People of the Century: One Hundred Men and Women Who Shaped the Last One Hundred Years

People of the Century: One Hundred Men and Women Who Shaped the Last One Hundred Years

by Walter Isaacson, Time-Life Staff

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This is the century that split the atom, probed the psyche, spliced genes, and cloned a sheep. Plastic, the silicon chip, and rock-and-roll were invented. Airplanes, rockets, satellites, televisions, computers, and atom bombs were built. Traditional ideas about logic, language, learning, mathematics, economics, and even space and time were overthrown and radically

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This is the century that split the atom, probed the psyche, spliced genes, and cloned a sheep. Plastic, the silicon chip, and rock-and-roll were invented. Airplanes, rockets, satellites, televisions, computers, and atom bombs were built. Traditional ideas about logic, language, learning, mathematics, economics, and even space and time were overthrown and radically refashioned. People of the Century presents the most influential leaders, artists, intellects, and heroes who shaped this monumental era.

This century's most influential people were selected by the editors of Time magazine and featured in a series of documentaries produced by CBS News. Here, their profiles are crafted by this era's finest writers, from Salman Rushdie and Elie Wiesel, to Gloria Steinem, George Plimpton, Robert Hughes, and more. Memorably narrated by some of the century's most accomplished actors, People of the Century is the ultimate millennial keepsake.

About the Author:
Dan Rather has been the anchor/managing editor of the CBS Evening News since March of 1981 and has been on the scene of major news stories around the world. In addition he anchors the CBS broadcast 48 Hours and contributes to the CBS broadcast 60 Minutes II.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Millenniumism is upon us: the editors of Time magazine and CBS News have amassed an engaging, if mostly predictable, overview of the most important women and men of the past century. Though there are a few questionable choices (why, for example, is Pope John Paul II included, when John XXIII is not? Why does Richard Rodgers make an appearance here and not George Gershwin? Where is D.W. Griffith? Elvis? Frank Lloyd Wright?), generally the selections make sense--even Bart Simpson as Number 99. The writing and opinions mostly range from the reverent (William F. Buckley on Pope John Paul II or Peter Gay on Sigmund Freud) to the fawning (Peggy Noonan on Ronald Reagan). But every now and then the collection offers a pleasant surprise: Salman Rushdie presents an unromantic view of Mohandas Gandhi and Indian history that is filled with surprising facts; Reeve Lindbergh deals forthrightly and honestly with the isolationist and anti-Semitic views of her father, Charles Lindbergh. Other entries avoid the thorny issues: Lee Iacocca downplays Henry Ford's anti-Semitism and his union busting, although Iacocca's view is balanced somewhat by Irving Bluestone's astute piece on Walter Reuther, which features a photograph of the labor leader bloodied by Ford's goons. Lavishly illustrated, this is a fin de si cle coffee-table book, but not a comprehensive history. (Nov.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
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8.40(w) x 10.32(h) x 1.14(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Reporter's Century
Oh, to have been there.

To have stood on a windswept beach on a North Carolina morning in mid-December in 1903, and to have seen with my own eyes the impossible: man taking flight. To have been there, to have tasted the salt in the air, to have heard the groan of the engine, to have seen that machine, and a man, rise up and fly. If man could fly, where else could he go, beyond that beach?
by Dan Rather

The century was still young. And this was its first great story. A young reporter covering the event, with a pencil in his hand and a notebook in his pocket (and a deadline, no doubt, on his mind) could not have suspected how many other great stories this century would hold -- how many times man would soar, how many laws of gravity and physics he'd defy. Kitty Hawk was only the beginning. But what a beginning.

For a reporter, it turned out, this was the century to be alive. A century of phenomenal events -- and phenomenal people.

This, after all, has been the century of uprisings and revolutions. Dictators rose and fell; walls went up and crumbled. The atom was split. The sound barrier was shattered. Two world wars began and ended. We planted a flag on the moon. Of all the centuries that came before, perhaps in all of them combined, the human race never matched what it accomplished in these hundred years -- for good and for evil.

A reporter looking for a story would have no trouble finding one. Or finding a way to tell it. One of the great miracles of this century was a miracle of timing. The journalist of the twentieth century would find his craft revolutionized by two inventions: the microphone and the camera. Journalism would be irrevocably changed. And so would our world.

It happened slowly at first: newspapers and magazines brought readers in Des Moines, or Tulsa, or Carson City vivid pictures of the world that lay beyond that last stretch of barbed wire in the back field. Movie theaters brought them newsreels and silent flickering images of a tramp with a cane. The world shrank, mile by mile, moment by moment. Pictures and movies made the distant world recognizable. Then, radio made it immediate.

In September of 1940, as London was bombarded by the Blitz, the voice of Edward R. Murrow came into American living rooms, describing the devastation, giving urgency and humanity to a battle that was no longer an ocean away but as near as the night table. "One night," reported Murrow in one memorable broadcast, "I stood in front of a smashed grocery store and heard a dripping inside. It was the only sound in all London. Two cans of peaches had been drilled clean through by flying glass, and the juice was dripping down onto the floor." The war could not get any closer, or more recognizable, than that.

In those days, two men, Henry Luce and William Paley, understood that the news business was two parts: news and business. They were each, in their way, brilliant at providing the public with bold new ways of understanding the world. They had the vision, and good sense, to know that something extraordinary was happening in this most extraordinary century and that the public had a great appetite for it. Luce's Time and Paley's CBS opened people's eyes and ears to the many revolutions, large and small, that were unfolding almost every day.

