The idea for this month’s quiz, as well as next month’s quiz, comes from a book that I love to browse through. It is 1,000 Years, 1,000 People: Ranking the Men and Women Who Shaped the Millennium (1998) by Agnes Hooper Gottlieb, Henry Gottlieb, Barbara Bowers and Brent Bowers. They came up with their own list, and then asked many others to contribute their lists of nominees. Finally they came up with what they called a BioGraph which consisted of five categories – each with a maximum number of points – by which they rated the nominees. The five categories, as well as the maximum number of points available in each are: Lasting influence (10,000 points), Effect on the sum total of wisdom and beauty in the world (4,000 points), Influence on contemporaries (2,000 points), Singularity of contribution (3,000 points), and Charisma (2,000 points). And finally they combined the point scores in each of the five categories and ranked the nominees accordingly. The highest possible score was 24,000, but no one got it. While they readily admit that their rankings are subjective, it’s fun to look at the rankings and to read the biographical information about the nominees.
I also like their Introduction in which they give us a thumbnail sketch of what has happened in the last 1,000 years:
“From the opening moments—a Scandinavian adventurer’s tentative step on a new continent, a Japanese writer’s creation of the first novel, a German priest’s experiments with guns, and an Arab thinker’s reveries about the mysteries of multiplication—the second millennium was a headlong rush to the edge of man’s creative and destructive genius.
“Before it was over, a man had walked on the moon, the power of the atom had been unleashed, a scientist had cloned a sheep named Dolly, Michelangelo had worked his magic on the Sistine Chapel, Shakespeare had plumbed the depths of the human soul and Martin Luther King, Jr., had dreamed a dream. Before it was over, Hitler’s war had killed 55 million people, and Stalin and Mao had turned half the world into a hell of murder and deceit.”
Below you will find 25 clues concerning the identities of people listed in the book. Keep in mind that everyone listed had some tie to writing. It might have been their main occupation, or might have been the outgrowth of thinking or research they did in their occupations. I will also include the points that each received, and their ranking. I will start near the bottom of the list and move toward the top. Next month I will give you 25 more clues and I will include the authors’ list of 10 people who almost made the list, but didn’t. You can find the answers on my Quiz Answers page.
- This writer of children’s books is best known for Green Eggs and Ham.
- This Lebanese Christian’s somewhat mystical writings are still popular though he died in 1931. His best known book is The Prophet.
- Speaking of mysticism, this Catholic woman – born to Castilian aristocracy – became an ascetic and founded a new order of nuns. Her influence throughout Europe was very important during the Counter-Reformation. She is the author of Life and the Way of Perfection.
- A German veteran of WW I wrote a book that detailed the horrors of war. He was forced to flee Germany, and his books were banned and burned during Hitler’s reign.
- This 19th century French writer’s genre was “swaggering romantic novels” in the words of the authors. A few of his 400 or so books – some written by ghostwriters – are still popular. His son was also a well-known novelist, but didn’t make the list.
- After working in entomology for 25 years, he became a researcher in the field of human sexuality. He wrote two best-sellers based on his research (which included filming group sexual encounters among his staff and their spouses).
- He was a journalist, poet, novelist, librettist and more. He is best known as one of the leading figures of the Harlem Renaissance during the 1920s. The title of Lorraine Hansberry’s famous play, A Raisin in the Sun, is taken from one of his poems.
- Her still-popular book, Etiquette, published in 1922, tells us how to act in any social situation. She describes how we should handle ourselves during a presidential visit and warns young ladies to avoid cabarets. Her book, which has sold over a million copies, was the bible of officer training schools during WW II.
- You may know him best as a perennial presidential candidate, but he will be remembered as a man who fought to correct the wrongs of industry. His 1965 exposé Unsafe at Any Speed detailed the auto industry’s lack of interest in producing safe cars, and brought about the demise of the Chevrolet Corvair four years later.
- He and fellow Frenchman Émile Gagnan invented scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus) diving. His exploits and his research ship, Calypso, were mainstays of public TV for many years. He also wrote numerous books about the sea, and our need to preserve it and its treasures.
