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Lokasenna
04-14-2011, 05:46 AM
I was having a chat with some friends the other day, and this became the topic of our conversation: who are the most important and influential figures in human history?

It proved a very engaging discussion, so I thought I'd broach the subject here, particularly because we've had interesting discussions in the past concerning the most influential books and writers. Some of my friends came out with some very interesting suggestions indeed.

To get the ball rolling, I'll say the very first one that came into my head: the historical person of Jesus Christ. Regardless of whether or not you believe the spiritual side of things, his impact on shaping the world for the last 2000 years has been profound. He is the central figure of the world's dominant religion, and for many centuries the papacy exercised near-hegemonic power throught much of the world, all in his name.

Emil Miller
04-14-2011, 06:46 AM
If we are talking about Western civilization then Jesus Christ must be a contender and there will obviously be others but, from an oriental perspective, Buddha and Confucius might figure as equally as important in human history. All in all, it's difficult to come up with a single individual who merits being called the most influential but there are certainly those who might be considered as a group.

JBI
04-14-2011, 08:33 AM
Hmmm, it is impossible to answer, but I would say, of the last 1000 years, probably Genghis Kahn. He pretty much invented globalization anyway.

Alexander III
04-14-2011, 09:21 AM
Actually following from JBI's notion, I would say Alexander The Great. Not for the extent of his conquests but because he reinvented what it mean to conquer. Previously when a city or nation was conquered genocide and slavery where standard practice if they put up a hard fight, but nonetheless the city and nation would be destroyed.

Alexander was the first conqueror who assimilated the conquered nations rather than destroyed them. He told his army officers to take persian wives, so that a generation of half greek half persians would be created removing the animosity between conquered and conqueror. He respected the cultures and traditions of the nations he took and he did not impose the greek way of life.

I think globalization starts with him.

JBI
04-14-2011, 09:27 AM
Actually following from JBI's notion, I would say Alexander The Great. Not for the extent of his conquests but because he reinvented what it mean to conquer. Previously when a city or nation was conquered genocide and slavery where standard practice if they put up a hard fight, but nonetheless the city and nation would be destroyed.

Alexander was the first conqueror who assimilated the conquered nations rather than destroyed them. He told his army officers to take persian wives, so that a generation of half greek half persians would be created removing the animosity between conquered and conqueror. He respected the cultures and traditions of the nations he took and he did not impose the greek way of life.

I think globalization starts with him.

Seems too pretty a picture of Alexander. Greek culture became dominant in the areas he conquered, regardless of he forcing it, or not. But he didn't do what the Kahn did, because the world was not ready for it yet - he only made it as far as what was already known - Genghis Kahn is far higher in scale - that being said, this game does not work clearly, as I do not adhere to any great men theory of history, and determinants are much harder to piece together than one thinks. Greatness is an illusion.

Lokasenna
04-14-2011, 09:53 AM
Actually following from JBI's notion, I would say Alexander The Great. Not for the extent of his conquests but because he reinvented what it mean to conquer. Previously when a city or nation was conquered genocide and slavery where standard practice if they put up a hard fight, but nonetheless the city and nation would be destroyed.

Alexander was the first conqueror who assimilated the conquered nations rather than destroyed them. He told his army officers to take persian wives, so that a generation of half greek half persians would be created removing the animosity between conquered and conqueror. He respected the cultures and traditions of the nations he took and he did not impose the greek way of life.

I think globalization starts with him.

Now that's interesting.

One of my friends is an expert on Alexander (both his PhD thesis and his latest book are about Old Norse depictions of him), and he suggested him along much the same lines. As he put it, Alexander's cultural unification of Greece and Persia led to the creation of the Hellenistic civilization. It represented the zenith of Greek culture, and thus had a major impact on the fundamental nature of Roman culture, and the succeeding Holy Roman Empire. Furthermore, the specific nature of the hellenistic world formed the backdrop for the creation of both Christianity and Islam, which have had a major impact on world history.

I hadn't thought of him myself, but I'm inclined to agree: Alexander was one of the most important people in history.

For a more modern example, another of my friends suggested Robert Oppenheimer. I'm not too sure about this one - while he is certainly the most identifiable individual from the Manhattan Project, and it is certainly true to say that the Bomb has fundamentally changed the world, I'm not convinced that he can be counted.

OrphanPip
04-14-2011, 10:43 AM
I'm gonna go with Louis Pasteur, because Germ Theory and vaccines have actually had a positive effect on the world.

