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81 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2001
First off, this book is not western european inclined, even though a great deal of influence on the world came from western europe according to the author.
18 are from the Asian area. 4 more from the African and South American areas.
The emphasis of this book is on the individual's influence. I ran this as a contest of sorts on a message board and here's some info to help you decide if the book might be interesting to you:
Here's the criteria so that you don't go off tangent:
(1) Look to how this person influenced the people around him, for good or bad, and also how it impacted later people.; (2) people who impacted their generation but not later ones in any sense got less of a ranking or far less; (3) this guy is pretty fair in giving rankings to non European types; (4) sometimes the person's goals weren't fulfilled but they did something indirectly that later became a big deal; (5) some did only one thing out of many, that may have looked small at the time, that ranked them on the list. (6) the uniqueness of the person is sometimes taken into account, meaning the event is unlikely to have happened without this person; and (7) some people build upon the ideas or methods of others so the first one will sometimes get more credit.
Here's a ranking of the types of professions to help a little:
Highly recommend this book. Even if you don't agree with it, it's thought provoking, unlike some History books, and might even make you come up with your own list.
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48 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on January 18, 2001
Anytime you start rating people (or anything else, for that matter), you are going to get some feedback (shall we say) from those who disagree with your rankings. Michael Hart rates those who,in his opinion, qualify as the 100 most influential people in history, not the greatest, or the smartest or the nicest, but the most influential. Impossible to get agreement on, but before you dismiss Hart's rankings, you should read his reasons...Reading over the list of names, it is easy to say, "Oh, that's nonsense!! What is he doing here?" But in these short bios, Hart tells you WHY he thinks this person belongs on the list, and his reasoning is well thought out, thought provoking and difficult to just dismiss. It is an interesting mental excerise to change his listing, then defend YOUR choice as clearly as Hart does, (and doing that is tougher than it sounds, by the way). Hart's book does exactly what a book of this nature should do, it makes us THINK and that fact alone qualifes it as an excellent book and one that should not be missed.....
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2002
I first read this book nearly 10 years ago when a friend lent it to me. Since that time, I have referenced his "logic" in ranking the top 10 people (in particular) so many times that I had to buy the book for myself and my family. Many will disagree with Hart's ranking (Christians especially are often appalled that Jesus was ranked third behind Muhammed and Isaac Newton), but the reasons are so compelling that it might actually be a force for change!
Beyond that, this book is an exceptional little collection of mini-biographies of 100 influential people in history, and is a great reference book for families. My teenagers have been reading it and talking about it, and for that alone, it was worth purchasing! ('s an excellent "Bathroom Book!")
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on May 4, 2000
This book is a great listing of the most Influential people in history. I do have some quibbles with who Mr.Hart put on the list, or where he ranked some of them. But then, it isn't my listing. Hart intends the book to be the beginning of discussion, not the end. He has succeded.
I do like how Hart places a great emphesis on science and technology, as I do see these as the driving forces of history. Without scientific advancement, then certain things just wouldn't exist now a days... things that we think have no connection with science. The ability to communicate quickly, travel quickly, etc. Alone makes many of the things we take for granted now possible and in the past poeple wouldn't have dared to dream those things could have occured.
I own both of the major editions of this book. It is too bad that the work is out of print now, as it deservers to stay in print and be updated.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on May 6, 1999
I got a chance to read Micheal Hart's book last year. His criteria of ranking is awesome, as he hasn't favoured anyone because of personal liking or disliking. However, at very few places the reader feels that a favour is being given to the person he is reading about. I think that Mr. Hart's Book is on the whole very excellent and worth reading, but being a science student I would have never placed Einstein at #8. He was the man who gave a lot more contribution than Newton in the field of science. He changed the direction of the world of physics through an angle of 180 degrees. SO he should be placed in the first five people. It's is also being noticed that Jesus Christ was given third place in the ranking. It might be hard to swallow for a lot of christians, but I guess it is the fact. Mohammed(PBUH) really brought a change in a better way. He completed his religion in his own life, and muslims follow their religion in a better way. I would advice u guys to read this book, it's really worth reading. take care Ahmed
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on October 22, 2001
My namesake, Dr. Michael Hart, has written a wonderful book. It is an interesting compilation of biographies of influential people and at the same time an anthology of world-transforming human achievements. It makes for an intriguing and pleasant read. The author is a superbly trained scientist; he knows about methods and methodolgy--I am certain he does not take his "ranking" too seriously.
By the way, what happened to Edwin Hubble? He was, after all, a fellow astronomer. Hubble discovered first, that galaxies other than our own exist and second, that generally galaxies are moving apart from each other--the more distant they are the faster they move. Even Harlow Shapley seems to me more influential than some of the people described in the book. (He was the first to make a good approximation of the size of our own galaxy in 1917.)I think the omission of Alan Turing is curious, since he conceptualized the first computer (what Babbage and Hollerith had in mind were essentially arithmetic machines, not computers). I also think that Pythagoras should have been on the list or at least should have gotten an honorary mention. Although less influential than Euclid as a mathematician, Pythagoras was an important influence on Plato. He was also the main reason for the philosophical faith in numbers and in mathematics in general. More recent candidates would be: Tim Berners-Lee (inventor of the World Wide Web, 1990); Larry Roberts (chief designers of the Internet, completed 1969); Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf (TCP/IP, 1974); Friedrich Nietzsche (great deal of influence on Freud, and N. influenced more writers, philosophers and artists in the last one hundred years than any other single individual).
