posted on Aug, 12 2006 @ 07:23 PM
OK, it’s now over half way through 2006, and enough time has passed so we can look back on the20th century with some calm, some dispassion, some
reflection. This is a topic that I find of more than passing interest, because I have lived so many years of the 20th century, it sort of feels like
No, I’m not one of the Greatest Generation, although close but I came late, and too early for the Baby Boomer Generation. I’m in what has been
labeled the Silent Generation. See below.
My personal list of the ten most significant contributors of the twentieth century is as follows:
1. Franklin D. Roosevelt
2. Sir Winston Churchill
3. Albert Einstein
4. Dr. Jonas Salk
5. Messrs. Francis Crick and James Watson and Miss Rosalind Franklin, DNA
6. The Mahatma, M. K. Gandhi
7. Bell Labs, the transistor, John Bardeen and Walter Brattain
8. Eleanor Roosevelt
9. Nelson Mandela
10. Mikhail Gorbachev
I don’t know who would be on your list, but here are some reasons I choose mine list.
1. FDR did not end the Great Depression, but he inspired the American people to make it through with a sparkle on their faces. He ordered equal
pay for blacks on all Federal jobs. He reorganized the American government, brought it from the 19th century and made it ready for the 21st century.
He lead the country through the watershed event of the 20th century, the greatest war of all time, World War Two. And some have called it the last
battle of World War One.
2. Sir Winston Churchill. By dent of his personification of the English bulldog, he spoke his nation into resistance when its future looked so
bleak. Famous for his “V” for victory salute and for the ever present cigar, he had stamina and fortitude. What more can a leader give you? I
liked best his phrase, “That if the British empire and its commonwealth should last a 1000 years, THIS would be their finest hour!”
3. Albert Einstein, German physicist working as a clerk in the Swiss patent office, gave us first his Special Theory and then the General
Theory of Relativity. He explained the relationship between space, time and gravity. He discovered energy and matter were interrelated, different
manifestations of the same physical phenomena. E = mc squared.
4. Dr. Jonas Salk. A brilliant physician who discovered the live vaccine that immunized children against that DEADLY disease, poliomyelitis.
Every summer, as a child growing up in Ky, I saw swimming pools closed, movie theaters banned to children, and we lived not in fear but in
apprehension of contracting the disease that had afflicted FDR in the 1920s. Not even the R&Fs were immune. For many reasons, none of them good, India
and sub Saharan Africa are still subjected to annual epidemics of polio.
5. Crick, Watson and their inestimable helper, Franklin, made two brilliant discoveries. The double helix shape of the DNA molecule and
breaking the A T(or U) C G genetic code. This demonstrates all life on Earth has one source. The blue green algae. Our great grand parents by 10 to
the 10th power.
6. The Mahatma. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. A lawyer. He developed and practiced non-violent resistance to wrongful governmental policies.
Credited with bringing the British to their knees in India and with Indian independence in 1947, although Lord Louis Mountbatten is worth an honorable
mention here. Gandhi was martyred by another Hindu. (Lord Mountbatten died at the hands of an IRA bomber.) Martin Luther King, Jr., was a devotee of
Gandhi and followed his principles to launch the Civil Rights Movement in the US at Montgomery, AL.
7. Bell Labs and the transistor. Lee Deforest invented the vacuum tube - called a valve in England - in the early 1900s. It ran on heated
filaments which produced much heat and caused tube failures. The transistor or solid state device, cured both problems. Light in weight and extremely
low in current drain, they produced very little heat. Transistors made our electronic technology of the 21st century possible. Messrs. Bardeen and
Brattain are credited with the most significant contributions.
8. Eleanor Roosevelt. More than FDR’s wife, because of his disability she traveled around the country as his eyes and ears. Mother of their 5
surviving children, Anna, James, the first Jr., who died, Elliott, the surviving Jr., and John. She served as the US Delegate to the UN General
Assembly and was much beloved by millions of American women who wrote her more letters than were written to the president.
In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution who were custodians of the Constitution Hall in W-DC, refused to allow the black diva, Miriam
Anderson, to sing. Eleanor promptly resigned from the DAR and inveigled her husband to sign the hand written permit for the National Parks Service to
allow Ms. Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial. Mrs. Roosevelt was the greatest woman of the American 20th century.
9. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, born in 1918, was imprisoned by South Africa for 27 years on Robben Island. A bleak place where no one would
spend the night if he had the option, Nelson Mandela managed to preserve not only his own mind and sensibilities but maintained his dignity and
avoided anger and rage towards his captors. Honorable mention for the peaceful end of Apartheid in South Africa is owed to F. W. de Klerk who shared
the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela. A great men who endured privation longer then he deserved, but was still a man of compassion and love towards all
his fellow men. Not Jesus reborn, but as good a facsimile as you’ll find walking this Earth today.
10. Mikhail Gorbachev. I choose Mr. Gorbachev over President Reagan because the challenges Gorbachev faced were so much more formidable than
those faced by President Reagan. There were forces in the Soviet Union that did not want to see 74 years of revolution “go quietly into the
night.” He made the peaceful demise and burial of the world’s Number 2 super power look easy from 7000 miles distant. He was awarded the Nobel
Peace Prize, too, and it was well deserved. The Chairman’s pension in the old USSR was 500 rubles a month, so the $1 million tax free prize was well
appreciated, especially by Mrs. Gorbachev who favored Paris designed clothes.
There is my list. I’ll be happy to look at yours.
The name Silent Generation was coined in the November 5, 1951 cover story of Time to refer to the generation coming of age at the time. The name was
used by Strauss and Howe in their book “Generations” as their designation for that generation in the United States born from 1925 to 1942.
[edit on 8/12/2006 by donwhite]