Lokasenna
04-14-2011, 12:40 PM
Seems too pretty a picture of Alexander. Greek culture became dominant in the areas he conquered, regardless of he forcing it, or not. But he didn't do what the Kahn did, because the world was not ready for it yet - he only made it as far as what was already known - Genghis Kahn is far higher in scale - that being said, this game does not work clearly, as I do not adhere to any great men theory of history, and determinants are much harder to piece together than one thinks. Greatness is an illusion.

It's an interesting rebuttal, but I think a distinction needs to be made between a person who is important and a person who is great - they are not mutually inclusive.

But Genghis is certainly a contender, I'll give you that.

prendrelemick
04-14-2011, 12:51 PM
Tim Berners-Lee. I'm not saying he invented the Internet, and obviously it couldn't exist without a thousand other innovations. But his contribution is having the vision to ensure it is free and open. Thats a huge contribution to world history and is getting huger by the year .

Dodo25
04-14-2011, 03:23 PM
I'd go with historical Muhammad and Stanislav Petrov.

Paulclem
04-14-2011, 06:41 PM
Seems too pretty a picture of Alexander. Greek culture became dominant in the areas he conquered, regardless of he forcing it, or not. But he didn't do what the Kahn did, because the world was not ready for it yet - he only made it as far as what was already known - Genghis Kahn is far higher in scale - that being said, this game does not work clearly, as I do not adhere to any great men theory of history, and determinants are much harder to piece together than one thinks. Greatness is an illusion.

Apparently, they reckon that there are 18 million descendands of one individual. They also reckon it could only have been Ghengis Khan.

I think Fritz haber is a good contender. There is some controversy about him being the father of chemical warfare, but this pales into insignificance when you see how many people are dependant upon the Haber-Borsch process.

without this knowledge and ability the diet of today's humanity would not be possible. The annual world production of synthesized nitrogen fertilizer is currently more than 100 million tons. The food base of a half of the current world population is based on the Haber-Bosch process
from Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Haber

He would make a brilliant study for a writer wouldn't he?

Emil Miller
04-14-2011, 06:58 PM
Apparently, they reckon that there are 18 million descendands of one individual. They also reckon it could only have been Ghengis Khan.

I think Fritz haber is a good contender. There is some controversy about him being the father of chemical warfare, but this pales into insignificance when you see how many people are dependant upon the Haber-Borsch process.

without this knowledge and ability the diet of today's humanity would not be possible. The annual world production of synthesized nitrogen fertilizer is currently more than 100 million tons. The food base of a half of the current world population is based on the Haber-Bosch process
from Wikipedia

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fritz_Haber


He would make a brilliant study for a writer wouldn't he?


There was an interesting programme about Haber on Radio 4 yesterday.

Paulclem
04-14-2011, 07:01 PM
There was an interesting programme about Haber on Radio 4 yesterday.

I missed that. I came across him as I was planning for a creative writing course I ran a few years ago. I got the students to write about his arrival in Switzerland after fleeing the Nazis and their anti-Jewish discrimination in 1934.

The Atheist
04-14-2011, 08:46 PM
Godwin time!

No question that Herr Hitler rates as one of the more important historical figures, if for all the wrong reasons, but the world would be a vastly different place had he not lived.

Lokasenna
04-15-2011, 03:34 AM
I caught the thing on the radio about Fritz Haber the other day - and I agree, he certainly ranks up there.

As for Hitler, I wonder... With a lot of the more modern examples, it's hard to guage just how long their impact is going to last. I wonder whether we have a tendency to overestimate Hitler - don't get me wrong, he was unquestionably the individual who made the biggest impact on the 20th century. But beyond that..?

How about Geoffrey Chaucer? Pretty much single-handedly established English as the dominant language of England (instead of French), and thus by historical extension the de facto world language.

LitNetIsGreat
04-15-2011, 04:36 AM
I think few would argue of the impact that Darwin and Marx had, certainly in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Darwin in particular, to shake the foundations of religion in offering a clear scientific explanation on the origins of life on Earth was no small thing. I wonder how his thoughts affected other cultures and religions though? Whether or not Darwin had any impact on the Muslim world for example – I don’t know?

I was also thinking Hitler unfortunately for the 20th century, not just for the war but for the social and political repercussions which followed it.

Extremely hard to tell, but still I wonder if there has been any significant figures this century whose influence is likely to last until the end of it or into next century? I can't think of anybody who fits that bill. Some would say Obama but I'd have to disagree with that I think.

Overall, I think it is hard to get away from Christ one way or another.