I dare to suggest that not enough credit was given to Napoleon. For example, the importance of Code Napoleon is not primarily in its brevity and outstanding lucidity, but that it means something crucial in human history--the rise of the rule of law in modern continetal Europe. Prior to that time, it was the largely arbitrary will of the feudal lord or the king that determined outcomes of human conflicts. With Code Napoleon law becomes much more general, knowable, and, at least in principle, applied equally to all. In Britain, a different legal tradition of judge-made law (common law) has evolved, but the impact of Napoleon's legal reform on coninental Europe is difficult to overestimate. His use of the citizen army (as opposed to mercenaries) with devastating effects for his enemies, led them to adopt the same practice. Serfdom was abloished in much of continental Europe as a result of Napoleon's invasions. Artillery gained an even greater importance in military strategy because of Napoleon, who made it light and capable of keeping pace with infantry, allowing to wheel those guns to the front line very rapidly and to decimate the opponent's frontline of infantry. Napoleon's invasion sparked German nationalism, which lead to the German desire for revenge and the three subsequent major wars with France in a span of two generations (Franco-Prussian War 1970; WW I 1914-1918; WW II 1939-1945).
Also, as far as political leaders are concerned, Trotsky is probably more important than Lenin, since without Trotsky there would have been no Bolshevik Revolution, but I don't think the same can be said about Lenin. That said, Lenin was enormously influential, too.
I highly recommend this book. I believe that individuals are important in history, but probably less important than actual events and discoveries they help to bring about. The ranking in terms of "influence" on something as big as human history, is almost completely (and just as necessarily) arbitrary. But what any intelligent reader can clearly get out of this book, is the importance of various events and the kind of persons needed to make them real.
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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2001
Thie is one of the best in the book with this category. I read the first edition several years ago and was very impressed. Since then, I have read many similar books and magazines such as Time & Life as the new millennium approached near 2000 AD. As of today, I still think this book is the top of the heap. The uniqueness of this book is the author states the reason why he rates the person in this order. Most reader take a look at the contents and immediately raise a lot of questions. But after reading the author's argument at the end of each biography, they tend to agree what he says. This book is thought provoking, it makes you think, forces you to see the history from different angle. In the course of learning, if you do the exercise of rating on the subject you study, you tend to gain a lot of insight of the subject. For instance, rate Top 10 Greatest Symphonies. I did just that and really satisfied what I learned. Most of similar books only lump persons together without really rating them in order or state the reason. Lately I got a copy of the second edition. The author did some changes on the rating, especially persons related to communism. I think the most recent 10 years is really a very small window of our human history and is really hard to measure the impact based on it. I do agree he replaces Antoine Becquerel with E. Rutherford. I bet the author is a scientist and not a historian. He tends to put more weight on science and technology. You have to be a physicist or an electrical engineer to appreciate the way he put Michael Faraday and James Maxwell in the very high and consecutive spots in the top 100. I found some changes in the Honorable Mentioned that author never bother to explain. For example, Ronald Reagan and Boris Yeltsin somehow sneak in to replace Tang Tai Tsung and Han Wu Ti. I think Reagan & Yeltsin are just too recent to rate their influence. It will be really hard to convince someone who is familiar with Chinese history that Boris Yeltsin has more influences than Tang Tai Tsung. Tai Tsung reigned the Tang dynasty from 626AD to 649AD. During that 23 years of time, he had profound influence on not only China but also Japan. It is also interesting to see the author spent 18 pages on Edware de Vere and 13 pages on Gorbachev. Since most persons get 5 pages average, this gives you a feeling of inconsistency in treating them equally. My final comment, it is not a good idea to rate a person still alive. This is not because he or she is not influential. It is simply too emotional or bias to rate the people still alive. Otherwise, a lot of people will rate Bill Gate over Boris Yeltsin in the list of Honorable Mentions.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2003
The whole point of this book is that the premise is impossible to satisfy. Noone will agree with all the choices made by the author, and that is made very clear in the introduction. It is simply HIS opinion, and the book is designed to make you justify your position. It is great fun to see where your personal favorites in history land in the ranking and to discover people you had never heard of and see their influence on all of us. For example, the author only gave Jesus a third place ranking, stating that His philosophy of non-retaliation and loving your enemies has never been tried. Had He been more influential, perhaps us Christians would be more loving. What do you think? Whatever you think, think you will.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on February 24, 2000
It is sensational and thought provoking. I read the whole book and gained an excellent knowledge of the events by the most influential people in history that shaped the world history and civilization.
This is a book that I would buy on special occasions as a gift to friends.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2003
I know of at least two editions of this book. One, written prior to the fall of communism, placed such figures as Lenin, Marx, Mao and others higher on the list. After the dust settled, he reworked the list, dropping them a few (or several) notches.
This is a great gift book and an even better bathroom read. It's rather compact chapters are easily perused and follow a pattern:
A brief introduction, a short, intelligent biography, many times introducing new, unknown elements, then a summation and reasons for the ranking.
As other reviewer have stated, the listing is controversial but given circumstances in the modern world, incredibly prescient. (He ranks Mohammed as most influential.) As should be, the philosophers and religious leaders are near the top. One finds
a general assortment of explorers, scientist, social movement leaders, royalty and thinkers. All in all, an excellent book.
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