Monday December 30, 2013
The 10 Most Outstanding People in the World, According to Students at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism in 1927
Here's the list:
- Charles Lindbergh
- Richard Byrd
- Benito Mussolini
- Henry Ford
- Herbert Hoover
- Albert Einstein
- Mahatma Gandhi
- George Bernard Shaw
- Bobby Jones
- Al Capone
I came across the list near the end of Bill Bryson's much-recommended book, “One Summer: America, 1927,” during his section on Al Capone. But it's worth running down the whole list.
The top two are both aviators in a year famous for aviation. Lindbergh's fame, of course, survives; Byrd's doesn't, even though, at the beginning of that year, Byrd was the better-known of the two. But according to Bryson, Byrd's fame deserves to have faded since he was something of a charlatan.
Two politicians make the list, Mussolini and Hoover, both known for making trains (real or metaphoric) run on time. Neither fared well with history. Wait, I guess Gandhi was a politican, too. So three. Gandhi has fared best of all. He still makes an impact as example rather than negative example.
Only one businessman: Ford. Two if you count Capone—which Bryson does—and in some ways Capone has fared better historically than Ford. Bryson isn't much of a fan of the automaker, either. He gives credit where it's due but sees him mostly as a crank and anti-Semite. Capone? He simply saw a need and filled it. With a Tommy gun in hand.
Rounding out the list: one scientist, one athlete, one writer. Interestingly, Bobby Jones trumped both Jack Dempsey (in the year he lost to Gene Tunney) and Babe Ruth (in the year he hit 60 homeruns). In his book, Bryson writes often of Ruth, often of Dempsey, but never of Jones. I wonder why.
Worth noting, too, who's not on the list: President Calvin Coolidge, famously taciturn. He'd probably approve.
I'd be curious if such lists today ever include writers and scientists. Or gangsters and fascists.
The great men of 1927: Lindbergh, Einstein, Capone.