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 Our members' nominations for history's most influential person

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Who has been the most influential person in history?
Charles Darwin
14%
 14% [ 4 ]
Gilgamesh
4%
 4% [ 1 ]
Homer
4%
 4% [ 1 ]
Isaac Newton
11%
 11% [ 3 ]
Johannes Gutenburg
21%
 21% [ 6 ]
Joshua bar Joseph (Jesus Christ)
11%
 11% [ 3 ]
Martin Luther
7%
 7% [ 2 ]
Prophet Mohammed
4%
 4% [ 1 ]
Siddhārtha Gautama
0%
 0% [ 0 ]
St Paul
11%
 11% [ 3 ]
Tsai Lun
11%
 11% [ 3 ]
William Shakespeare
4%
 4% [ 1 ]
Total Votes : 28
 

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Thu 08 Mar 2012, 11:23

The Nominees:
Charles Darwin - for breaking the religious stranglehold on science

Gilgamesh - whose story, the oldest known piece of literature, sheds light on one of the earliest civilisations

Homer - for composing literature which inspired the creation of a civilisation

Isaac Newton - for his immense contribution to our modern understanding of the laws of physics

Johannes Gutenburg - whose invention broke a church monopoly on producing scripture and facilitated the rapid dissemination of ideas

Joshua bar Joseph (Jesus Christ) - for having a huge following even today and more books written about him than anyone else

Martin Luther - for paving the way for church reformation to include a growth of religious extremism which in turn led to political upheaval

Prophet Mohammed - for almost singlehandedly creating a religion which can still instill fear of revolution in its name today

Siddhārtha Gautama - for his efforts in understanding human suffering and a way of living which can transcend it

St Paul - for taking an obscure Jewish preacher and founding a world religion on his behalf

T'sai Lun - for "inventing" paper, the fundamental material for the recording and transmission of ideas for two millennia

William Shakespeare - for producing a body of literature which has a relevance even today and which trascends national boundaries

You can vote for as many as you like and can even go back and cancel a vote if you change your mind. The poll will automatically end on 7th April.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Thu 08 Mar 2012, 11:46

I've cast my votes on the premise that, however revelatory or significant the others' ideas and products might have been, without these innovations to disseminate them, they could not have had the influence that they have had.
The proviso might be, however, that had these two not existed, it's inevitable that someone else would have come up with the same idea. How far, of course, does that apply to some of the others? Those, like Newton or Darwin, who worked on fundamental laws of nature probably also fall into the same category, even Luther's thoughts might be seen as part of a process intrinsic to the critique of the faith.
That any of these people have been influential is very largely contingent on the circumstances prevailing at the time, their ideas could only be transmitted and then could have taken root because of the social, technological and political environment in which they arose. Many nameless people may have bloomed unseen.

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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Thu 08 Mar 2012, 12:16

I agree it's rather silly "comparing" these guys (all guys I notice) since they are so uniquely influential in so many diverse ways.

What I did to simplify it in my own head was to first split it into originators/facilitators and philosophers/ideologists and then, in the case of the former try to assign priority on the basis of their invention's impact, and in the case of the latter try to gauge how much of their philosophy/outlook pervades modern thought. It's still difficult but it makes the task more manageable.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Thu 08 Mar 2012, 13:46

My votes are cast, and I can't ignore Tsai Lun's invention as being the most important in the history of mankind. Without paper to record, all the greatest thoughts and deeds in the world would never have made it far beyond the lifetime of the originator. Even that of my second favourite, Charles Darwin.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Thu 08 Mar 2012, 18:08

OK then. Gloves off. Is canvassing allowed? If not why not, huh?

Paper - agreed a great invention but knowledge was spread long before on papyrus, clay blocks and vellum. The oral tradition nurtured the ancient Greeks. It was the foundation of their education with Homer in particular. The same for St Paul, Jesus and Mohammed - whose sayings were written on whatever came to hand. There is is a bit written on bark in Istanbul the Top Kepi holy relic collection but mmm, who can say? It's in the same room as I once told on line of the little skull cap of John the Baptist as a child.

So I'm still backing Homer. Ancient Greeks are a foundation block of the rise of civilisation. Modern Greeks are having a crack at putting a stop to it, I guess.

