Who is the greatest person who has ever lived? Those ranking by deaths prevented have put forth Norman Borlaug (over 1 billion), Viktor Zhdanov (300 million), Haber and Bosch (2.7 billion, but then there's the war crimes thing), and, of course, Stanislav Petrov (everyone). Lists of the most important people are often decided by popular vote, with Gutenberg, Einstein, and Darwin generally doing well, but don't count yourself out. More recently, as Cass Sunstein entertainingly covers, there have also been quantitative attempts to measure the most important person., including, most recently, a detailed algorithm by a computer science professor and a Google engineer that tells us that the most important people are, in order: Jesus, Napoleon, Shakespeare, and Muhammed. Smithsonian magazine commissioned them to come up with a special list of the most important Americans. You can also play a historical importance version of the who's hotter game using their algorithm.
A documentary film about Norman Borlaug, the Iowa farm boy who saved over a billion people from starvation. (1:06:47) Americans have little knowledge of one of their greatest sons. Why do schoolchildren in China, India, Mexico, and Pakistan know the name and work of Nobel Peace Prize winner [His speech] Norman Borlaug while so few of his countrymen have never heard of him? How did a dirt-poor farm boy from rural Iowa grow up to save a billion people worldwide from starvation and malnutrition and become the father of the Green Revolution? What were the inherited traits and environmental factors that shaped his astonishing journey and led to successes that surprised even him? What can we learn from his life and views that might help the human race survive the next critical century? [more inside]
Norman Borlaug, "the plant scientist who did more than anyone else in the 20th century to teach the world to feed itself," has died at age 95. On the staff of the Rockefeller Foundation in Mexico, Borlaug "developed a “miracle wheat” that tripled grain output and moved the country to self-sufficiency. Dr. Borlaug then took his high-yield, disease-resistant wheat to Pakistan and India, averting the mass famine and starvation that had been widely predicted." Yet, despite his achievement, and being one of only five people to have won the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, Borlaug was hardly a household name: a 1997 Atlantic profile described him as the "forgotten benefactor of humanity."
Unsung Anti-Heroes: There are a few relatively unknown individuals who have saved more lives than anyone else on the planet. Norman Borlaug is credited with saving over a billion lives by starting the Green Revolution; he later won a Nobel Prize. Simon Petrov stopped the world from being annihilated in a nuclear war, and later won $1,000 from the San Francisco Bay Civic Association. Howard Florey, more than Alexander Fleming, made mass-produced penicillin possible, saving upwards of 50 million people, while Peter Safar invented CPR, and so on. But what about the opposite? One conservative site asks "who is the anti-Borlaug?" with a mix of more or less radical results. Leaving aside those who were directly responsible for mass deaths, who does the hive mind nominate as the anti-Borlaug?[more on some of of these heroes and anti-heroes inside]