Arts & Culture / Mosaic / October 19, 2011

Changing our world: Top innovators

The death of Steve Jobs was perhaps so shocking because it deprived the world of one its greatest innovators. Jobs is surrounded by great company, however, both living and dead. Here, for your perusal, is a guide from The Knox Student to some of the top innovators of the past century. Any names you think you should be added (or not worthy of being on this list)? Write a letter to the editor or contribute to the discussion online.

Norman Borlaug

Norman Borlaug was a plant geneticist who developed several strains of disease resistant and high yield wheat. When combined with modern agricultural techniques in Pakistan, India and Mexico, the increased food yields were so great that it saved an estimated one billion people from starvation. Keep in mind that, even today, there are only seven billion in the world. Tell me who else saved so many people in one swoop (not to mention made some awesome contributions to science).

Craig Venter

As a biology major, I’m probably going to include a lot of scientists in this list, but John Craig Venter, in addition to completely revolutionizing science, is just a general all-around badass. Despite practically failing out of a school as a child, he went on to be a major factor in the success of the sequencing of the Human Genome and later helped create the first “synthetic life,” a bacterium created in the lab.

Rosalind Franklin

You hear the names “Watson and Crick” thrown around a lot when talking about the discovery of DNA, but the name Rosalind Franklin should not be neglected. Franklin took the X-ray images of DNA which Watson and Crick used to formulate their hypothesis of the structure of DNA. Franklin’s papers show she had determined much of the DNA structure on her own, but lost out on credit since Watson and Crick published first without acknowledging her crucial contribution.

Ernest Madu

You have probably never heard of this guy, but you should know who he is. Madu, who runs the Heart Institute of the Caribbean in Jamaica, found a way to provide the same level of cardiovascular healthcare that is offered in the United States for 10 percent of the cost. Not only can such innovations make healthcare affordable anywhere in the world, they can be applied to other to others diseases — and, perhaps, if the U.S. starts implementing such ideas, reduce our crippling healthcare costs.

Whoever invented the Internet

It was the result of a lot of collaboration between a lot of scientists and a lot of different sources of funding and very little from Al Gore, but everyone who pitched in should get a lot of credit. Not only do students now have Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and StumbleUpon to distract them, it means news, ideas, technology, science, art and every other field and discovery can be shared with the world. Plus, who doesn’t love checking their email and finding a hundred messages to sort through?

Martha Graham

Revolutionized dance, revolutionized modern dance and has an influence that is still incredibly powerful today. She invented an entire school of dance, founded the world’s oldest continually performing dance company, inspired millions (audience and dancers alike) and was named “Dancer of the Century.”

Katy Sutcliffe

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