Figures of the Millennium

Figures of the Millennium

November 19, 1999

Poll Results – Figures of the Last Millennium

I’ve finally compiled the data from the first poll, that which asked for your list of the most influential figures of the last 1000 years.

Sadly, only 13 people responded (including me!), but that won’t stop me from listing the results.

I did not take into account each respondent’s ranking of his or her nominees. Instead, I gave a point to each historical figure for every time his or her name was mentioned.

Surprisingly (or unsurprisingly), the runaway “winner” was Adolf Hitler. Perhaps this is indicative of the tendency of our times to mark the passage of history by traumatic events –wars, tragedies and disasters– rather than by discoveries, inventions or ideas.

Let us not dwell too long on the obvious failings of any listing procedure such as this one. We each define “influential” according to our own biases, informed by media and by the values of our times.

Furthermore, we can only list the names of those that history has chosen to remember, whether deservedly so or not. These individuals may not in fact be the most “influential”, only the most remembered. But that is a failing that none of us can remedy. This is not, after all, necessarily a forum for the promotion of social justice. Rather, this poll is simply a thought-provoking exercise intended to encourage us each to ask ourselves what we consider to be most prevalent, prominent and/or important in societies past and present.

So, in order of most mentioned to least mentioned:

  1. Adolf Hitler (6 points)
  2. Johannes Gutenberg (4 points)
  3. Isaac Newton (4 poins)
  4. Christopher Columbus (3 points)
  5. Josef Stalin (3 points)
  6. Albert Einstein (3 points)
  7. Charles Darwin (3 points)
  8. Nicolai Copernicus (3 points)
  9. Genghis Khan (2 points)
  10. Karl Marx (2 points)
  11. Mahatma Gandhi (2 points)
  12. Leonardo Da Vinci (2 points)
  13. Napoleon Bonaparte (2 points)

The following names each received one vote:

  • Sigmund Freud
  • Martin Luther
  • Leonard Cohen (yes, that Leonard Cohen)
  • Immanuel Kant
  • The Wright Brothers
  • Thomas Edison
  • Henry Ford
  • Martin Luther King
  • Rachel Silver (one respondent’s wife)
  • Bill Gates
  • David Ben Gurion
  • Pablo Picasso
  • Igor Stravinsky
  • Michel Foucault
  • Ernest Rutherford
  • Desiderius Erasmus

If anyone would like a brief biography of any of these figures, please contact me.

Ray Deonandan <>