The Atheist
04-15-2011, 04:43 AM
Overall, I think it is hard to get away from Christ one way or another.

There are a couple of issues with Yeshua the Christ:

1 Was he a real, historical figure? Unknown.
2 If he was, is he famous for actually doing things, or is it merely the religion/s built around myth that make him important.

I'll agree that the concept of a Jesus Christ is historically #1, but until we sort out the fact from the fiction, it's a leap of faith to say that the man Yeshua of Nazareth was an important figure himself.

Lokasenna
04-15-2011, 05:07 AM
There are a couple of issues with Yeshua the Christ:

1 Was he a real, historical figure? Unknown.
2 If he was, is he famous for actually doing things, or is it merely the religion/s built around myth that make him important.

I'll agree that the concept of a Jesus Christ is historically #1, but until we sort out the fact from the fiction, it's a leap of faith to say that the man Yeshua of Nazareth was an important figure himself.

Well, that's true. I was careful in my opening post to say Christ the historical figure. I suppose it depends on whether a person's legacy is divisible from themselves.

For example, take Neely's suggestion of Marx. How do we guage the impact of Marx the man against all the things that were carried out in the name of Marxism? It is something of a quandry.

LitNetIsGreat
04-15-2011, 06:08 AM
There are a couple of issues with Yeshua the Christ:

1 Was he a real, historical figure? Unknown.
2 If he was, is he famous for actually doing things, or is it merely the religion/s built around myth that make him important.

I'll agree that the concept of a Jesus Christ is historically #1, but until we sort out the fact from the fiction, it's a leap of faith to say that the man Yeshua of Nazareth was an important figure himself.

I don't think it matters one way or the other. The impact of Jesus the son of God, Jesus the carpenter, Jesus the myth is all one and the same - it's the affect that (he) has had on the whole fabric of civilization that's the important thing. For me it doesn't matter if he's fact or fiction (or somewhere in-between) the impact of the ideology has been huge, wherever you stand on the subject of religion.

chipper
04-15-2011, 06:50 AM
this is such a broad topic. there are scientists, writers, inventors, political leaders.

Phytagoras stated the first and most important fact, the earth is round. without that, i don't know where we will be.

There's the Egyptians and Greeks who contributed to the concept of time and astronomy.

In other words, i think the most important ones are the ones who laid the groundwork of modern science and politics.

then you can go the emotional route and say it's the parents, those who make the sacrifice of living their own life for the benefit of others.

Paulclem
04-15-2011, 10:22 AM
Godwin time!

No question that Herr Hitler rates as one of the more important historical figures, if for all the wrong reasons, but the world would be a vastly different place had he not lived.

The thing with Hitler and the Nazis is that they did a really good job of making sure racism is perceived as evil. Casual and focused racism was prevalent and largely unquestioned in Europe and the USA at this time. Just imagine if they had not got themselves obliterated.

Paulclem
04-15-2011, 10:23 AM
this is such a broad topic. there are scientists, writers, inventors, political leaders.

Phytagoras stated the first and most important fact, the earth is round. without that, i don't know where we will be.

There's the Egyptians and Greeks who contributed to the concept of time and astronomy.

In other words, i think the most important ones are the ones who laid the groundwork of modern science and politics.

then you can go the emotional route and say it's the parents, those who make the sacrifice of living their own life for the benefit of others.


In that case perhaps it's the creators of writing who enabled these discoveries to be recorded.

TheFifthElement
04-15-2011, 11:03 AM
Emmaline Pankhurst, and all the women like her, as a result of whose actions women now have voice and a choice beyond a life of domestic servitude and sexual slavery, and as a result have changed the social and political landscape of Britain, at least, for all time.

Paulclem
04-16-2011, 07:48 PM
Emmaline Pankhurst, and all the women like her, as a result of whose actions women now have voice and a choice beyond a life of domestic servitude and sexual slavery, and as a result have changed the social and political landscape of Britain, at least, for all time.

I reckon that they didn't just help women emerge from oppression either. It's because of them that women participate more or less fully - with a few anomolies - in the economic life of the country, paying taxes, adding their expertise and pushing forward the general improvements in the standards of living we have today.

I also think those socialist leaders in the unions did us all a fantastic favour by improving working rights pay and conditions. They created the working conditions whereby everyone benefits more, and thus puts more into the economic pot. Where would our economic wealth be without the consumer booms that have fuelled our economies in the west? You don't see that mentioned much.

JuniperWoolf
04-16-2011, 11:54 PM
this is such a broad topic. there are scientists, writers, inventors, political leaders.

