November 11, 2010

"The Top 100 Influential Figures in American History."

I'm going to click through all this, beginning with Herman Melville at #100 — he's "the American Shakespeare." Come with me. #99 is Nixon! Why's Nixon only 99? I know. He's ugly. And we hate him. Have to click to 86 to get to the first woman. It's Mary Baker Eddy, who, of course, influenced health care reform. Another lady at 81. It's Margaret Mead, famous for being had by 3d world pranksters. Nothing more American than that. A woman at 77: Betty Friedan. I never read her book. I thought it was for my parents' generation. My — my my my — generation transcended sex roles. We were star dust, we were golden.

Frank Lloyd Wright is 76. Architects may come and architects may go, and never change your point of view. Not Frank. He'd sock you in the head with a low-hanging roof as soon as look at you. He was from Wisconsin. That's important. So was Georgia O'Keeffe, who might be on this list. She's a woman, you know. 20 bonus points for being a woman? Here's Jane Addams at 64. Another woman. And I, your humble female blogger, would like to register a complaint against my high school speech teacher who rejected my proposal to do a speech on the topic of Jane Addams. He said she wasn't important enough. I used to want to be a social worker.

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. is 53. The only judge so far. Another woman at 51: Margaret Sanger. (A "thoroughgoing racist" says Jonah Goldberg.) Not too many Presidents. After Nixon, you have to wait until #44 for another President. It's Lyndon Johnson. I call him "LBJ." Works better in rhyming chants. LOL! It's Eleanor Roosevelt at #42. "She used the first lady’s office and the mass media to become 'first lady of the world.'" Women playing the media to focus attention on themselves. Yeah, I guess that's a big deal in American culture. She's responsible for that? All right then. 

Harriet Beecher Stowe. #41. The power of novels. Rachel Carson is #39. She saved the eagles... and the mosquitoes. Susan B. Anthony is 38. Elizabeth Cady Stanton is #30. Women's rights. Earl Warren is 29. A second judge. Eisenhower is 28. A third President. Eli Whitney deserves to be 27: "His gin made cotton king and sustained an empire for slavery."

John Adams at 25? Come on? Is HBO/David McCullough the arbiter of history? But yeah, he was President. Truman is 21. A 5th President. Man, get a David McCullough biography about you to cement your historical importance. Andrew Jackson is 18. A 6th President. Reagan's 17. That's 7. Theodore Roosevelt is 15. The 8th Prez on the list, and the 2d of what I predict will be 3 Roosevelts. James Madison is 13. The 9th President, a Founding Father. Ulysses S. Grant gets to be 12. A 10th Prez. And he won the war. Woodrow Wilson is #10 and the 11th President on the list. Martin Luther King Jr. is only #8. John Marshall is #7, the 3d judge. Ben Franklin is 6, deservedly. Another Founder at 5: Alexander Hamilton. FDR snags #4 and is the 12th President on the list. Jefferson is #3, so you know who ##1 and 2 are. And Lincoln beats Washington for the top spot. A total of 15 Presidents.

The final count for women was 10. 10 out of 100. (I think.) Fair enough. I'm not going to say there should have been more. If they'd counted femaleness as a plus factor, they'd have had to "plus-factor" a lot of other groups, and they didn't. Not one Native American?! That's politically incorrect.

ADDED: Actually there were a couple more Presidents, Polk and John Quincy Adams. I'm noticing this leaning over Meade's shoulder as he clicks through. Sorry. My effort was studiously haphazard.

73 comments:

JAY said...

Rachel Carson is #39. She saved the eagles... and the mosquitoes.

Heh.

She was an out & out propagandist.

And of course a hero to the left...

Maguro said...

Damn...no Warren G. Harding? Trooper will be heartbroken.

Sixty Grit said...
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RichardS said...

John Adams was more responsible than any other single figure for us having a strong executive, with a veto, plus a two house legislature, and separation of powers among the branches (with overlaps, to allow them to defend themselves). The U.S. constitution purified the Massachusetts constitution that he drafted in 1779 (and which was also the first constitution to be drafted by a convention and ratified by the people), and added federalism. Before Madison wrote "ambition must be made to counteract ambition," Adams wrote, "power must be opposed to power and interest to interest." Plus he was the strongest force pushing for independence in 1776. Not a bad record for a founding father.

Trooper York said...

Damn straight. Warren G. Harding was an American Hero. He died in the saddle serving his country.

So to speak.

Sixty Grit said...
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Big Mike said...

