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HISTORY’S TOP 100
In this era of Lists, a 46-year-old professor of astrophysics at Trinity University in San Antonio has come up with the most fascinating of all. Michael H. Hart has written a book titled The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History (Hart Publishing Co., $12.50), in which he picks the 98 men and two women who he thinks have had the most profound effect on the course of the world. They’re the “most influential,” not the “greatest,” he carefully points out, nor “most powerful” nor “most charismatic.” Hart has also had the courage to rank them by their impact. It is the stuff of a thousand dinner-table debates.
Muhammad is No. 1 because “he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels.” Second? Isaac Newton, “the most influential scientist who ever lived.” Third? Jesus. And so on. Christopher Columbus is ninth, the Wright brothers (as a single entry) 30th, John F. Kennedy 80th (for sending men to the moon) and atomic scientist Niels Bohr is 100th. The two women are Queen Isabella, Columbus’ patroness, and Queen Elizabeth I. Almost as fascinating as the top 100 are the 100 runners-up. Among them: Susan B. Anthony, the Virgin Mary, Socrates, Presidents Lincoln, FDR and Truman, and Frank Lloyd Wright.
Hart’s book is selling briskly, and has spawned intellectual party games: “Name the three most influential people in the world today,” “Who are the five most important people in your life?” “Give me four adults who were most memorable as children in this century,” etc. It’s exasperating and fun. The Miami Herald recently polled its readers for their lists of the 10 most influential. The results in order: Jesus, Einstein, Columbus, Moses, Pasteur, Edison, Newton, Muhammad, Buddha, Shakespeare. Elvis Presley got four votes. See what The 100 has started?