Coats off. Choose your corner.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Fri 09 Mar 2012, 04:17

Not sure why this need be a brawl P, I've voiced my choice and it remains. As is everyone's perogative, you need not approve.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Fri 09 Mar 2012, 08:51

At the same time it's a bit sad that the frontrunners are guys who produced physical product - I can see P's point about ideas over things though I wouldn't necessarily have opted for Homer as the epitomy of what she credits him for. There were a lot of other well-qualified candidates, I would have thought, for people whose ideas and how they were related could be said to have proved a foundation for the development of civilisation (Gilgamesh, for one).
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Fri 09 Mar 2012, 11:07

The more I think about this, the more I tend to the idea that things are actually more influential than people since it is only by the existence of those things that a person can have any influence in other than the very short term and across a very small geographic area. Of course ideas are fundamental but those ideas can only exert any influence when they are made manifest in an enduring way that allows that idea to operate and persist in the world: without clay technology Gilgamesh would be a name from a few inscriptions if we knew of him at all. One of humanity’s defining features is its ability to communicate and so anything that extended, facilitated and eventually democratised that ability has been of enormous and crucial importance.

The other defining characteristic has been humanity’s relationship with things, those it has made, used and modified: the history of humankind has been the history of the things it has produced and how those and their users have mutually constructed and reconstructed each other. Like Shanks says, we have always been cyborgs and to try to disentangle people and things is impossible.

Does ‘ferval’ exist outwith this place and would she without this machine (which is being a pig today)?

And with these words, I'm off to do the hoovering.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Fri 09 Mar 2012, 11:24

Before there are things, someone has to think hard about why they are needed. I have yet to meet an inventor of things who did not have a useful mind enough to discuss cabbages and kings..... though they seem dull and drab people at first perhaps. Regarding communication, - rock, clay tablet, papyrus, paper and computer, their first use was to record stuff. In 1970 when I first used a computer - about the size of a cinema organ - although I used it for a maths calculation I could only see its potential then as a great data base store. That is indeed how I first used it in the very early days of PC's- circa 1980 Thought however was a more of a verbal/oral transfer tradition in the broad field and specific only when scribes were set to record it.

Just an opinion. Temp has the sense to edit out her remarks - though I can never understand why, I have less sense, I guess
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Fri 09 Mar 2012, 11:46

Yes but things are thoughts materialised; can we even think without something to think about?

Oh god, I'm going to stop this now before Descartes, Deluze and Heidegger etc come to the party and put the mockers on all my ramblings. Back to cleaning!
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Fri 09 Mar 2012, 18:23

Don't groan, but this is all typical left and right brain stuff.

All the left-directed folk around here will go for the practical, inventive chaps like Newton, Gutenburg and T'sai Lun, whereas the artistic, sensitive, imaginative, mystical, spiritual, religious right-brainers will opt for "wise men who tell stories".

So we may as well stop arguing.

Jane Austen once said that "one half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other." The same applies to heroes.

PS But I think paper is more useful than cat toys (not flaps):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCYBE5iSxA4

PPS Gilgamesh's vote shouldn't count as he has obviously voted for himself and that isn't *fair*.

PPPS Give me five minutes and I'll delete this.


Last edited by Temperance on Fri 09 Mar 2012, 18:51; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Fri 09 Mar 2012, 18:38

Well don't start me off but I was analysing the question almost statistically:

Who has been the most influential person in history?

Well if we take "history" to have started, let's say some 10,000 years ago, then for most of history only Gilgamesh or Tsai Lun have been around sufficiently long enough ago to have been able to really influence anyone or anything more than during the last 20% of history at most (Darwin only got his ideas together in the last 1% or so of historical time - so his opportunity for infuence, in the great pageant of history, is limited at best). And you cannot protect forwards for who might ultimately be more influential, 'cos the future ain't history...yet.

But then maybe we should factor in population. There are now supposedly more humans alive than dead so the above argument could be weighted closer to the present based on the numbers of people who were alive after them to be influenced... One could then argue that Christ, perhaps even Newton, say, have influenced more people (proportionally) than say Gilgamesh. How many people in the world today have even heard of Gilgamesh compared to those that have heard of that Johnny-come-lately, Darwin? Betya it's Darwin who gets more hits, at least just for being recognised.

But as for "influence", hmmmm....

