had the greatest impact on it?
 
  • #5
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laminatedevildoll said:
Who do you believe is the most influential person of the 20th century? I am talking about on a global level. I am doing some research on this topic, and I find it rather difficult to select one.
"Most influential" turns out to be a much more vague term than it seems at first, doesn't it?
 
  • #6
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Keynes. No competition.
Hypnos said:
Boo! Hayek Boo!

He was only really influencial in the last 20 years or so of the century. Certainly influencial so far in the 21st century (is he still alive?)

Then again, Keynes' main influence kind of died out after 40 years or so.

Maybe Chomsky. No, wait, 20th century? Einstein I guess. Is this necessarily on a political level?
 
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  • #7
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Hayek died in 1992, at age 92. How about http://www.hooverdigest.org/003/cassidy.html [Broken]:

In November 1989, when the Berlin Wall came down, Hayek was a frail but mentally alert 90-year-old living in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, a picturesque town in the Black Forest. Hayek didn’t issue any public statements, but he thoroughly enjoyed watching the television pictures from Berlin, Prague, and Bucharest. "He would beam benignly, and the comment was ‘I told you so,’" said Hayek’s son.
 
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  • #8
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how is that influencial?
 
  • #9
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Smurf said:
how is that influencial?
It's just a nice moment in history I'd have given much to witness :) He had a great influence on economic thought and foreign policy in the US from 1940 until his death. Given the US's political reach, the global impact was significant.
 
  • #10
ShawnD
Science Advisor
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laminatedevildoll said:
I am doing some research on this topic, and I find it rather difficult to select one.
If it's for a school report, try to pick a name that isn't popular. I've had many teachers tell me that they absolutely hate reading reports that are about the same things, mainly things about hitler, stalin, or any other very famous person.

Pick Al Gore. He invented the internet. :wink:
 
  • #11
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For me it's the Mahatma!
 
  • #12
Mk
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ShawnD said:
Pick Al Gore. He invented the internet. :wink:
Don't forget underwear.
ShawnD said:
Pick Al Gore. He invented the internet. :wink:
A wink? For me? I don't sway that way.

Most influential...:
Albert Einstein w00t w00t in the house~!! :biggrin:
 
  • #13
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what about
-- alfred nobel (invented dynamite)
-- einstein (in particular the photoelectric effect & television)
-- hilbert (23-problem manifesto)
-- adolf hitler (a bad guy but hugely influential no doubt about it)
-- reinhold aman (edits/publishes www.maledicta.org)
-- rosa parks (hey that's actually a good one!)
-- don't know enough about computers to know who did what but maybe alan turing would be a good choice?
-- harry truman (dropped the nukes, the 1st military act of the cold war)
 
  • #14
matthyaouw
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I'm gonna have to go with Hitler, unfortunately. I can't think of anyone who directly or indirectly altered so many people's lives.
 
  • #15
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I would say Mahatma Gandhi.
 
  • #16
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Most influential person is that guy who really changed peoples lives (for good or for bad) and who's decisions really had a direct link to the way people thought, operated and participated in society.

For this reason Einstein cannot be the most influential person because 95 % of the people do not care for what he has done and his work has NO influence on their lives. Besides, it is a common misconception to think that thanks to his photo-electric effect description, electronics was revolutionized and "industrialized". Hell no, early variants of today's transistors (pn junctions and rectifiers) were known at the late 19th century. In electronics, people did not need a theoretical description of the photo electric effect back then, only a qualitive (NOT quantitative) knowledge of this effect was sufficient for the needs of "electronics" and this was already known.

Besides, people like Bohr, Schrödinger,Schottky, Shokley & Braittain & Bardeen (first pn-transistor with quantitative description in 1947), Kilby (first IC-circuit in 1958 i believe), Atalla (first CMOS device in 1963)... were far more usefull to the development of electronics then Einstein ever was. Really, Einstein is one of the most overrated scientists in that department. So most people will just pick his name to answer to that question because they do not know anybody else.

Besides, have you guys ever wondered why Einstein is so famous ? It is not because of his "great scientific work" but thanks to Mr Hitler and the Catholic Church. It is merely a result of a national political debate (on the "absoluteness or relativity" of moral and ethical values, religion, time, etc...) between conservative and progressive Germany, which later expanded over Germany's boundaries towards entire Europe. Also, you do know that most concepts of special relativity were known before Einstein and that the entire mathematical description of general relativity was done by people like Riemann, right ? Why don't you ever hear their name ?

Ahh, and according to me, the most influential man of the 20th century is Adolf Hitler.

regards
marlon

(runs and hides)
 
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  • #17
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Bill Gates ;-)
 
  • #18
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Anttech said:
Bill Gates ;-)
:approve:
yep, that is a great choice too.

or how about Alexander Fleming, Charlie Chaplin, ...

marlon
 
  • #19
cronxeh
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I'm gonna go with Hitler on this one.
 
  • #20
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matthyaouw said:
I'm gonna have to go with Hitler, unfortunately. I can't think of anyone who directly or indirectly altered so many people's lives.
Here's where we have to start wondering about the intent of the question, and the meaning of the word "influential."
Normally when we choose the word "influential" to describe someone we mean that their opinions carry alot of weight; they are persuasive.
That is different than the raw ability to impact people's lives by force. If we refer to the schoolyard bully as "the most influential kid on the playground" it just comes off as sardonic.
Does the question mean "Who had the most impact on the most lives?" or does it mean "Who most shaped people's thinking?" I can't tell for certain.
 
  • #21
matthyaouw
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Perhaps "inspirational" would be a better word to use then...
I'm not so sure about that, but Tank Man/the Unknown Rebel would be quite high.
 
  • #22
turbo
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If "influential" is taken quite literally, with no ethical value-ordering, a case could be made for Stalin, who probably murdered somewhere between 3 and 5 times as many people as Hitler. I believe that 20,000,000 is generally quoted as a lower limit, with some folks calculating perhaps twice that many. That's a lot of people "influenced" in about the most convincing manner possible. It's fair to say that a lot more people all over the world were influenced by him, and not just in Asia and Eastern Europe where he exerted the most direct control.

Normally, when I hear "influential" though, I take matthyaaouw's approach, and think of people whose actions have demonstrated a personal conviction that inspires others. People like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela come to mind...
 
  • #23
SpaceTiger
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Well, if we include people that were long dead, I think a religious icon (Jesus, Buddha, etc.) will continue to hold the "most influential person of the century" title for a while.

Hitler would be a reasonable choice of the people alive in the century. He may not have killed as many as Stalin, but his individual influence on world politics was much greater.

Of the scientists, I would definitely pick Einstein, partially because his name and way of viewing the world made their way into popular culture. Very few scientists, whatever their achievements, can say this.

Of course, all of this depends on your definition of "influential". You could focus on the direct consequences of their work, name recognition from the "average" person, their ability to influence others of their time, their ability to "inspire", etc. So, given all that, who is the most influential person of the 20th century?

You guessed it, Frank Stallone.
 
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  • #24
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Sun Yat Sen, aka Sun Yat-Sen, aka Sun Yat-sen.
 
  • #25
Evo
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Tim Berners-Lee, someone that had enormous impact on the very end of the 20th century and that would be interesting to write about. He invented the World Wide Web while working at Cern.

He could have made an absolute fortune with the www. addressing scheme, but he was afraid that if he used it for profit, then there would be competing addressing schemes and the internet would be a nightmare to use. So, he gave it to the world for free. Super guy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tim_Berners-Lee

http://www.w3.org/People/Berners-Lee/

Here you go "Time Magazine included Berners-Lee in its list of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, published in 1999."
 
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