Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on March 19, 1978 · Page 29
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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan · Page 29

Detroit, Michigan
Issue Date:
Sunday, March 19, 1978
Page 29
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Detroit rcc rcss SECTION Editorials Entertainment Calendar Books Page 2 Pages 5-14 Pages 10-11 Page 16 Features-Editorials SUNDAY, MARCH 19, 1978 THE 100 TOP WORLD-SHAPERS 0 exc we mi fjesus In This Section A most finished f J ( 1 Author Michael Hart From the book THE 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History by Michael H. Hart. Copyright (c) 1978 by Michael H. Hart. Reprinted bv permission of the Hart Publishing Co. Inc. Michael H. Hart is an astronomer, a lawyer, a chessmas-ter in short, a ponderer and puzzler. For the last three years, the main focus of his pondering and puzzling has been human history. All of it. His goal to answer an essentially unimportant but fascinating question: Who were the 100 most influential individuals of all time? He has detailed his list in a new book, to be released April 2, entitled "The 100 A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History." It is a thick volume, sketching the biographies of his choices, running down his reasons for putting them in the order he did, and even including a long list of run-ners-up. There is very little chance you will agree with his list. In fact, unless you are a historian, there is very little chance you will recognize all the names. Know who Ts'ai Lun was? He is, amazingly enough, Number 7. Likewise, however ardent a supporter you were, you might be surprised to find that the list includes John F. Kennedy, at Number 80. There is a reason, but probably not the first one you'll think of. Abe Lincoln? A runner-up, out of the top 100. And Jesus finished third. Hart's book, besides being a useful encapsulation of world history, is an endless source of heady debate. So, for the sake of argument, and with permission from Hart and his publisher, the Free Press has summarized his list, giving some of his reasons for picking his top 10 and a quick description of those who fell in the next 90. Here they are. 1 MUHAMMAD (570-632) Founder, prime ethical force and creator of the scripture of Islam, unifier of Arabia and conqueror of most of the Mediterra-nean.Writes Hart of his first choice: "Since there are roughly twee as many Christians as Moslems in the world, it may initially seem strange that Muhammad has been ranked higher than Jesus. There are two principal reasons for that decision. First, Muhammad played a far more important role in the development of Islam than Jesus did in the development of Christianity. . . . "Furthermore, Muhammad (unlike Jesus) was a secular as well as a religious leader. In fact, as the driving force behind the Arab conquests, he may well rank as the most influential political leader of all time .... From Iraq to Morocco, there extends a whole chain of Arab nations united not merely by their faith in Islam, but also by their Arabic language, history and culture .... "It is this unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history." 2 ISAAC NEWTON (1642-1727) Hart describes Isaac Newton as "the greatest and most influential scientist who ever lived . . . . Between his twenty-first and twenty-seventh years, he laid the foundations for the scientific theories that subsequently revolutionized the world." Hart places Newton above all other political, religious and scientific figures in history except Muhammad because: "Scientific discoveries have not only revol-' utionized technology and economics; they have also completely changed politics, religious thinking, art and philosophy. Few aspects of human activity have remained unchanged by this scientific revolution, and it is for this reason that so many scientists and inventors are to be found on this list. Newton was not only the most brilliant of all scientists; he was also the most influential figure in the development .of scientific theory." 3 JESUS CHRIST (About 6 B.C.-about 30 A.D.) "There is. no question," Hart writes, "that Christianity, over the course of time, has had far more adherents than any other religion. However, it is not the relative influence of different religions that is being estimated in this book, but rather the relative influence of individual men. Christianity, unlike Islam, was not founded by a single person, but by two people Jesus and St. Paul and the principal credit for its development must therefore be apportioned between those two figures. Jesus formulated the basic ethical ideas of Christianity, as well as its basic spiritual outlook and its main ideas concerning human conduct. Christian theology, however, was shaped principally by the work of St. Paul. Jesus presented a spiritual message; Paul added to that the worship of Christ .... "For these reasons, some people even contend that it is Paul, rather than Jesus, who should really be considered the founder of Christianity .... However, although it is not clear what Christianity would be like without the influence of St. Paul, it is quite apparent that without Jesus, Christianity would not exist at all." 4 GAUTAMA BUDDHA (563-483 B.C.) The founder of Buddism is still followed by 200 million people, but the roots of Buddha reach many more millions who practice Hinduism, a faith embodying many Buddhist principIes.Hart places Buddha above Confucius, the great Chinese teacher, because the effect of Chinese Communism has been to cripple Confucianism and because many Confucian concepts existed in the Chinese culture before Confucius lived. 