- “I have seen so little of the world,” he said, “that I have nothing but thin air to concoct my stories of.” Yet this man, born into a sin-haunted, guilt-dominated Puritan environment, wrote a number of novels that are still popular. His best known novel is the story of a sinner named Hester Prynne.
- She was Italy’s first female doctor, but she is best known for the unconventional teaching methods she used to educate children in the slums of Rome. Though her ideas are not used today in many public schools, there are numerous private schools throughout the U.S. that employ her teaching ideas. Many of her books concerning teaching children are still in print.
- This French aristocrat came to America to study our prison system, and ended up writing a two-volume composition on the workings of our political system. He predicted that our form of democracy would dominate Europe one day.
- Some say that this Argentinean poet, essayist, short story writer, and translator was the most influential Latin American writer of the twentieth century. Many of his short stories have to do with fantasy and magical realism. “The Garden of Forking Paths” is one of his best known short stories.
- This British aristocrat’s works are the most read in the world after the Bible and the works of William Shakespeare. More than 400 million of her detective novels have been sold over the years. As I reported in a recent post, her most famous detective is about to make a comeback.
- Erasmus referred to him as “a man for all seasons” because his beliefs never changed with the political weather. Indeed, his refusal to acknowledge Henry VIII’s religious supremacy over that of the Catholic Church lead to his beheading and eventual sainthood in the Catholic Church. He wrote a well-known book which would have the English title Nowhere. However, he wrote it in Latin, so if you want to read it in the author’s original English, you’ll have to find a Latin to English translation.
- His two best known novels – two of the earliest ever written in the English language – could hardly be more different. The first, published in 1719, was made into a very popular Walt Disney adventure movie while the other, published in 1722, has been banned or challenged at times mostly because of its strong sexual content – its title character engages in prostitution and incest.
- He was a famous Russian short story writer and playwright. His works don’t have strong plots, so he was often criticized – even by other writers. “Where do your stories take you?” asked Tolstoy. “From the sofa to the junk room and back!” Regardless, his plays such as The Cherry Orchard and short stories such as “The Lady with the Pet Dog” remain popular over 100 years after his death at age 44.
- No less than Ernest Hemingway, who could be stingy with his praise of other writers, declared that all modern American literature came from one novel by this popular writer. This writer and noted wit also wrote a number of books about his travels abroad. For a while he lived in a house adjacent to one owned by Harriet Beecher Stowe in Hartford, Connecticut.
- This Irishman penned a novel about one day in the life of a Dublin salesman which, I dare to say, is probably read by only a small fraction of those who purchase it. Be that as it may, it is considered one of the greatest novels ever written. Some of his other works are much more accessible.
- This Russian is considered one of the greatest novelists of all time. Though his novels are filled with characters who lead sad, futile, guilt-ridden lives, his works remain very popular. He spent four years in Siberia after being found guilty of treason. He suffered from epilepsy.
- This Japanese writer’s novel, The Tale of the Genji, is considered to be the first novel ever written, and is considered the greatest work in the history of Japanese literature. After her husband’s death, she spent time in the royal court and then wrote about what she saw and heard. Her book was started in 1002 and finished in 1005 – barely making her eligible for this quiz. She died around 1031.
- He was a man who failed at almost everything he attempted. Finally at age 57 his greatest work – a novel about a delusional man and his chivalrous adventures – was published. He would be shocked to know that his Spanish language novel is one of the great influences on the European novels that followed.
- His voyage in the Pacific led this scientist to believe that animals (including humans) have evolved over the ages. His book about his theories has been both condemned and highly praised. Like him or hate him, his influence on mankind cannot be disputed.
- He is the most famous playwright and poet who ever lived. He created immortal characters, and delved into the human psyche as no writer had ever done before. Yet, we know very little about his life, and would have lost his works had they not been collected by friends shortly after his death. Consider what we would have lost.
In November I will submit another quiz based on 1,000 Years, 1,000 People, and tell you (through the quiz) who is number one on the list of people who were most influential (for better or for worse) in shaping the previous millennium.