Exactly. This is such a huge and broad topic. Micheal Faraday, Freud, Michelangelo, Dante, Homer, Mary Wollstonecraft, Hitler, Alexander Fleming, Gandhi, Marie Curie, Nikola Tesla, Newton, the list goes on and on with each being equally influential in their field. In fact, often one couldn't exist without the other. Would Hitler have had such a huge impact on the twentieth century if other people hadn't made great strides that led to the creation of the technology that he used?

Dodo25
04-17-2011, 09:42 AM
As much as I would want to say 'Darwin', I wouldn't include scientists. Had they not lived, someone else would've invented the stuff eventually, that's the beauty of science.

Lokasenna
04-17-2011, 10:01 AM
As much as I would want to say 'Darwin', I wouldn't include scientists. Had they not lived, someone else would've invented the stuff eventually, that's the beauty of science.

True, but they got there first, so they do deserve recognition for that. I think Darwin is definitely a contender.

Propter W.
04-18-2011, 11:25 AM
Copernicus, Darwin and Tesla.

I'd put Darwin above Jesus in my list, by the way.

Taliesin
04-21-2011, 05:34 AM
There are a couple of issues with Yeshua the Christ:

1 Was he a real, historical figure? Unknown.
2 If he was, is he famous for actually doing things, or is it merely the religion/s built around myth that make him important.

I'll agree that the concept of a Jesus Christ is historically #1, but until we sort out the fact from the fiction, it's a leap of faith to say that the man Yeshua of Nazareth was an important figure himself.

In that case, St. Peter?

And actually I'm not even sure whether we can name Hitler the most influential person of the 20th century. As Zhou Enlai said, when asked about the impact of the French Revolution - it is too soon to tell.


Also, talking about totalitarian regimes reminded me of another person who I would put high on the list - Plato.
It is said, after all, that all of European philosophy(very Eurocentric, I know) is just a bunch of footnotes to Plato.

The Atheist
04-21-2011, 01:13 PM
In that case, St. Peter?

If I had to pick the most-important influence on christianity, I'd go for Paul rather than Peter. If you accept a Jesus as a real historical person (which I largely do), then without the mumbo-jumbo he was actually just Brian (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Python's_Life_of_Brian).

There is an account, or maybe two, of his actual crucifixion but it was Paul's trip to Damascus that turned an urban legend into the dominant global religion.


And actually I'm not even sure whether we can name Hitler the most influential person of the 20th century. As Zhou Enlai said, when asked about the impact of the French Revolution - it is too soon to tell.

I can't buy that. While these things are recent in archaeological terms, the changes they made to the world were such that whatever history we create from now on, it will have been shaped by those immense changes in the past.

Just think about the generation of dead from WWII for starters. Millions upon millions of our best and brightest young men were thrown into the war mincer, and then more millions were deprived of their life by being casualties of war before it had even really begun.

The difference those people and their potential children not being on the planet is incalculable. We can't for sure how those events of the 18th and 20th century will shape the world, but we must acknowledge that they have/will.



Also, talking about totalitarian regimes reminded me of another person who I would put high on the list - Plato.
It is said, after all, that all of European philosophy(very Eurocentric, I know) is just a bunch of footnotes to Plato.

That's a very good thought.

Alexander III
05-19-2011, 11:08 AM
"I can't buy that. While these things are recent in archaeological terms, the changes they made to the world were such that whatever history we create from now on, it will have been shaped by those immense changes in the past.

Just think about the generation of dead from WWII for starters. Millions upon millions of our best and brightest young men were thrown into the war mincer, and then more millions were deprived of their life by being casualties of war before it had even really begun.

The difference those people and their potential children not being on the planet is incalculable. We can't for sure how those events of the 18th and 20th century will shape the world, but we must acknowledge that they have/will."

I agree but The first war was of greater importance. It was the first time that europe truly saw the horrors of modern warfare (by the second world war, people were far less shocked by modern warfare.) The first world war is truly what brought europe into the 20th century, or rather european thought into the 20th century. And also, the failure at Versailles and all the loose strings left after the great war, lead directly to Russian Communism, Hitler's huge popularity and the second world war.

deguonis
05-19-2011, 01:31 PM
:)

Hi,

I've found this list by chance long time ago prior to joining this forum:

The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History. By Michael H. Hart

http://www.howard.k12.md.us/glenwood/sapple/sapple/toptenlistweb.pdf
:)

mortalterror
05-19-2011, 02:08 PM
Religion: Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Buddha, Lao-Tzu, Zarathustra, Luther
Philosophy: Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, Descartes,
Science: Newton, Darwin, Galileo, Copernicus, Archimedes, Euclid, Harvey, Faraday, Pasteur
Economics: Adam Smith
Writing: Homer, Vyasa, Valmiki, Firdawsi, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare
Conquest: Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Tamerlane, Julius Caesar, Charlemagne, Qin Shi Huang, Shaka Zulu

Also whoever invented fire, the wheel, agriculture, pottery, writing, domesticated animals, indoor plumbing, and the city.