What RichardS says is true enough, but to me the most salient thing about Adams was that he lost his election, to a man he despised, and then quietly went home to Quincy.

That was the true American revolution. For the first time in history a government changed hands from one man to a person not of his choosing, without violence and with no effort to hang onto the reins of government by violence.

Trooper York said...

"Show of hands from you Y*nkees who have ever heard of the Boston Slave Market. Yep"

That's where they got David Ortiz. Everybody knows that.

That's why BOSTON SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Crack Emcee said...

And we care why again?

Meade said...

They left out the Beatles, Daniel Boone, Frank Sinatra and InstaPundit. Bah!

Lem said...

Washington has given way to Lincoln?

A nod to the improbability that was the Obama presidency no doubt.

Meade said...

"That was the true American revolution. For the first time in history a government changed hands from one man to a person not of his choosing, without violence and with no effort to hang onto the reins of government by violence."

So true. That, and our founding documents = American exceptionalism.

Lem said...

They left out Bob Dylan?

Sixty Grit said...
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ricpic said...

Since the United States is essentially a Lockean project the most influential American of them all is John Locke, a Scotsman.

Is John Dewey on the list? Hugely influential and hugely destructive. Responsible for stamping the progressive agenda into the defenseless minds of generations of American schoolchildren.

Fernandinande said...

The people you mentioned all had a pretty trivial influence compared to the inventors and developers of the telephone, cars, computers, phones, TVs, medical gizmos, etc. Those people actually made long-standing contributions and changes to society, but politicians, judges and such - not to mention actors and poets - really don't make much difference at all in the long run.

Sixty Grit said...
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Lem said...

Welcome to tea party nation Trooper.

Where did the tea party began?

that's right - The great city of Boston.

The Yankees suck!!!!

Lem said...

Yea but without Washington you would not have a United States at all.. at least that's what I've heard all my life..

Meade said...

Lem: You'll find Bob Dylan on the Top Influential Living Americans list.

Lyle said...

I don't know if Georgia O'Keefe deserves to be on that list... but she was a pretty fascinating figure. Was just in Santa Fe at her museum... and had no idea she had such a sexy body in her youth.

She was an artist though and was out there on the periphery of American life... so maybe not a top 100 spot. She was awesome nonetheless.

ricpic said...

The elevation of the ghastly paintings of the ghastly Georgia O'Keefe in the pantheon of American painters over the work of Dove, Burchfield, Benton, Curry and more is testament to the power of the feminist mafia to dictate cultural rank.

edutcher said...

You can tell a lot of hard core Lefties were all over that list. Where's Jefferson Davis, William Lloyd Garrison, John Fremont (or, at least, Thomas Hart Benton), any of the great railroad builders, Douglas MacArthur (if only for starting the debate over "In war, there can be no substitute for victory")?

And where, oh where, is Barry Goldwater? He may have been on the pad to the Mafia, but there would be no Tea Party or Ronald Reagan without him.

AJ Lynch said...

No Philo Farnsworth who invented the TV?

No American Indians? I find that very satisfying since historians have demonized Columbus.

No Bill Clinton? He will be destraught and maybe suicidal.

chickelit said...

Everybody always forgets Norman Borlaug, but perhaps I confuse influential with important.

Meade said...

Johnny Appleseed

AJ Lynch said...

And no journolisters either?

traditionalguy said...

You left out my High School Football coach and mentor: Frank B Jernigan. Now there was a great man. If you put in Eli Whitney, then why not the man who freed the slaves: Tecumseh Sherman and his Have Army Will Travel feats? He is remembered around here.

SteveR said...

@Lyle I agree with you 100%

I just don't think you can compare 18th century figures with those from the late 20th.

Lem said...

Thanks Meade..

The internet people should be closer to #1.. the failure to properly notice its relevance may reflect Atlantic's own poor internet ad sales..

Just saying..

traditionalguy said...

And where is Kit Carson who single handedly won the South West and California?

Lem said...

..feminist mafia

lol

Youngblood said...

Names you will never see on this kind of list, but deserve to be there, in no particular order:

Bernarr MacFadden: The most influential member of the physical culture movement and the inventor of the modern magazine industry. His True magazines (True Romance, True Story, etc.) prefigured reality media and Web 2.0 by about 80 years. For good or ill, he did more to popularize the works of Margaret Sanger than pretty much anyone else.

So, whenever you watch a reality TV show, see a body-building magazine, watch a boxing match, read a magazine, or consider your position on abortion, remember MacFadden.

