There are many lists of notable historic figures that have changed our world for the better – scientists, politicians, philosophers, ordinary people… This is a list that contains representatives of all those groups and others that have certainly made the world a better place.
Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir was a lot more than just Sartre’s lover. She was one of the world’s first feminist theorists and wrote a number of works on feminist existentialism and sexuality. She criticised the idea that men were the ideal towards which women should aspire and was a strong proponent of the notion that gender was nothing but a social construct.
Madame Curie was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize and the only person in the world to date to win two. Her research on radioactivity and the treatment of tumors was groundbreaking – in fact, she was the very person who coined the term “radioactivity”. She founded the Curie Institutes in Warsaw and Paris, which are considered two of the leading medical institutions even today.
The man whose name became a synonym for “genius” and whose tongue recently became a meme. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, proven true in 1910, introduced a brand new view on space and time and proven the existence of gravity. Einstein’s findings might have been the foundation for the development of the nuclear bomb but a few days before his death, he urged all countries to give up their nuclear weapons.
We owe to Rosalind Franklin and her two colleagues Francis Crick and James Watson the knowledge that we have of the double-helix structure of the DNA molecule. They decoded it in 1953; however, Franklin didn’t get the chance to accept the Nobel Prize her colleagues received in 1962, because she died of cancer in 1958.
Keller was the first deafblind person to earn a University degree and is considered to be the most important advocate for people with disabilities in the world. Before her, handicapped people were forgotten about and treated harshly. Thanks to her work, we now have the Braille alphabet as the standard system of reading and writing for visually impaired people, and they can have the courage and the hope that they weren’t allowed only half a century ago.
Martin Luther King Jr
The Minister spent his entire life fighting the laws of segregation in the Republican States, until the day of his assassination in 1968. His famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered in 1963 during The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, helped establish him as one of the most influential figures of American history. King received his Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his non-violent Christian approach towards fighting racism.
Until he passed away two years ago, Nelson Mandela’s life was dedicated to fighting apartheid in South Africa. He was imprisoned for 27 years for his actions against the racism government, until he was released in 1990 and elected President of the South African Republic in the country’s first fully representative democratic election. His achievements include creating the Nelson Mandela Foundation for fighting HIV and poverty, introducing a new constitution and creating the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for investigation of past human rights abuses in the nation.
Mansfield and his colleague Paul Latenbur deservedly took home the Nobel Prize 12 years ago for the invention of the MRI scan. Before the scan, patients had to be subjected to dangerous X-rays to see their organs; the MRI allowed for an insight into the human body that was completely safe.
Pankhurst was a passionate feminist who led the suffragette movement in the UK. Her methods might have been questionable, but without Pankhurst, British women today wouldn’t have the right to vote. She founded the Women’s Social and Political Union together with her three daughters and saw that its activities have led to the women’s right to vote becoming a reality in 1918.
Rosa Parks refusing to give up a seat on the bus to a white man in 1955 was a brave act that led to the end of the legal segregation in America for good and sparked the Civil Rights Movement. Racism in America is unfortunately still very prevalent, but they’ve come a long way since then, thanks to Rosa Parks.