5 CONFUCIUS (551-479 B.C.) More a philosopher than founder of a religion, Confucius developed the first coherent system of beliefs reflecting the Chinese mind." At the present time, Confucianism is in very low estate in China .... In the past, however, Conf ucius's ideas proved remarkably deep-rooted within China and we should not be surprised if fifty to a hundred years from now, some Chinese philosopher successfully synthesizes the ideas of Confucius and Mao Tse-tung." 6 ST. PAUL (about 4 A.D.-64 A.D.) Paul's influence on Christian theology was "the most permanent and far-reaching of all Christian writers and think-ers.'Tourteen of the 27 New Testament books of the Bible are attributed to him, and he conceived the idea of the di vineness of Christ. "Paul, more than any other man," Hart says, "was responsible for the transformation of Christianity from a Jewish sect into a world religion." 7 TS'AI LUN (before and after 105 A.D.) This man, whose name is well-known to the Chinese, is credited with the invention of paper. An official of the Chinese imperial court, he presented Emperor Ho Ti with samples of his invention in 105 A.D. In centuries to come, the presence of paper enabled China to become the most advanced civilization of its age, for Ts'ai Lun's invention made information available to more numbers than ever before. "Most inventions," Hart writes, "are a product of their times, and would have come about even if the person who actually invented them had never lived. But such is clearly not the case with regard to paper. Europeans did not start to manufacture it until a thousand years after Ts'ai Lun, and then only because they had learned the process from the Arabs." 8JOHANN GUTENBERG (1400-1468) Any school- boy knows that Johann Gutenberg invented "movable type." That is not strictly true, for the Chinese had "movable type" centuries before Gutenberg lived. What Gutenberg did was devise a means of printing multiple copies quickly and accurately, and thus he falls right behind the inventor of paper in bringing to untold numbers the message of the written word "It is . . . worth noting that only three persons on this list lived during the five centuries preceding Gutenberg," writes Hart, "whereas sixty-seven lived during the five centuries following his death. This suggests that Gutenberg's invention was a major factor possibly even the crucial factor in triggering the revolutionary developments of modern times." Einstein, No. 10 Beethoven, No. 42 Jefferson, No. 70 If ' 1 V ' a i WJO . Picasso, No. 89 Genghis Khan, No. 21 V ' It' if Pincus, Ho. 81 9 CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS (1451-1506) Even more schoolboys know about Columbus. He wasn't the first European to set foot on the soil of the western hemisphere, but his was the step that got noticed. "Within a few years of his return, and as a direct consequence of his discoveries, many additional expeditions to the New World were made and the conquest and colonization of the new territories began," Hart writes. 1 A ALBERT EINSTEIN (1879-1955) Hart calls L V Einstein "the greatest scientist of the twentieth century and one of the supreme intellects of all time."Hart ranks him behind Newton because "most of modern technology would be the same today had ony Newton's work been done, and not Einstein's." Nonetheless, Einstein's theories of special and general relativity complex, paradoxical and as yet "perfect" in scientific terms merit him a place in Hart's top 10. 11. KARL MARX (1818-1883)-Communism's prime theorist 12. LOUIS PASTEUR (1822-1895)-most important figure in medicine 13. GALILEO GALILEI (1564-1642) developer of the "scientific method" 14. ARISTOTLE (384-322 B.C.)-the rational philosopher 15. LENIN (Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, 1870-1924) father of Soviet Communism 18. MOSES (13th century B.C.)-preserver of Jewish monotheism 17. CHARLES DARWIN (1809-1 882) theoretician of evolution 18. SHI HUANG TI (259-210 B.C.)-unifier of China 19. AUGUSTUS CAESAR (63 B.C.-14 A.D.)-founder of the Roman Empire 20. MAO TSE-TUNG (1893-1976) architect of the Chinese Revolution 21. GENGHIS KHAN (about 1162-1227) Mongol conqueror 22. EUCLID (third century B.C.) geometer extraordinary 23. MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546) leader of the Protestant Reformation 24. NICOLAUS COPERNICUS (1473-1543) theoretician of a sun-centered planetary system 25. JAMES WATT (1736-1819) developer of the steam engine 28. CONSTANTINE THE GREAT (280-337) first Christian emperor of Rome 27. GEORGE WASHINGTON (1732-1799 A.D.) first U.S. president Please turn to Page 4C - ",;4 1 T4 A JZ": Another over-achiever: Next week, Tito just might break his neck Flying aerlallst Tito Gaona already Is so proficient at the triple somersault (a feat achieved by only 12 other performers In circus history) he sometimes gets bored and does it blindfold. Now he Is going to attempt the "impossible" the quadruple somersault. Next Wednesday, on opening night of Ri'ngling Bros, and Barnum & Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden, a