Owen Wister: The author of the smash-hit novel The Virginian, which gave birth to the entire Western genre. To the extent that the cowboy is an iconic American archetype, we ultimately have Wister to thank.

James Kirk Paulding: The author of The Lion of the West, the second most famous play in pre-Civil War America and one which ran for decades. An early proponent of establishing a distinctly American identity through literature, he earned the praise (and influenced the thinking of) James Fenimore Cooper and Edgar Allan Poe (and, as we know, Mellville found inspiration in Poe's work).

Edwin S. Porter: He pretty much single-handedly invented the narrative film (with The Great Train Robbery) and, in doing so, he laid the foundation for the entertainment industry in the 20th century.

Know your hidden history!

former law student said...

Another lady at 81. It's Margaret Mead, famous for being had by 3d world pranksters.

Freeman, huh? The professor always loves a contrarian. I suggest reading Shankman's The Trashing of Margaret Mead, published by her own employer last year, for a balanced perspective of the controversy.

Lyle said...

@traditionalguy

I feel Kit Carson was more myth than fact. The reason he's famous is simply because he happened to get on a steamer and befriend John C. Fremont. At Fremont self promoted himself along with Kit Carson who then became news item for people back East.

He was one amongst many who penetrated the virgin lands and forests of Western of America.

AJ Lynch said...

Any early 20th century union leaders on it? A few were heroic and made lasting positive changes on people's lives.

former law student said...

Edwin S. Porter: He pretty much single-handedly invented the narrative film (with The Great Train Robbery) and, in doing so, he laid the foundation for the entertainment industry in the 20th century.

Yes, Edison hired Porter and set him to work.

Meade said...

AJ: Yes - Samuel Gompers, who said, "The worst crime against working people is a company which fails to operate at a profit."

former law student said...

These figures are rated by their influence, not by their virtue or excellence.

Sixty Grit said...
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Sixty Grit said...
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AJ Lynch said...

Meade:
What a great truism. I may get a plaque with that on it for my office.

former law student said...

What about John V. Atanasoff? Sure, he was born in Bulgaria, but he invented the digital computer in Iowa.

Atanasoff invented an electronic digital computer. Konrad Zuse of Germany invented the first digital computer.

Sixty Grit said...
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Kansas City said...

Nice to see Grant getting recognition. He was a big deal, but has large been forgotten and unfairly criticized in the last 100 years.

Kansas City said...

Reagan too. Lefties would have gone crazy in the 1980's if they knew how much adulation and recognition would be coming Reagan's way.

You think George W. is next?

edutcher said...

Lyle said...

@traditionalguy

I feel Kit Carson was more myth than fact. The reason he's famous is simply because he happened to get on a steamer and befriend John C. Fremont. At Fremont self promoted himself along with Kit Carson who then became news item for people back East.

He was one amongst many who penetrated the virgin lands and forests of Western of America.


Wrong. Or, more importantly, backwards. Fremont would have been nothing without Little Chief. Fremont would have died in the San Juans if Kit Carson had not rescued him. He was as well known for breaking through the Mexican lines at San Pascual to get help and then bringing the dispatches of the capture of California to DC. Carson was among the premier mountain men, one of the best Indian agents, and shrewdest Indian fighters of his time.

He was the real deal.

Methadras said...

Hey Ann, how come you haven't commented on how white this list is? It's whitey white white.

wv = Gaunfing = The name of my next MASCULINE AD&D character.

Christy said...

Henry Clay was cute! Who knew?

Like Chicklit, I was disappointed not to find Norman Borlaug.

Watson, but no Crick? Or did I just miss him?

I'd say most every American who won a Nobel prize in Medicine had more invisible influence than half the list. Take Rosalyn Yalow, 1977 winner as an example. From wiki:The discoveries by Yalow and her co-discoverer Berson for which they received the Nobel prize, radioimmunoassay (RIA), measures a multitude of substances found in tiny quantities in the human body, including viruses, drugs and hormones. The RIA allows blood-donor supplies to be screened for hepatitis, identifies hormone-related health problems, detects in the blood many foreign substances including some cancers, and measures to effectiveness of dose levels of antibiotics and drugs. You figure her work has had an impact on all of us?

Sixty Grit said...
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Chase said...

I did a report in the 5th grade on Grant. It was supposed to be entered into the "Great Americans" contest and would have provided a trip to Washington DC for the winner.

I found out during my research in the school encyclopedias (thank you Britannica, World Book, and "the Book of Knowledge Encyclopedia"), that Ulysses S Grant was actually a terrible President. And a drunk. During Cabinet Meetings no less. And that was a small part of it. And I wrote my paper explaining that I looked forward to studying a great American, but was disappointed to discover Grant was a great general but a failed President.