Perhaps, most significantly, Time and CBS introduced us to the men and women behind those revolutions: the faces, voices, gestures, and personalities that came to define our age. Readers and listeners, and later viewers, came to understand as never before the courage (and, at times, the cowardice) of the people who shaped the events of this century -- people whose struggles and stumbles were not that different from their own.

The result transformed an already shrinking world into a global village. The news of the world became the news of the village; events in Saigon or Sarajevo happened, it seemed, as if they were just across the street, not across the globe. For the first time, we could see the tears on a soldier's face, hear the shattering of glass as bombs fell thousands of miles away. During the most turbulent times, television deepened the bond. The world, it seemed, in unison watched the young widow on the Capitol steps, could see her eyes behind the gauzy veil, as the flag-covered coffin passed and her son gave a silent salute.

Of course, such indelible images are only part of what this century has bequeathed to us. We have inherited, also, those things which are more elusive, harder to record on film or tape. Scientists have given us weapons that have waged war on smallpox and polio, and genetic marvels that are rebuilding human tissue and pinpointing codes in our DNA. Life is being created in laboratories and test tubes. Expectations, and expectancy, are both soaring. Newborns live, thrive, survive.

On the world stage, democracy and freedom have continued to defy war, and oppression, and demagogues. This has been a century of movements -- civil rights, women's rights, gay rights -- and the movements have at times been an unstoppable tide. (It is hard to believe, and easy to forget, that for the first twenty years of this century, the only people permitted to vote were white men.) This was not the century to be a King or a Czar; it was a century to be a defiant dreamer. Ordinary people were the heroes of our time, marching and singing and standing in the way of tanks. Government often proved less powerful than those it governed. An American President was assassinated, one was impeached, and another resigned. We, our nation -- and the world, for that matter -- survived.

So, somehow, did the unquenchable thirst for freedom. This was the century when communism and fascism made their stands, when hot hatred and cold war left their marks. But the human spirit defied them. In 1989, walking the streets of Beijing, talking to China's young revolutionaries, I could not help but be moved by the depth of their passion, the intensity of their vision. To bear witness to their dreams, and their courage, was to understand how much this century has been shaped by similar dreams, similar dreamers. If there are any lessons to be drawn from this century, it may be this: there is nothing the human heart wants more than freedom.

And then, too, there is this: for all that has been said and written about the rise of the power of the state at the expense of the individual during the past one hundred years, the expansion of individual freedom is the most enduring landmark of the twentieth century.

With this, we have been reminded anew that while events greatly shape history, individual personalities still count mightily. Especially innovators, inventors, and leaders -- political, military, and otherwise.

For better and for worse, a few individual men and women have molded this era now ending. Their names cast such long shadows: Roosevelt, Hitler, Lenin, Einstein, Kennedy, Picasso, the Beatles, Ali, Sinatra. And so on. As this book makes clear, those "few" in the twentieth century were probably more in number than in any previous such period, making this, truly, "The Century of the Individual."

Reporters, of course, spend much of their professional lives profiling individuals as well as chronicling events. And profiling someone, anyone, who alters the course of history is a high-water mark for any reporter worthy of the name. Sometimes, you can see it coming, the way you can anticipate a tornado when the wind kicks up. But still it can astonish you. The steely determination in the eyes of Lech Walesa, the fleeting look of loneliness on the face of Fidel Castro, the sure stance and quick step of Mikhail Gorbachev -- somehow these qualities speak volumes about both the men and the events these men shaped. Only in hindsight do we realize how much history was written into their DNA -- how much what they accomplished was because of who they were: their character, their ambitions, their shortcomings, their hopes.

Generally, poets are better than mere reporters when it comes to communicating a sense of the human condition. Reporters can only confirm facts; poets touch the Truth. But the journalism of the twentieth century has enabled us to find a new kind of truth, a new kind of reality, if you will -- personal, emotional, immediate.

For this and many other reasons, as a reporter, living in this century has been a blessing and a burden. A blessing to have been able to see and record so much. A burden to have felt, at times, as if events were unfolding much too quickly. How often, when covering the White House or Vietnam, I would file my story and put on my coat and prepare to turn out the light, only to get a late call and learn that already the story had changed. It's been famously said that journalism is the rough draft of history. Too often, for the reporter in this century, the rough draft has been written in sand that quickly shifted.

But there are moments that the camera, and the microphone, have preserved forever-permanent records of an impermanent time. We have pictures that freeze the fleeting emotion of a flag raising, whether on Iwo Jima or on the moon's Sea of Tranquility. We have reports that remind us of the urgency and frailty of these times -- times rich with drama and comedy and wonder. Times that reflect the breadth and depth of the people who lived them. That is what this project by Time and CBS News has sought to capture -- and what this book you now hold in your hands has sought to commemorate.

As one century ends, and another begins, these stories and images should serve as a reminder of where we have been, and where we can go. The rough draft of history now has a smoother, more definitive shape. At least for one more century. And some day soon, in the early years of the next century, a reporter equipped with a computer (and burdened, of course, by a deadline) will witness the unexpected miracle, the first great story of the twenty-first century.

A new age takes flight. A new rough draft begins.

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