LitNetIsGreat
05-19-2011, 02:59 PM
:)

Hi,

I've found this list by chance long time ago prior to joining this forum:

The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History. By Michael H. Hart

http://www.howard.k12.md.us/glenwood/sapple/sapple/toptenlistweb.pdf
:)

No. 31 on that list???


Edward de Vere (William Shakespeare)
1550-1604
Playwright and poet
Wrote at least 36 plays (including Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Julius Caesar, and Othello

:toetap05:

Lokasenna
05-19-2011, 06:02 PM
No. 31 on that list???



:toetap05:

Yes, that rather costs it some credibility with me as well!

stlukesguild
05-19-2011, 09:52 PM
Yes, that rather costs it some credibility with me as well!

Yes... but it will certainly raise it in the esteem of our friend, Robert (Musicology)... although I'm not sure if he has it that de Vere was Shakespeare... or if rather Queen Elizabeth and Elvis wrote the whole of the plays with the aid of Goethe (who was actually Oscar Wilde) the Jesuits and the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles. :mad2:

mortalterror
05-20-2011, 04:07 AM
That's a really nice list, with the exception of that bit about Edward de Vere. You know, Edward de Vere actually published some of his own poems, and they don't look anything like Shakespeare's. I remember thinking that they seemed like the product of a very intelligent but untalented man.

Ubercritter
05-20-2011, 12:52 PM
Economics: Adam Smith
.

I would add to this list:

Marx: no economics can claim legitimacy without first coming to terms with Marxism.

Keynes: because he was a major player in the shifting of economic power during world war II.

Friedman: undoubtedly one of the most controversial economists of the 20th century.

Delta40
05-20-2011, 07:08 PM
Jeremy Bentham

Vonny
05-20-2011, 10:12 PM
I think the most important person in history is the one who has the smile that makes you feel absolutely crazy!

IceM
05-21-2011, 02:52 PM
The thread says people, so I'll throw some names out there.

For the foundation of American government, I think James Madison deserves at least an honorary mention. Although formed in compromise, he basically penned the constitution.

Agreed with Bhudda*, Christ, and Alexander the Great.

This one will probably get shot down, but in my books, LBJ deserves a huge mention. The Civil Rights legislation (albeit influenced by MLK and Malcolm X more than LBJ's own intentions) is instrumental to contemporary and future rights of minorities. To me, a Southerner ending segregation is a big deal.

Alexander III
05-21-2011, 03:13 PM
The thread says people, so I'll throw some names out there.

For the foundation of American government, I think James Madison deserves at least an honorary mention. Although formed in compromise, he basically penned the constitution.

Agreed with Bhudda*, Christ, and Alexander the Great.

This one will probably get shot down, but in my books, LBJ deserves a huge mention. The Civil Rights legislation (albeit influenced by MLK and Malcolm X more than LBJ's own intentions) is instrumental to contemporary and future rights of minorities. To me, a Southerner ending segregation is a big deal.

The problem with most of these is that they are distinctly American, america has been around for 200 years, and it has only been a powerful nation for 100 years. In terms of human written history, America is a wink.

Buh4Bee
05-22-2011, 08:24 AM
If you aren't American that viewpoint is very clear, but to many Americans that idea is shocking. Strange as it may be.

Propter W.
05-22-2011, 09:34 AM
If you aren't American that viewpoint is very clear, but to many Americans that idea is shocking. Strange as it may be.

Ain't that the truth.

David Lurie
05-22-2011, 10:51 AM
who are the most important and influential figures in human history?