I did not win the contest.

Quaestor said...

ricpic wrote: ...the most influential American of them all is John Locke, a Scotsman.

No. Locke was a West Country lad from Somerset (or as they say "Zummerzet")

Meade is distressed that the Beatles aren't on the list? That damned hippy generation won't ever get over themselves, will they?

So ten percent are women. The fact that Ann is keeping score on the ratio of men to women in a list compiled by a bunch of smug soi disant intellectuals is a bit unsettling.

And what cluster defective neurons came up with Susan B. Anthony? Besides being as ugly as ten miles of bad road and appearing on the most unused piece of US coinage ever minted merits her inclusion on a top-100 list which rates Melville #100??

Quaestor said...

chickelit wrote: "Everybody always forgets Norman Borlaug, but perhaps I confuse influential with important."

Well done. Those stupid fuckers over at The Atlantic are all Eng Lit, Poli Sci, and Arts majors. Talk about blinkered ignorance, thy name is The Atlantic.

Bender said...

Maybe I misunderstood, but I thought that the most "influential" persons would, you know, have influenced a lot of people, and not merely have been accomplished, powerful, etc.

As great as Abraham Lincoln was, where and when did he really influence anyone?? In fact, nearly half the country rejected any and all influence by him and tried to secede from the Union. And those that stayed were already pro-Union and/or anti-slavery.

If I was forced to say who was the most influential American of all time -- who influenced people in the greatest and most significant way -- I would hazard to guess that it would be Thomas Paine. Were it not for the influence of Common Sense, a sufficient number of people might not have gone over to support Independence, and we might still be part of the British empire.

MadisonMan said...

What about John V. Atanasoff? Sure, he was born in Bulgaria, but he invented the digital computer in Iowa. Plus, he was a friend and neighbor.

My grandfather recommended funding some of Atanasoff's work in Iowa.

Re: Adams, I will add his defense of the Boston Massacre Redcoats is pretty definitely definitively American.

BJM said...

@Sixty

Exactly, not only did they overlook Shockley but Linus Pauling?!!11!

Pauling was one of only four Laureates to have won multiple Noble Prizes, and one of only two for winning in two fields (Marie Curie was the other) and the only Laureate who has won two unshared Noble Prizes.

Crick, the Brit who shared the Noble with Watson regarded Pauling as the father of molecular biology, so Watson was a cart before the horse selection. Plus Pauling was a '60's peacnik! Shoulda been a shoo-in.


However this made me LOL!

Living list

#7 William F. Buckley Jr.

One would think they might notice that Buckley, the outspoken founder and editor of the most influential conservative magazine of the last fifty years, who laid the groundwork for the modern conservative movement, AKA their arch-nemesis, has been dead for over TWO freaking years!

pm317 said...

Obama at #0, the 18th president..

Kansas City said...

Chase:

You were victim of the 20th century turn and bias against Grant. I'm not sure why it happened. Part of it was the romanticizing of Lee. Maybe in the process, "historians" felt the need to bash all things Grant.

Grant actually was a decent president. He viewed the powers of the office as limited, but he tried to protect the recently won freedom of blacks, and he was personally honest. He could have won a third term, but was tired of politics. He nearly secured the nomination in 1880 and presumably would have been elected again. He was a gifted writer and author of the best autobiography of any president (in only covered through the war), which he wrote while wracked with cancer and dying.

He probably is as responsible as Lincoln (maybe more) for the preservation of the union. Overall, Grant was a great American and, to top it off, a modest man.

Alex said...

Hack list generated by a hack media. The inclusion of lots of hack Democrat presidents and literary figures and the notable exclusion of inventors, railroad builders and capitalists is very noteworthy indeed.

bagoh20 said...

I think Washington can't be placed high enough. First because of the improbability of winning independence in the first place from the most powerful nation on earth at the time, which I think was not possible without him. And second for as Meade mentions, he single-handedly confirmed that what he had liberated would be a democratic republic by passing up the power that few in history ever do after finding it in their hands. Magnaminity in a wig. What luck that such a man was where and when history needed him most.

An exceptional man gave birth to an exceptional nation. No one else on the list could have been great without him.

T J Sawyer said...

John Von Neumann? See Atom bomb, computer, game theory and MAD (Mutual Assured Destruction).

Lee DeForest? Only the vacuum tube.

Shockley, as has been mentioned, for the transistor, of course.

