100 greatest Americans


The Discovery Channel is running a series of programs on the 100 greatest Americans, as derived from online polling. Such ventures are nearly always disastrous, reflecting current—day media appearances more than any collective wisdom. The always—brilliant Stephen Bainbridge has gone over the list with his strong concurrences and strong dissents indicated, and with his own suggested list of additions.

We can all quibble about the exact membership of such a group. I particularly enjoyed Steve's suggestion of Robert Mondavi, the man who more than anyone else brought California's wine industry from mediocre to magnificent, and I object to his deletion of Niccola Tesla, the very embodiment of the genius inventor, and a man unfairly sabotaged by the credit—grabber Thomas Edison, who nevertheless deserves membership on the list for his invention of industrialized research and development.

My own list would have a lot more war heroes (as does Steve's) and a lot more business heroes, such as H.J. Heinz (despite his grandson's poor choice of spouse), the man who brought high sanitation and quality standards to food processing and who vitually invented nationally—branded and distributed food products, thereby revolutionizing the American diet. It would almost no Hollywood celebrities, except for the obvious Ronald Reagan.

If I have enough time, I may just sit down and try to compose my own list. It would be a time—consuming project, though, because there are so many candidates. How fortunate I am to live in a country with such a heritage of greatness.

Thomas Lifson  5 16 05