young aerialist will attempt to become the first and only person to perform the "impossible" quadruple. This is the story of Tito Gaona, who, if he succeeds, will have performed the most difficult and dangerous acrobatic feat of the 20th Century. By JOHN CULHANE Special Features In 1962, in a dingy New York theater, an ambitious Mexican family started watching a six-year-old movie called "Trapeze." Side-by-side sat Tito Gaona, 1 4, his sister Chela, 1 5, and their big brother, Armando, 17 the three members of a circus trampoline act called "The Titos" and their father and teacher, Victor Gaona, a 38-year-old acrobatic clown who had been many things in the circus but never a star. Two hours later an awestruck Tito had no doubt that he had just seen his destiny in Technicolor. "Trapeze" was a dramatization of the quest for the legendary triple three back somersaults from the flying trapeze to the hands of the catcher. Tito had found his life's model. By the time he was 18 years old, Tito was throwing a nightly triple with Ringling Bros, and Barnum and Bailey Circus the first trapeze artist to do so consistently since Alfredo Codona, 25 years before. Perhaps a dozen persons in all the world have been able to accomplish the feat and two have broken their necks trying. But the trouble with being a big-dreaming risk-taker like Tito is that one's sense of destiny keeps raising the ante. "As soon as the triple was a regular part of my act, I got bored doing it every day," recalls Tito today. "I only missed it three times last season. To show my mastery of it, I sometimes do it blindfolded." In 1968, Tito also mastered the double-double, a trick that some fliers as those aerialists who leave the trapeze to fly through space are wont to call themselves consider more difficult than the triple. But, to the public, the triple still sounded like the untopp-able trapeze trick unless, of course, it was humanly possible to do a quadruple. The quadruple four back somersaults from the flying trapeze to the hands of the catcher has never been done. There are at least two great barriers to its accomplishment. The first is physical: Even if he did not have to connect with the catcher, it would take a magnificent athlete to turn four somersaults in midair. The second barrier is psychological: First, the flier knows that he's attempting something for the first time; and second, this magnificent athlete knows that if he and his catcher do not harmonize their movements, he can easily be killed. LADIES AND GENTLEMEN and children of all ages this Wednesday (March 22), the opening night of Ringling Bros, and Barnum & Bailey Circus at New York's Madison Square Garden, that same dream-lashed Tito Gaona, now 30 years old, will attempt to become the first and only specimen of that ever-striving, ever-risk-taking creature, homo sapiens, ever to perform the quadruple before a paying audience. If he succeeds, he will have accomplished one of the greatest circus feats from Rome to Ringling and performed what some circus people feel is the most difficult and dangerous acrobatic feat of the 20th Century. Succeed or fail, Tito promises to keep on trying throughout the two-month Garden engagement as often as his hands can stand it. He knows all the possible penalties if he fails. When the flier comes out of that fourth somersault, he is traveling so fast as much as 75 miles an hour that the catcher, in reaching for him, might accidentally flip him over into the net instead of grasping him. The great Codona, traveling at about 60 miles an hour as he came out of the third somersault of his triple, always knew that, as he wrote, "this fall, unless gauged to the merest fraction of body balance, may result in my death. "Therefore, my body turns so that the force of this 40-foot fall is expended upon the muscles of my back ... It is the lack of clarity here which causes death; the performer ha spun so fast that he has lost all knowledge of where he is, and plunges downward to the net ... and the net . . . snaps his neck." WHEN WORD REACHED ME via circus friends that Tito Gaona had passed the point of no return in his quest for the quadruple. I flew down to the Venice, Fla., winter quarters of the Greatest Show on Earth. The setting for this great reckoning was a great white barn of a building with a sky-blue-roof, enclosing the winter-quarters circus arena. I arrived amid rehearsals for the Dec. 29 opening night in Florida of the 108th edition of-Ringling Bros, and Barnum & Bailey Circus. There, standing petitely on the tanbark, adjusting a harness on the head of one of her aerialists, was the woman who won my heart for the artists of the flying trapeze when I was a little boy. Still slim and elegant in her 60s, Antoinette Concello is now the aerial director of Ringling Bros. She was then their "Queen of the Air," and is still cited in Parkinson & Fox's "The Circus in America" as "the only woman flier ever to accomplish the triple somersault." Circus history-makers tend to be operatic in their jealousies, so the winter quarters was buzzing with Antoinette's surprising, super-supportive pledge to Tito: "When you do your quadruple, I want to be up there to hand you the flybar." And, sure enough, there she went, ascending the slender rope ladder with its 21 Please turn to Page 4C

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