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A Millennial Top Ten List of Influential Guys

In the year 1001, doomsayers had to look for another line of work. God had spared the world fire and ice at the end of the first millennium. And so the curtain went up in Act Two of that great tragicomedy, human history, with hopes that it would play for at least another thousand years. This list has been gleaned down to the top 10 people who influenced and shaped our world in the SCA time period, 1000AD to 1600AD.

1. Johannes Gutenberg If not for Gutenberg, Columbus might never have set sail, Shakespeare's genius could have died with him, and Martin Luther's Ninety-five Theses would have hung on that door unheeded. In fact, without mass quantities of books to burn, the Inquisition could have fallen flat on its face. The printing press, developed by goldsmith Gutenberg in the 1430's, helped spread truth, beauty and, yes, heresy throughout the world. We know the Chinese had movable type for centuries before Gutenberg, but they used it for silk printing, not books. Gutenberg, however, always had publishing in mind. Copies of his first major project, the Bible, survive today. He worked for many years to perfect his system of movable type and a press that could mass-produce books, leaflets and propaganda. What little is known about Gutenberg comes from the numerous lawsuits filed against him for the rights of the invention. But no one successfully challenged Gutenberg's place as western inventor of movable type and the printing press.

2. Christopher Columbus This Genoese weaver's son altered the fabric of civilization by convincing Spanish Queen Isabella to finance his plan to sail west to beat the Portuguese to the treasures of the East. Bad math helped his salesmanship; he underestimated the miles to Japan by 8,200. Lucky for him, the New World was in the way.

3. Martin Luther When he tacked his Ninety-five Theses to the door of Wittenberg's castle church, the world was never the same. His denunciation of indulgences started a revolt that ended Western Christendom's twelve hundred years of ideological unity, touched off a century and a half of religious warfare, and stimulated nationalism and capitalism.

4. Galileo Galilei Copernicus popularized the heretical idea that the earth was not central to the universe, but Galileo proved it was true. He built the first astronomical telescope, discovered the craters of the moon, invented a better clock, and revealed the laws of bodies in motion. He proved that truth comes from experiments that prove theories, not from dogma.

5. William Shakespeare Using 24,000 different words to create his works and plays, he left no personal letters, and was more intent on building his family's good name and comfortable lifestyle than preserving his works. Luckily, seven years after his death, two associates published his plays.

6. Thomas Aquinas He provided billions of Christians for eight hundred years with the proof of God's existence and answers to moral questions. He was the church's most important philosopher. However, this did not stop his mother from imprisoning him in the family castle, or his brother's attempt to sway him from the Dominicans with a prostitute.

7. Leonardo da Vinci He was born the illegitimate son of a peasant girl and a Florentine lawyer. The epitome of a Renaissance man - he worked as a military architect and engineer, studied geology, botany, hydraulics and mechanics, and did theoretical work in mathematics. Through it all he saw art as a means to intellectual growth.

8. Michelangelo Buonarroti He fought the disapproval of his aristocratic father to become an apprentice as an artist. He learned the human form by dissecting corpses, and sculpted the most beautiful statues with that knowledge. His greatest accomplishment, the Sistine Chapel, he did only on the insistence of Pope Julius II, He did not consider himself a painter.

9. Nicholas Copernicus His theory that the earth moves around the sun overthrew the fifteen-hundred-year-old Ptolemaic system and laid the foundation for modern astronomy and physics. He procrastinated so long in publishing his findings that the manuscript reached him only on his deathbed, by which time, he had lost his memory!

10. William I Surviving a childhood of murderous relatives, "William the Bastard" became one of the greatest soldiers of the Middle Ages. He led a force of 6,000 men from France to conquer England, formed a centralized government, used juries in the justice system, and linked England economically with the Mediterranean. He commissioned the Domesday Book.

Gleaned from the book 1,000 Years, 1,000 People.

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