If I get it right you are talking about important and influential figures a posteriori, we are not talking about figures who were important and influential only in their own time even when their power and influence was very deep, but where we draw the line? and what kind of value has chance in all of this? Saint Paul - the real founder of Christianity - and Mohamed are hard to beat but what role has played chance in making their legacy everlasting?
Probably chance is a necessary attribute of every historical figure whose importance and influence has expanded well beyond his/her life span, but wouldn't it be fair to recognize the greatness of the figures who were revolutionaries in their own time? Figures whose will was a decisive factor in making them important and influential? looking at it this way I'd say Mohamed is much greater than Saint Paul (basically a by-product of the roman empire).
Anyway, though chance has played its obvious role for them too I'm unable to imagine the course of the world in the last 500 years without the actions performed by Luther and Columbus.

Lokasenna
05-22-2011, 12:30 PM
If I get it right you are talking about important and influential figures a posteriori, we are not talking about figures who were important and influential only in their own time even when their power and influence was very deep, but where we draw the line? and what kind of value has chance in all of this? Saint Paul - the real founder of Christianity - and Mohamed are hard to beat but what role has played chance in making their legacy everlasting?
Probably chance is a necessary attribute of every historical figure whose importance and influence has expanded well beyond his/her life span, but wouldn't it be fair to recognize the greatness of the figures who were revolutionaries in their own time? Figures whose will was a decisive factor in making them important and influential? looking at it this way I'd say Mohamed is much greater than Saint Paul (basically a by-product of the roman empire).
Anyway, though chance has played its obvious role for them too I'm unable to imagine the course of the world in the last 500 years without the actions performed by Luther and Columbus.

I originally meant it in the sense of historical people who have had a major impact on the shaping of the modern world - but I suppose people can interpret that as they see fit!

Saint Paul, Mohamed and Luther I can see - but Columbus? Not so sure about that one...

Emil Miller
05-22-2011, 01:37 PM
Saint Paul, Mohamed and Luther I can see - but Columbus? Not so sure about that one...

Well if Columbus hadn't discovered America we wouldn't have had many important scientific inventions such as the modern computer, as well as household labour-saving devices like the washing machine, the vacuum cleaner, the sewing machine etc. Not to mention Elvis, lime flavoured popsicles, Desperate Housewives, Ronald McDonald, GWB.. ..the list goes on.

Propter W.
05-22-2011, 02:52 PM
Well if Columbus hadn't discovered America we wouldn't have had many important scientific inventions such as the modern computer, as well as household labour-saving devices like the washing machine, the vacuum cleaner, the sewing machine etc. Not to mention Elvis, lime flavoured popsicles, Desperate Housewives, Ronald McDonald, GWB.. ..the list goes on.

Or we might have had better computers, flying cars and jet packs. Who knows, eh?

David Lurie
05-22-2011, 03:11 PM
but Columbus? Not so sure about that one...

Well, I am not here to convince you but just imagine a world without him and let's face it: we have no idea if - and when - Europeans would have discovered the New World without Columbus' obsession and wrong calculations, nobody knew nor imagined that there was land between the West and the East, this would be interesting stuff for alternative history. What would have been of Spain without the gold of the Americas? and what about tomato/potato/etcetera that will slowly change and improve the diet of a ravaged Europe? what about the Mediterranean Sea remaining forever the center of the (European) world? there are so many crazy scenarios you can imagine ... it's almost a pity that Columbus ruined them all with his idée fixe :brow:

Propter W.
05-22-2011, 03:25 PM
Well, I am not here to convince you but just imagine a world without him and let's face it: we have no idea if - and when - Europeans would have discovered the New World without Columbus' obsession and wrong calculations, nobody knew nor imagined that there was land between the West and the East, this would be interesting stuff for alternative history. What would have been of Spain without the gold of the Americas? and what about tomato/potato/etcetera that will slowly change and improve the diet of a ravaged Europe? what about the Mediterranean Sea remaining forever the center of the (European) world? there are so many crazy scenarios you can imagine ... it's almost a pity that Columbus ruined them all with his idée fixe :brow:

Actually, Columbus wasn't the first European to discover America.

David Lurie
05-22-2011, 03:38 PM
Actually, Columbus wasn't the first European to discover America.

In my opinion a discovery brings knowledge and historical consequences.

Emil Miller
05-22-2011, 04:32 PM
I think the most important person in history is the one who has the smile that makes you feel absolutely crazy!

Now I wonder who that could be.

Alexander III
05-22-2011, 04:35 PM
Actually, Columbus wasn't the first European to discover America.

If by that you are trying to be clever and sate that it was indeed Amerigo Vespucci who discovered America, you are still wrong. He discovered the mainland of what is now U.S.A, after Columbus discovered the west indies. However for those of of us who know that America does not equal U.S.A, Columbus was the first to do it.

