by Norm Winick

Several months ago, I asked some of the contributors here at the Zephyr to help me determine the 100 most influential people of the 20th Century. I divided human endeavor into ten arbitrary categories and had each person name up to ten honorees in each. With their suggestions and mine, I have prepared the Zephyr Top 100. They are not necessarily the best or the worst in their field; they are the ones we see as the most influential. They have affected the course of human events in ways that no other has. Some individuals qualified in more than one category and we have included them in only one so that our list would total 100. We welcome your comments on our choices and omissions.

Politics/Government There were two names on everyone's list as the most influential person in politics and government. Probably we're biased, but Franklin D. Roosevelt seemed a better choice than Adolf Hitler. Besides his impact as commander-in-chief during World War II, FDR's policies had great consequences for the future of the nation. The other eight most influential politicians (in no particular order) are: Mao Tse Tung, Joseph McCarthy, Fidel Castro, Winston Churchill, Josef Stalin, Vladimir I. Lenin, Charles deGaulle and Ayatollah Khomeini.

Sports Several other organizations have rated the best athletes but we were looking for the most influential. That's why our choice is Muhammad Ali. While Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretsky, Jack Nicklaus and Pele were the best athletes their respective sports ever produced, Ali had an impact in social and political arenas, too. Others who deserve to be included are Babe Ruth, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Jim Thorpe, Jesse Owens and Lou Gehrig.

Social activist/ humanitarian Several of these honorees also fit in the politician category but there's an element of social consciousness that exceeds political ambition which makes them a humanitarian. Our number one was never elected to any office but changed the course of life in the U.S. forever, Martin Luther King, Jr. Others who had similar impacts on their nations were Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa and Lech Walesa. Having an impact in a more narrow scope, but nonetheless significant were Albert Schweitzer, Ché Guevera, Eleanor Roosevelt, Malcolm X and Rachel Carson.

Military Like the preceding category, many military leaders also fall into the politician group. We're honoring them for their military skills and their overall impact. For that, Ho Chi Minh deserves recognition. He defeated the U.S. in a war that tore this nation apart as much as his. Other great military leaders include Dwight D. Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur, George S. Patton, Irwin Rommel, Tojo, Francisco Franco, John J. Pershing, Leon Trotsky and Billy Mitchell.

Science/medicine One name stands out as the greatest scientist of the century, if not the millennium-- Albert Einstein. It's said that without his work we would not have space travel, computers, nuclear energy or the bomb. Others who deserve recognition include Jonas Salk, Sigmund Freud, Christiaan Barnard, Carl Sagan, Margaret Mead, Michael DeBakey, Stephen Hawking, Alexander Fleming and Marie Curie.

Religion/philosophy This is one of those categories where you don't have to agree with the ideas to realize that the person had an impact. So it is that Karl Marx is named our most influential philosopher. Others whose impact has been felt over a wide sphere of influence include the Dalai Lama, Madeline Murray O'Hair, Billy Graham, Norman Vincent Peale, Desmond Tutu, Bertrand Russell, John Paul Sartre, John Dewey and Kahlil Gibran.

Business The United States dominates world business and two individuals have changed the world with their concept and implementation. Henry Ford brought automobiles to the masses and probably wreaked more havoc than any other businessperson. Ray Kroc and his golden arches changed the way we eat. Other significant businesspersons with great impact include Bill Gates, Sam Walton, Walt Disney, Ted Turner, Rupert Murdoch, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and Bernard Baruch.

Artist/performer While popularity doesn't guarantee an impact, the artists and performers we've selected had both -- either within their field or in areas far wider than their talent would normally take them. The Zephyr's most influential artist is Elvis Presley. Number two is The Beatles. After that come a variety of performers who all deserve recognition: Marilyn Monroe, Pablo Picasso, Enrico Caruso, Bob Hope, Andy Warhol, Frank Sinatra, Charlie Chaplin and Leonard Bernstein.

Writer There are thousands of great and influential writers but we chose Ernest Hemingway as our top pick. Others whose writings have had an impact beyond the literary world include Theodore Seuss Geisel, J. K. Rowling, John Steinbeck, Arthur Miller, George Orwell, Upton Sinclair, Tennessee Williams, Peoria native Betty Friedan and Galesburg's own Carl Sandburg.

Crime and Punishment This category is reserved for those criminals or attorneys who most made an impact. The top spot goes to the individual known worldwide as the personification of Chicago, Al Capone. Others who made a name for themselves in this category and deserve recognition include Clarence Darrow, F. Lee Bailey, Lee Harvey Oswald, Rodney King, Charles Manson and midwesterners John Wayne Gacy, John Dillinger, Leopold & Loeb and Jeffrey Dahmer.

Uploaded to The Zephyr website December 29, 1999

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