In my ongoing quest for new and interesting topics for this weekly column, I came across lists of several top ten people and events of the Second Millennium in a recent edition of The World Almanac that I think you’ll find more than just a little engaging. This list of “top tens” covers the period from the year 1000 A.D. to 1999 A.D. While you may not agree with all the people and events chosen for these lists, one has to admire anyone with the courage to identify just ten people or ten events over the course of one thousand years that changed the world in a major historic way, not all of them good. What’s even more provocative is the commonly held belief by people born since 1990 that very little of significance could possibly have happened before they were born! Well, let’s take a look!
The first list is the ten most influential people of the Second Millennium, as compiled by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., the Pulitzer-prize-winning historian and writer. The following people are listed in the order of their importance. See how many of them you recognize and why Schlesinger might have chosen them. 1. William Shakespeare. 2. Isaac Newton. 3. Charles Darwin. 4. Nicolaus Copernicus. 5. Galileo Galilei. 6. Albert Einstein. 7. Christopher Columbus. 8. Abraham Lincoln. 9. Johann Gutenberg. 10. William Harvey. Most of us, I think, have probably heard of most of the individuals on this Top Ten list. The guy in 10th place, however, was completely new to me. It turns out that William Harvey was an English physician who lived from 1578 to 1657. He was the first man to describe in detail the circulation of the blood being pumped by the heart through the body. His most famous writing was a book published in 1628 titled “On the Motion of the Heart and Blood.” Early in his book, to point out the difficulty of his research, he wrote, “...I found the task so truly arduous... that I was almost tempted to think... that the movement of the heart was only to be comprehended by God. For I could neither rightly perceive at first when the systole and when the diastole took place by reason of the rapidity of the movement....” During his life, Harvey developed several principles that are still followed in hospitals today - that’s how far he advanced the art and science of medicine.