Now an argument may be held for the icelandic explorers who arrived in Canada several centuries before Columbus. They were the first to set foot in America, but they wee not the first to Discover it. To Discover a land one must produce some form of documentation of it. Or at leas that is how we define discovery nowadays.

That is also why the claim that it was the Chinese general Zehng He, who discovered, is not accepted. While it is entirely possible that he did land there first, he produced no documentation of his discovery and thus it cannot be accredited to him and the Chinese.

Emil Miller
05-22-2011, 04:40 PM
As Oscar Wilde said: "America was discovered many times before Columbus but they always managed to hush it up."

MarkBastable
05-22-2011, 04:53 PM
Tim Berners-Lee. I'm not saying he invented the Internet, and obviously it couldn't exist without a thousand other innovations. But his contribution is having the vision to ensure it is free and open. Thats a huge contribution to world history and is getting huger by the year .

Can I trot out my 'he was a couple of years above me at school' thing?

Lokasenna
05-22-2011, 04:54 PM
We know for a fact that the Vikings discovered America some five centuries before Columbus - not only do we have several sagas relating the discovery of 'Vinland', but archeaologists have also found Viking Age artefacts there as well.

But that aside, even in Columbus' time, there were other European sailors who had seen bits of the americas - they just hadn't landed. I attended a lecture on 14th/15th century cartography the other week, and the chap who gave it was showing that a lot of the maps produced around that time put lands out there, with remarkable accuracy in terms of placement. Though not officially confirmed, the knowledge of the presence of land out there was obviously doing the rounds among the sea-faring classes.

MarkBastable
05-22-2011, 04:59 PM
In other words, Columbus may not have known what it was, but he had a pretty good idea it was there.

Propter W.
05-22-2011, 06:10 PM
If by that you are trying to be clever and sate that it was indeed Amerigo Vespucci who discovered America, you are still wrong. He discovered the mainland of what is now U.S.A, after Columbus discovered the west indies. However for those of of us who know that America does not equal U.S.A, Columbus was the first to do it.

Now an argument may be held for the icelandic explorers who arrived in Canada several centuries before Columbus. They were the first to set foot in America, but they wee not the first to Discover it. To Discover a land one must produce some form of documentation of it. Or at leas that is how we define discovery nowadays.

That is also why the claim that is was the Chinese general Zehng He who dissevered it is not accepted. While it is entirely possible that he did land there first, he produced no documentation of his discovery and thus it cannot be accredited to him and the Chinese.

See Lokasenna's post. He explains it rather well, I think.

IceM
05-22-2011, 10:17 PM
The problem with most of these is that they are distinctly American, america has been around for 200 years, and it has only been a powerful nation for 100 years. In terms of human written history, America is a wink.



If you aren't American that viewpoint is very clear, but to many Americans that idea is shocking. Strange as it may be.

The thread asks for the most important people in history, not giving a specific starting point as to when people will be considered. My two American nominations were, to me, perhaps the most important in American history.

I'm clearly aware America as a nation hasn't existed as long as the Roman Empire, but my nominations were for American "History."

Why not say Adam and Eve? If the Bible is true word for word, didn't we spawn from them?

OrphanPip
05-22-2011, 11:35 PM
Even if we want to say Columbus was the first someone would have got there eventually.

There is also evidence that the Portuguese knew of the existence of Brazil from their sailing techniques that brought them through the mid-Atlantic to their West African Colonies to avoid rough waters. Which may be why the Portuguese insisted on claiming newly discovered territories East of the Bahamas.

MarkBastable
05-23-2011, 12:37 AM
The thread asks for the most important people in history, not giving a specific starting point as to when people will be considered. My two American nominations were, to me, perhaps the most important in American history.


In that case I nominate the Headmaster of my local Primary School, who discovered a gas leak last Thursday at 7:30 am, and had it mended before the kids arrived.

The thread asks for the most important people in history, not giving a specific starting point as to when people will be considered - and I've chosen the 1st May 2011 as my starting point, and I'm limiting myself to the history of Croydon and nearby towns.

IceM
05-23-2011, 01:37 AM
In that case I nominate the Headmaster of my local Primary School, who discovered a gas leak last Thursday at 7:30 am, and had it mended before the kids arrived.

The thread asks for the most important people in history, not giving a specific starting point as to when people will be considered - and I've chosen the 1st May 2011 as my starting point, and I'm limiting myself to the history of Croydon and nearby towns.

Legititimate nomination, I hear.