And how would I rank these versus Babe Ruth? Well, quite differently than most residents of my local school district who would put an athletic field in place well ahead of a science lab. But professional historians? I expect better.

former law student said...

According to an algorithm of my own devising, Lee DeForest is precisely as influential as S. I. Hiyakawa.

Von Neumann just wishes he were as influential as Alan Turing.

Chase said...

kc,

Thanks for your comment. It makes me intrigued enough to want to look into Grant's Presidency again after 4 decades have passed since my essay.

I take slight issue with your comment re: Lee. While it is true that Lee's legacy has been romanced, my issues as an 11 year old were with Grant's Presidency and not his time as General. apart from that, I am not one who takes such a rosy view of Robert E Lee, then or now.

Of course, I may be mistaken in all of this. Perhaps I was thinking of "W.T. Grant"?

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"Not one Native American?! That's politically incorrect."

If you poll of a bunch of white racist history professors - every single one of them a Democrat - then you shouldn't be surprised to get answers that seem like you just polled the Ku Klux Klan.

To Democrats ... Lewis and Clark were the influential ones ... but not Sacajawea.

Because Lewis & Clark were white.

These professors - again, they're all Democrats - should be fucking be ashamed of themselves.

A.Worthing said...

btw, as far as needing a McCullough biography of truman to get him the respect he deserves... well, except that it already exists. Go to amazon.com and look up McCullough truman and this pops up:

http://www.amazon.com/Truman-David-McCullough/dp/0671869205

which is only an ankle-biting nitpick.

Lincolntf said...

I'd say Lincoln is rightly atop the list. Because he has become such a larger than life figure people tend to take him for granted. Apart from all his well known political and oratorical gifts he had an immense depth. He wrote far better poetry than our current CinC, that's for sure. And I believe he's the only President to hold a U.S. patent.

Of course this is just a subjective view and "influential" is in the eye of the beholder. With all the thousands of books about Lincoln, I love learning new things about the man.

c3 said...

Is there no way to just see the list!!

Do have to go through the pictures one by one?

My first impression, we Americans are so full of ourselves. We so much want to see our ideals as the driving force of our nation (and I'm a very strong believer in those ideals) But isn't so much of what we are today driven by opportunity and a desire to succeed (or put another way, to compete and win!). If so then this list is painfully short on business, management, innovation etc.

For example:Frederick Winslow Taylor (management as science), Peter Drucker (modern management theory), Ray Kroc (retail food for the masses), Richard Sears (shopping/buying without travelling), and for an real odd one how about Ralph Schneider and Frank McNamara (founders of Diners Club and the original credit card)

c3 said...
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c3 said...

Not to wax too philosophical but is America the land of freedom as exemplified by the Pilgrims fleeing tyranny in England or a land of opportunity as exemplified by the Jamestown colony just trying to create a viable economy in this New World.

(Or maybe a land of "leave me alone and let me be free" as exemplified by Kentucky or a "God ordained, shining City on a Hill" as exemplified by Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Utah and others)

Answering those questions will drive who we see as "influential"

miller said...

Well, of course there weren't more women - women as standard bearers weren't as prominent in American history as men who did the politifying and warring. Like slaves and Indians they had little power to make great changes or determine destiny.

Can't make up what didn't happen. It wasn't a bunch of women who signed the Declaration of Independence. Wasn't women who generaled the Civil War. & ct.

Doesn't mean women didn't have a part, and doesn't mean we shouldn't examine history more carefully to see what part women played, and to be thankful that today women are taking their rightful place in positions of power.

chuckR said...

von Neumann deserves to be on the list if only for his prescient (and unknown to him) dismissal of the sort of climate science as exposed in the Climategate leaks out of Hadley CRU.

"Give me four parameters and I can curve fit an elephant. Give me five and I can make him wag his tail."

And another booster of Norman Borlaug, a man who more than earned his Nobel Peace Prize. If list were complied from the perspective of latter half of the 20th century third worlders, Borlaug would be number 1. Access to food beats managing the Depression and WWII or kneecapping the Russki commies and all that.

former law student said...

1. Access to food beats managing the Depression and WWII or kneecapping the Russki commies and all that.


I see that Borlaug earned his bread during the Depression from a make-work government job in the CCC.

Didn't he know that only business can create jobs? If he'd only read Amity Shlaes he'd know how counterproductive his getting a government paycheck was.

Beldar said...

No way does Lincoln beat Washington. Lincoln was indeed great. But Washington = Lincoln + Grant.