The mast majority of people on the planet today have been "influenced" by Tsai Lun simply because they use printed (cf Guntenburg) paper money. Most also profess to to some sort of religion so are probably "influenced" in their own belief to some degree by Christ (even if it is a complete rejection).

Hmmmm, I dunno really...

Give me 5 mins and I'll probably delete too Rolling Eyes
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Fri 09 Mar 2012, 22:24

For me Gutenberg has been responsible for the ease of what gives me the most pleasure in life - reading and writing. And that leads to plenty of story-telling and imagination. (Though I have read recently, anyway, that the scientific evidence for left-brain, right-brain differentiation is not there at all.)

I would have thought that the religious founders mentioned in the poll were important for reasons not completely touched on in their explanations. Mohammed mentions revolution, but Jesus and Paul's heritage has also been one often of upheaval and a desire to impose a culture on others. I don't necessarily mean this has been totally negative in its effects but it has changed the world. I did come close to choosing Jesus, though I don't think he himself was the force behind his influence. Nor do I really think it was Paul. More the rulers who choose Christianity above other religious beliefs.

Meles, I asked on another board the most influential women, and someone's first choice was Dr Amina Wadud, for what her future effects might be on changing the male focus of the Muslim world. I am a little uncertain about this myself.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Sat 10 Mar 2012, 05:31

@Caro wrote:
(Though I have read recently, anyway, that the scientific evidence for left-brain, right-brain differentiation is not there at all.)

I've read too that there is doubt about the accuracy of the left/right brain stuff Caro. It has never applied to me anyway, I've done quite a few of the tests with always the same result, borderline 10 left and 9 right (or is it the other way around?). Neither chicken nor fowl, story of my life really.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Sat 10 Mar 2012, 07:44

@ferval wrote:
Yes but things are thoughts materialised; can we even think without something to think about?

I opted for an originator who inspired the great minds of Greek Philosophers to build on. In your special -field -I envy you it - of the where, who, what and when of it, as I said before I would be on no use because why is always predoinant in my thoughts and coloured by too vivd an imagination as I try to answer it. I always find myself also sliding back to figure out origins. Material development saturates our lives but in truth I don't know if there are any orginal thinkers in silent dark corners who may affect the future in the same way that they did in the past - in the oral tradition then with written rercord kept by others for the most part.

At least we are chatting about it; an important part of being a member of any community.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Sat 10 Mar 2012, 07:49

@Islanddawn wrote:
@Caro wrote:
(Though I have read recently, anyway, that the scientific evidence for left-brain, right-brain differentiation is not there at all.)

I've read too that there is doubt about the accuracy of the left/right brain stuff Caro. It has never applied to me anyway, I've done quite a few of the tests with always the same result, borderline 10 left and 9 right (or is it the other way around?). Neither chicken nor fowl, story of my life really.

You are obviously fortunate enough to be "well-balanced" - many people are!

Of course we all use both sides of our brain, and yes, it is clearly simplistic - and misleading - to talk flippantly about "left-brainers" and "right-brainers". However, I think it unwise to dismiss the whole theory. Do read Iain McGilchrist's excellent book before doing so:

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

A sure sign that it's not all complete nonsense is when American big business sits up and starts to take notice. I'm reading Daniel Pink's book ("A Whole New Mind") at the moment - irritating prose style, but reasonably interesting content. Worth a look at least.

It was inappropropriate for me to mention the subject here - quite off topic.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Sat 10 Mar 2012, 09:34

Forgot to add that McGilchrist's medical qualifications and background would suggest he has looked in some depth at the "scientific evidence" for his theories.

http://www.iainmcgilchrist.com/

He presents and discusses it convincingly - and at times quite bafflingly - in Part One of his book. And please - if you can spare a moment - read through the "Some responses to 'The Master and His Emissary' ". Fair few distinguished scientists on that page would seem to agree that McGilchrist's grasp of scientific data is reasonably secure.


Going back to the topic - it would be interesting to ask the average (British) young person for comments on the candidates above. "Never heard of him - or him," would possibly - and sadly - be the response to most names on the list. I suppose the mention of Jesus and Shakespeare might ring a bit of a bell, but the others? Yet after an explanation all would probably concede that their lives had been influenced to some degree by the thoughts/work of these men - at least by that of Newton, Gutenburg and T'sai Lun.

