Now that we've successfully navigated the end of the millennium, it would be interesting to know who the real frontrunners were in that thousand-year marathon of the human race. Who had the greater impact, Martin Luther or Isaac Newton? Thomas Aquinas or Charles Darwin? Beethoven or Bach? But how do we establish a yardstick for measuring such a weighty subject?
The authors of 1,000 Years, 1,000 People have come up with a method that grades the candidates according to five key criteria: lasting influence, contribution to wisdom and/or beauty, influence on contemporaries, singularity of contribution, and charisma. Then, they've sifted through the centuries and rated thousands of candidates. You may be surprised to learn that some of the major figures of our own time did not make the cut, while those in less high-profile, publicity-driven ages and places turned out to be millennial superstars. Or you may be astonished by the relative positions of, say, Jane Addams, John Marshall, and Bertrand Russell. Or you may find the most interesting people near the end of the book, where many highly important but relatively unknown history-makers dwell.
Young and old, women and men, heroes and villains, artists and scientists, political leaders and warriors, philosophers and reformers are all here, briefly profiled as to their careers and contributions. The book can be perused both as a compelling mosaic of world history and as a starting point for lively conversations on the whole subject of historical significance. You don't have to agree with the outcome in order to agree that 1,000 Years, 1,000 People makes fascinating reading.
Agnes Hooper Gottlieb, Ph.D., a journalism historian, is dean of Freshman Studies at Seton Hall University. Henry Gottlieb, a legal-affairs journalist, has an M.A. in history from Rutgers University-Newark. Barbara Bowers, who wrote for Gannett, NBC Radio and A.M. Best Co., is a freelance journalist. Brent Bowers is a former associate business editor at The New York Times and the author of If at First You Don't Succeed.
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