The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential People in American History

by RONALD ALLEN GOLDBERG, Ph.D
August 2017, 348 pages, $29.95
ISBN 978-0-89641-568-3

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A famous historian noted that “America was born in the country and moved to the city.” In the pre-Revolutionary War period, more than 90% of colonial Americans lived as farmers, probably never travelling more than a few miles from their place of birth. Four centuries later, the United States is an industrial giant, an urban nation with only about 2% still living on farms. From a very simple life style in the beginning, the American people now live mainly in the cities, enjoying advanced transportation systems, modern communications, and extremely advanced medical services. The quality of life has advanced enormously. Who are the main individuals who created the American life style?

Any study of important Americans risks the problem of comparing “apples” to “oranges”. How can we compare the importance of political leaders, business people, cultural figures, scientists and inventors, and anyone else who has made an important contribution? Working on the assumption that the common thread linking all of them is “influence”, the author has tried to weigh their respective contributions in creating modern America.

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Does a foreigner who moved to the United States count as an American? The author only included those immigrants who made their contribution in the United States as an American. Therefore, Albert Einstein is ineligible, while Alexander Graham Bell is included. Goldberg tried to avoid the temptation of naming only famous people. Instead, he has sought out “unsung heroes”, little known figures who made very important contributions, as well as the more familiar titans of American history. He has included personal background studies to identify their origins, as well as the importance of their achievements.

No two people would agree totally with the names and order of these selections, although there would be universal agreement on some such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. As the reader examines this list, he is urged to formulate his own list and ranking of important Americans. It will be an informative, and enjoyable, way to think about the history of the United States.

“The history of the world is the biography of great men”, declared the noted Scottish historian Thomas Babington Carlyle. “All history is biography”, claimed Ralph Waldo Emerson, a leading American writer of the nineteenth century. These comments typify the debate among historians about the “great man” theory of history. Is history determined by unique individuals or would events have happened anyway with other people? Even if others might eventually have achieved similar results, does this diminish their importance in history? Dr. Goldberg has assembled a group of unique individuals who shaped American history. Whether or not they were indispensable, he believes it is fair to attribute to them credit for helping create modern America, and they should be regarded as the nation’s most influential people.


CONTENTS

    1. George Washington
    2. Abraham Lincoln
    3. Thomas Jefferson
    4. James Madison
    5. James K. Polk
    6. Henry Ford
    7. Thomas Edison
    8. The Wright Brothers (Orville & Wilbur)
    9. Franklin D. Roosevelt
    10. John Marshall
    11. Alexander Hamilton
    12. Alexander Graham Bell
    13. Eli Whitney
    14. William Shockley, John Bardeen, William Brattain
    15. James Dewey Watson
    16. Charles Townes
    17. Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce
    18. Horace Mann
    19. Martin Luther King, Jr.
    20. Joseph Smith
    21. Samuel Slater
    22. Francis Cabot Lowell
    23. Samuel Gompers
    24. Cyrus McCormick
    25. William Morton
    26. Gregory Pincus
    27. Samuel F.B. Morse
    28. Henry Clay
    29. John L Mauchley and J. Presper Eckert
    30. Benjamin Franklin
    31. Robert Fulton
    32. Bill Gates
    33. Ulysses S. Grant
    34. Linus Pauling
    35. John Enders
    36. Willis Carrier
    37. Joseph Story
    38. Oswald Avery
    39. Lee DeForrest
    40. Harry Truman
    41. Daniel Webster
    42. John Von Neumann
    43. Noah Webster
    44. Thomas Hunt Morgan
    45. Oliver Wendell Holmes
    46. Joseph Glidden
    47. Betty Friedan
    48. Jonathan Edwards
    49. Ronald Reagan
    50. Joseph Henry
    51. William McGuffey
    52. John Deere
    53. John Adams
    54. Harriet Beecher Stowe
    55. Charles G. Finney
    56. William Seward
    57. George Eastman
    58. Walt Disney
    59. DeWitt Clinton
    60. Henry David Thoreau
    61. George C. Marshall
    62. Earl Warren
    63. Ernest O. Lawrence
    64. William James
    65. Thaddeus Stevens
    66. Edwin Hubble
    67. Theodore Roosevelt
    68. Frederick Taylor
    69. Josiah Willard Gibbs
    70. Samuel Colt
    71. Dwight Eisenhower
    72. Walter Rauschenbush
    73. Rachel Carlson
    74. John C. Calhoun
    75. Leo Baekland
    76. Chester Carlson
    77. Elvis Presley
    78. Justin Morrill
    79. Elisha Otis
    80. Henry George
    81. Roger Williams
    82. John Dewey
    83. Vladimir Zworykin
    84. Oliver Evans
    85. Charles Goodyear
    86. Elias Howe
    87. Mark Twain
    88. Charles Martin Hall
    89. Wallace Carothers
    90. Gustavus Swift
    91. Herman Hollerith
    92. Christopher Sholes
    93. Ralph Waldo Emerson
    94. Ottmar Mergenthaler
    95. Clarence Birdseye
    96. George Westinghouse
    97. Frank Lloyd Wright
    98. Lester Frank Ward
    99. Mary Baker Eddy
    100. Albert Michelson

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Professor Ronald Allen Goldberg is a distinguished historian who has been involved in the academic community for many years. As both a teacher and an author, he has made numerous contributions to the field of history, helping to craft an understanding of the American political and historical narrative accessible to all who are interested. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Georgia and is cureently a Professor in the Department of History at Thomas Nelson Community College. Some of Dr. Goldberg's publications are America in the Forties and America in the Twenties (Syracuse University Press),