PS Could I just add that the title of the book I am so enthusiastic about, "The Master and His Emissary", in no way refers to "God or Jesus stuff". The title is a metaphor - refers to an old story. The "Master" is the right-hemisphere of the brain and the "Emissary" is the equally important, but at times rather uppity, left-hemisphere.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Sat 10 Mar 2012, 11:32

Hmmmm, I don't like to think of myself as 'practical' as opposed to 'imaginative' - sorry about the over simplification - but then, I do have quite a long ring finger so maybe........
I did start many years ago doing a science degree but eventually chucked it, not just bored by a lot of it but also finding that as I'm a 'words' rather 'pictures' thinker, the sheer drudgery of trying to remember complex organic chemical stuff a nightmare. Now that's a distinction I do feel exists.

One of the joys of archaeology, I've increasingly come to realise, is that there's room for all. The science buffs, the taxonomists and the ocd pottery specialists can find their niche whereas those, like me I hope, who are always asking "Yes, but where are the people" have the sunny uplands of post processual and phenomenological theory to romp in. Is it a science or an art? Many good nights in the pub are to be found there.

Sorry, wildly off topic again. If recognisability amongst wider humanity is a criterion, surely any list omitting Confucius and Mao is a bit inadequate?


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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Sat 10 Mar 2012, 11:39

And History itself - is the discipline a science or an art? Can it be both? Does it matter?

Three little sentences edited three times - or is it four now? I'm getting more and more like Oscar Wilde who wrote: "I was working on the proof of one of my poems all morning and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back in again."
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Sun 11 Mar 2012, 05:34

@Temperance wrote:
You are obviously fortunate enough to be "well-balanced" - many people are!.

I'd call it confusing Temp, it usually means that I can often see both sides of an argument and can rarely arrive at a definite decision on either side or course. A ditherer, in other words!

Edit. I really wanted to comment on your question above but became side-tracked. Is history a science or an art? Imo is is both and history has endless scope that allows for both to exist, work together and to compliment each other. After all, there is science in art, art in science and history in both.

Mmm, what was I saying about seeing two sides?
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 16:34

For other (lady) posters who perhaps - like me - find Newtonian physics just a little daunting, could I point you in the direction of a work published by one Elizabeth Carter in 1739? It has the very encouraging title of "Sir Isaac Newton's Philosophy Explain'd For the Use of Ladies."

It is apparently a romp through the great man's theories on light etc. in the form of a charming conversation between a Chevalier and a Marchioness!

Delightful - and just what we weaker vessels need.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 16:59

With pictures, I trust.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 17:13

Of course. What is the use of a book without pictures or conversations - especially one on Newtonian physics?

Actually, I think it did have pictures - of the lake beside which the Chevalier and the Lady strolled as they chatted (like you do) about prisms and the First Law of Dynamics and all that other stuff.


Last edited by Temperance on Mon 12 Mar 2012, 17:32; edited 1 time in total
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 17:22

Well I'd certainly need a ladies explanation along with pictures for anything to do with physics. Son had a quantum physics exam the other day and I made the very great mistake of asking what exactly the quantum theory was supposed to do. Lord above, I didn't understand a word.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 17:28

@Temperance wrote:

Actually, I think it did have pictures - of the lake where the Chevalier and the Lady strolled as they chatted (like you do) about prisms and the First Law of Dynamics and all that other stuff.

Ah well then, if they were already at the point where they could walk on water then they'd exceeded Newtonian physics anyway. I reckon he just wanted to get into her farthingale. Any excuse.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 17:57

Correction duly made.

It's Aristotelian by the way, Nordmann, not Aristotlean, which you keep puttting.

I know you understand Aristotle and I don't (minor point), but you should still try and spell his adjective right - er, I mean correctly.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 18:11

Thanks for that. The way the machine was acting up at work today it's a wonder I got anything sent to that thread at all, let alone badly spelt. Twice I had written a dissertation on Bacon's inheritance of Aristotelian principles by a default process to which he objected, both of which were longer than Bacon himself, and both of which ended up in the ether.

It is a minor point whether one "understands" Aristotle or not. In relation to what Bacon and his contemporaries were doing he is useful only as a point of comparison, not to be considered a source of inspiration. And rightly so. By the time Bacon came into the world what was left of Aristotle after centuries of church ownership was pretty rank.

(No wonder I was always flunking my phil assignments all those years ago. Why does the English adjectival form retain more Latin than the proper noun form?)

