Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: 1,000 Years, 1,000 People - Ranking the Men and Women Who Shaped the Millenium

First things first: I LOVE THIS BOOK! Okay, now that I've gotten that off my chest, let's move on.

The authors of 1,000 Years, 1,000 People are Agnes Hooper Gottlieb, Henry Gottlieb, Barbara Bowers and Brent Bowers. They've culled history and compiled 1,000 brief bios of anyone who was anyone during the past 1,000 years. The book, obviously, was meant to coincide with the 2,000 Millennium hoopla and that's when I picked up a copy.

It's so much fun to cruise through this book. Every page has some delightful historical tidbit about this one or that one - people you will have heard about and people you didn't have a clue about. That's the intriguing part, learning about people who've been forgotten in the mists of time but who, in some way, shape or form, contributed to humanity's progress.

So of the numbered thousand - who is Numero Uno? Who else?

Johannes Gutenberg.

If not for Gutenberg, Columbus might never have set sail, Shakespeare's genius could have died with him, and Martin Luther's Ninety-five Theses would have hung on that door unheeded. In fact, without mass quantities of books to burn, the Inquisition would have fallen flat on its face. The printing press, developed by goldsmith Gutenberg in the 1430's, helped spread truth, beauty, and yes, heresy throughout the world. We know the Chinese had movable type for centuries before Gutenberg, but they used it for silk printing, not books.

Gutenberg, however, always had publishing in mind. Copies of his first major project, the Bible, survive today. He worked for years to perfect his system of movable type and a press that could mass-produce books, leaflets and propaganda. What little is known about Gutenberg comes from the many lawsuits filed against him for rights to the invention.

But no one successfully challenged Gutenberg's place as the Western inventor of movable type and the printing press. Because his press unharnessed the power of ideas on the world, we rank him ahead of the people whose ideas found an audience through printing.

I believe I do agree with Gutenberg's ranking. What do you think?

According to these authors, The Top Ten of the Millennium are:

Johannes Gutenberg
Christopher Columbus
Martin Luther
Galileo Galilei
William Shakespeare
Isaac Newton
Charles Darwin
Thomas Aquinas
Leonardo Da Vinci
Ludwig Von Beethoven

(Michelangelo comes in at 13.)

A very fun book if you are at all interested in the building blocks of history - in the way the past shapes the future. Or if you just want to pick up a few facts about people whose names you've heard of somewhere, sometime.

For me, this is the ultimate list of lists.

Forgotten Book Friday is the weekly meme hosted by Patti Abbott at PATTINASE. Don't forget to check in at her blog to see what other forgotten books other bloggers are posting about today.


Since some of us were perturbed at the lack of women in the Top Ten - well, I wasn't, but others were and since I aim to please - here are some women in history and their rankings by the authors of 1,000 Years, 1,000 People:
Elizabeth I of England is the top ranked woman - she comes in at 31.

Mary Wolstonecraft - 45

Marie Curie - 75

Joan of Arc - 83

Elizabeth Cady Stanton - 86

Queen Victoria - 91

Margaret Sanger - 99

Speaking as a woman, I think this is fine. This is not, after all, a politically correct sort of list.

Though I would wish that Marco Polo had come in higher than 66.

And the Wright brothers had come in higher than 22 and 23.

I wish Winston Churchill had come in higher than Hitler.

And that Alexander Graham Bell had come in higher than 74.

But on the whole, I'm satisfied with most of this.

By the way, Rosa Parks came in at 944.

Albert Einstein is 17. (I think he definitely should have been higher than Sigmund Freud.)

Gandhi comes in at 12.

...and the others you've mentioned are sprinkled within. There are a thousand listings after all.


  1. Yvette,

    This sounds like a great book for browsing. It would go perfectly with my copies of _1001 Films_ and _1001 Books_.

    It would be just right for those times when one really doesn't want to get into anything too heavy.

  2. Fred: Yes, exactly. I love this sort of book, most especially when it's this interesting. Since I'm a history buff, it's sheer heaven. :)

  3. This book reminds me of another book of lists I read in the 1980s. It was called THE BOOK OF LISTS compiled by writer Irving Wallace and his daughter Amy Wallace. Of course, it listed everything besides people.

  4. Prashant: I love list books. If the lists make sense to me, that is. :)

  5. Exactly! I love list books, too. If I agree... :-)

    I definitely think Gutenberg deserves the top spot! I can't imagine life without easy access to the written word.

    Paul would definitely agree with Newton being in the top 10--he probably thinks Newton should be #1. He's always saying he wouldn't have anything to do at work if it weren't for Newton!

  6. Seems like a book to argue with, too...(David Wallechinsky, Amy's brother and Irving's son, also pitched in on the first, bestselling 1970s THE BOOK OF LISTS, and Amy particularly has been making a bit of a career out of such as THE BOOK OF LISTS: HORROR since).

  7. This sounds like a very interesting book! I would have a hard time ranking genius.

    Gutenberg is a fascinating choice as #1, but their premise makes sense.
    I believe a contemporary ranking would include Mark Zukerberg. His invention of facebook as a modern day way to communicate that has helped to change the the world!

  8. Lauren: At least Newton IS in the top ten. :)

    I can't imagine a world where ideas couldn't be easily shared.

  9. Todd: Oh, at the end of the book there's a page where you can tell the authors who you'd pick - if you disagree. Very democratic. :)

  10. Pat: For the NEXT Millennium! I do agree.

  11. Gosh, I agree with Gutenberg, Galileo, Darwin, etc.

    However, there are NO women here, and some big omissions.

    I would certainly put in Rosa Parks. And Martin Luther King. And Nelson Mandela. Also, Albert Einstein and Marie Curie.

    There are so many more people who were highly important and influential. I'd have to look at the book and also dig deeply into the gray matter of my mind.

    And what about writers? Political leaders and thinkers? This list could be humongous.

  12. Yvette: Like Kathy I am wondering about the women. Who was the top ranked woman and what was her ranking?

  13. Yes, where are the women?! Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale, Amelia Earhart, and Marie Curie, for instance. More curiosity: what about Mohandas K. Gandhi, Sir Alexander Fleming and Alexander Graham Bell?

  14. Bill, Kathy and Prashant: I've added the information you asked about to the original post. Thanks for chiming in with your thoughts and questions. Much appreciated.:)

  15. What about Martin Luther King? And Nelson Mandela?

  16. They're on there, Kathy. I'll check when I have a moment to see about their ranking.


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