Lokasenna
05-23-2011, 03:25 AM
Although I gave no starting point, I did suggest that our criteria should be that these people have had an huge impact on the shaping of world history. Lovely though I'm sure Croyden is, it hasn't exactly shaped the modern world!


Why not say Adam and Eve? If the Bible is true word for word, didn't we spawn from them?

Most people, including most Christians, would not suggest the Bible is true word for word. However, what about Mitochondrial Eve? As the progenitor of the human race, she's got to be of major importance.

howard16
05-23-2011, 11:43 AM
That's a really nice list, with the exception of that bit about Edward de Vere. You know, Edward de Vere actually published some of his own poems, and they don't look anything like Shakespeare's. I remember thinking that they seemed like the product of a very intelligent but untalented man.

There are only twenty poems (approximately) either written under Oxford's name or attributed to him. A precise one-on-one comparison to Shakespeare is very difficult. There are so few of Oxford's poems and most of them are from his early years, while the poems published under the name of Shakespeare is from his later years when he was over 40. One can hardly compare the teenage works of great artists whit their mature output.

Yet even so, there are similarities in themes, language, and styles, though of course they in no way match the beauty of Shakespeare's later work.

OrphanPip
05-23-2011, 11:56 AM
Mitochondrial Eve isn't the progenitor of the human race though, she's the last common matrilineal ancestor. She had several progenitors who are each in turn equally progenitors of every living human being.

Lokasenna
05-23-2011, 01:44 PM
Mitochondrial Eve isn't the progenitor of the human race though, she's the last common matrilineal ancestor. She had several progenitors who are each in turn equally progenitors of every living human being.

Fair enough - I'll admit to not being much of a biologist! But even so, doesn't that make her important? Again, I've no idea of the correct technical vocabulary, but doesn't this make her the prototype of our species?

OrphanPip
05-24-2011, 12:10 AM
Fair enough - I'll admit to not being much of a biologist! But even so, doesn't that make her important? Again, I've no idea of the correct technical vocabulary, but doesn't this make her the prototype of our species?

No, this is a common misunderstanding though. The mitochondria is unique in that it is passed down matrilineally, thus it is not effected by any gene swapping or sexual reproduction. With most genes sexual reproduction obscures the last common ancestor, who likely lived at very different times from mitochondrial Eve. Just as Y-chromosome Adam lived over 50, 000 years after mito-Eve. Mitochondrial Eve is a woman who everyone is related to through their mother, but there are numerous historical people who we are all related to. The most recent just from lineage (without looking at specific genes) lived some 10-15 thousand years ago. For people of Western European decent, we all share a MRCA of some 500 years ago. That's where the kind of anecdotes about Ghenghis Kahn and his numerous offspring come from. That is essentially true of most people who lived a few hundred years ago.

We probably share a lineage with other women who lived alongside Mito Eve, but not through an unbroken matrilineal line. She is also not the first woman, or the source of most of our genes, we would have an entirely different MRCA for most genes if we had the capability to track them (we don't because lineage of genes passed on through sexual reproduction become obscured after a number of generations).

themiddleprince
05-28-2011, 09:31 AM
There is no most important person. The mother of Genghis Khan is more important than the man himself because if he hadn't done what he did the other sperm/egg combination she produced instead could have done; or a completely different Mongol chieftan. GK would have achieved nothing that we remember him for if his people had ignored him. Communities and their values are the important factors; Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha are all just opinionated god-botherers like so many others around them until communities grow around their teachings. These forums are full of plays and poems that will be glanced at by two people late at night; Shakespeare (or whoever) wrote among a community of players and theatregoers. Alexander, in the early posts on this thread, is cited because he shaped the Hellenic culture: it's the Hellenic culture's acceptance of his influence - and the influence of every man and woman who made a baby, a pot or a poem - that shaped history.

MarkBastable
05-28-2011, 09:39 AM
There is no most important person.

I don't think anyone's suggesting there is. It's a discussion for intellectual fun, rather than a proposition by which we all might live our lives.

themiddleprince
05-28-2011, 09:51 AM
It's a discussion for intellectual fun, rather than a proposition by which we all might live our lives.

It wasn't my intention to kill the thread, just chuck in a different perspective for people to refute with proof of why their hero is the keystone of humanity. A great many people do of course choose to live their lives by the propositions of their heroes.

They then band with others of the same ilk and form a community...

MarkBastable
05-28-2011, 09:58 AM
Well, yeah - but the "Genghis Khan's mum" argument is either refutable in every case, and therefore no use as an argument at all, or it applies in every case, and therefore does kill the thread stone-dead.