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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 18:25

Well, you understand a damn sight more than I do - and I was only joking about the spelling mistake.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 20:13

I've voted for Darwin, Newton, Gutenberg and Luther. The achievements of Darwin and Newton speak for themselves, because they changed the way we thought about science significantly, and the impact this new way of thinking had on the world was tremendous.

Gutenberg and the printing press had profound effects on the world as we knew it. If it wasn't for Gutenberg, Luther would've been just another Jan Huss. Luther helped to break western Europe from the yoke of Catholic oppression, and allowed the Protestant ethic to flourish and drive Europe to become rulers of the world.

As for Jesus, did he even exist in the form that we now know him? Or was he a creation of later Christians, such as the shadowy Paul? And did Mohammed help Arabs and North Africans with his Islam? Or is it holding them back?
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Fri 16 Mar 2012, 19:53

I think that Christianity as we know it was the creation of Paul, rather than Jesus.

I do not recall him saying 'go forth and build thyself a massive palace', or 'grab thyself a Swiss bank account, and feather thy nest most abundantly', or even 'burn thou at the stake any who doubtheth what thou sayest my words were'. For good, or sometimes for bad, the 'Paulian' church has formed what we see as Western thought and civilization, much as Mohammed has done for the Middle Eastern. Along with Confucius and Buddha, those guys made our world what it is today.

If someone can invent something, then someone else can also invent it - how many modern things were 'invented' by 2 or more people at around the same time? The inventions would have come, maybe in slightly different form, but they would probably have happened quite soon, in many cases.

Technology moves on, but ideas change the world.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Sat 17 Mar 2012, 07:00

I agree with Giraffe. There's still time to change your vote folks.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Sat 17 Mar 2012, 08:53

Nah, won't be changing mine P. I prefer the people who have actually done something useful and beneficial rather than those who only talk about it.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Sat 17 Mar 2012, 11:39

I don't think "ideas" spring fully-armed like Athena from the head of Zeus any more than technologies do - things have to become thinkable before being thought.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Wed 18 Apr 2012, 21:56

Giraffe

"I think that Christianity as we know it was the creation of Paul, rather than Jesus.

I do not recall him saying 'go forth and build thyself a massive palace', or 'grab thyself a Swiss bank account, and feather thy nest most abundantly', or even 'burn thou at the stake any who doubtheth what thou sayest my words were'."

It cannot be said that Paul said such things either. Paul, for most of his ministry, expected Jesus imminent return and so there was not that much time for building the sort of church that later came about.

regards

Tim
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Thu 30 Jan 2014, 18:24

Two data analysts have concocted a set of algorithms to sift through Wikipedia's English pages and sort out the top influential people in history. This is who they have in their top thirty:




1 Jesus

2 Napoleon

3 Muhammad

4 William Shakespeare

5 Abraham Lincoln

6 George Washington

7 Adolf Hitler

8 Aristotle

9 Alexander the Great

10 Thomas Jefferson

11 Henry VIII

12 Charles Darwin

13 Elizabeth I

14 Karl Marx

15 Julius Caesar

16 Queen Victoria

17 Martin Luther

18 Joseph Stalin

19 Albert Einstein

20 Christopher Columbus

21 Isaac Newton

22 Charlemagne

23 Theodore Roosevelt

24 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

25 Plato

26 Louis XIV

27 Ludwig van Beethoven

28 Ulysses S Grant

29 Leonardo da Vinci

30 Augustus


(Justin Bieber, they say, got 8,633rd place)
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Thu 30 Jan 2014, 19:49

Charlemagne seems to hold an interestingly high place in an English-language analysis.  Higher than Plato and da Vinci.  Only Columbus as an explorer.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Thu 30 Jan 2014, 20:33

Hmmm, Jesus is no 1 but I see that St Paul comes in at no 34.................    Lying low 

King Arthur is at 85 so by their methodology more significant then Calvin.
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PostSubject: Re: Our members' nominations for history's most influential person   Fri 31 Jan 2014, 05:34

The sainted Paul comes in only two places higher than George W Bush (of all people) at 36 and Winston Churchill at 37. Elvis Presley (69) even comes in higher than William the Conqueror at 70? This list is really wierd.

The full 100 are here http://ideas.time.com/2013/12/10/whos-biggest-the-100-most-significant-figures-in-history/
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