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Top Ten Geeks of the Millennium? 525

ywwg asks: "Everyone's doing the top ten this-or-that of the Millennium, so why don't we join the fray? Let's choose the top ten geeks of the millennium staying out of the past ten years. I'm thinking of the greats like Gallileo and Newton. What oppressed, nerdy, ignored, and shunned individuals proved everyone wrong? "
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Top Ten Geeks of the Millennium?

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  • Invented Helicopters, tanks, could doodle like a mo-fo. He needs to be on the list!
  • Albert Einstein
    Richard Feynman
  • After all, where would geeks like us be without him?
  • John W. Mauchly (1907-1980) - Inventor of the first large-scale general-purpose electronic computer. Check it out here []

  • by Anonymous Coward
    and specificly the guy who gave use to the @ sign.
  • by BlueLines ( 24753 ) <slashdot@divisionbyzer o . com> on Saturday January 01, 2000 @10:05AM (#1422294) Homepage
    1)Leonardo Da Vinci, of course. He was the original hacker. I mean, damn, he invented the helicopter hundreds of years before it was ever possible to build.

    2) Gutenberg. Printing press. 'Nuff said.

    3) Issac Asimov. Genius. Scientist. Author.Ladies man . Well maybe not a ladies man. But he wrote the definitive book on black holes. neat-o.
  • by DarkClown ( 7673 )
    My feeling is that Steve Wozniak wouldn't be out of place on such a list.
  • Kirk Christiansen invented the lego brick with his son.
  • da Vinci's gotta be #1

    Turing has to be in there

    maybe M. Curie, Einstein, the guy who invented 0 (maybe that was the previous millenium

  • When was the last time two guys who ran a bicycle repair shop achieved something that man had dreamed of doing since the beginning of time?

    Sure, Otto Lilienthal laid a lot of the groundwork, and Benz developed the engine, but it took Orville and Wilbur to pull it all together.


    And what about Lady Ada Byron?

  • Rene Descartes.

    Not only did he bring us that nifty coordinate system, he was also the first to convincingly *prove* his existence, which is the next best thing to justifying it ;-)

    (Cogito, ergo sum, baby!)

  • A) Hair
    B) Theory of relativity
    C) Pacifist who invented the atomic bomb
    D) Believer in aliens, time travel
    E) Lack of some common social skills
    F) Didn't even need a computer

    I heard a story, and I'm not sure if it's true or not, but it sounds good:

    While Einstein was teaching at Princeton, the Personnel Office received a call for someone looking for his address and telephone number. The receptionist replied that she was unable to give that information over the telephone.

    A sheepish voice came back over the phone line. "This is Professor Einstein. I've forgotten where I live. Can you help me?"

  • How 'bout Frank Lloyd Wright, inventor of the precursor to legos: Lincoln Logs?
  • by Uberminky ( 122220 ) on Saturday January 01, 2000 @10:13AM (#1422303) Homepage
    The man basically invented the alternate current power supply system we use today, he invented the radio (yes, Tesla invented the radio)... Did much work with transformers... I mean come on, the man built a remote controlled boat 100 years ago... I forget all the other great stuff he did. But he was really underappreciated.
  • Albert Einstein. This guy did a lot for much of mathematics, physics, etc. He is now the stereotypical scientist. Nuff said.

    Bill Gates is also on there. Even though I despise Microsoft, I still grudgingly give him credit--if it weren't for him, a lot of people probably wouldn't have gotten into computers. So, he is an imprtant geek..but should remain out of the top 5 ;)

  • by crush ( 19364 )
    A guy that worked on studying barnacles for 8 years during which time he suppressed publication of a complete mode of explanation of life because he was afraid of the reaction. Not to mention his treatises on the movement of subsoil by earthworms ;)
  • if we're going to music folks, why not the Devo lads? Or Brian Eno?

    Or Richard D. James (Aphex Twin), who builds his own keyboards and codes his own software?
  • by Pyro P ( 7396 ) on Saturday January 01, 2000 @10:17AM (#1422308)
    the guy who invented 0 (maybe that was the previous millenium)

    Yes, it was. It was around 650 ad, if i recall correctly.
  • Leonardo Da Vinci
    Gallileo (Yeah I spelled it wrong i think)
    Carl Sagan
  • BG!=geek

    Although the nerdy and shunned parts probably could fit.

  • by neko the frog ( 94213 ) on Saturday January 01, 2000 @10:19AM (#1422314)
    leonhard euler (1707-1783), for giving us so damned much mathematical output that we still haven't published it all afaik, and he's been dead for over 200 years, hardly even slowing down after he lost his vision. probably his coolest deed is proving that e^(pi*i) - 1 = 0, linking five of the most basic mathematical constants into one simple equation, as well as providing a link between the real and complex planes.

    other candidates imho would include leonardo da vinci, thomas edison, blaise pascal, and my dog waffles.
  • Galileo Galilei Johannes Gutenberg Leonardo Da Vinci John Von Neumann Norbert Wiener Henry Ford Thomas Edison James Maxwell James Watt Guglielmo Marconi
  • Nicola Tesla []:
    • Built a motor out of bugs and sticks
    • Hold's the world's record for manmade lightning generation
    • Invented the radio
    • Invented AC
    • Invented a form of X10 for telephony and remote device control
    • Was terrified of the number "3" and human hair
    He's the man.
  • 10. All the guys at the MIT Bell Labs during 1950-1970
    9. DaVinci
    8. Galileo
    7. Capernicus
    6. Kepler
    5. Guttenburg
    4. Alan Cox
    3. Stallman
    2. Einstein
    1. Stephen Hawking

    Sorry Linus Torvalds would be #11... Stallman would get #5 just on entertainment value!

    Has anyone seen Alan Cox without his shades?
  • Check this out, it's got some more info about the guy. A bloody genius, no question.
  • NASA.

    Despite failures, despite bugs and glitches, despite an apatheic country to their success (yet who is all too eager to point out their faults)....these are the people who put Man on the moon. The ones responsible for my entire elementary school crowding around one little tv to watch the space shuttle shoot off into space.

    They were, even if people don't see them so now..the makers of dreams, for quite a few people. And so as an entity, I nominate them.
  • I may be totally out of place suggesting one of these but I feel he is at least good enogh for this list

    INPO (In No Particular Order)

    1. William Gibson
    2. Leonardo DaVinci
    3. Albert Einstien
    4. Alexander Graham Bell
    5. Bejamin Franklin
    6. Steve Wozniak
    7. Bill Gates (Flame me all you want he did change the face of modern comuting)
    8. Marie Curie
    9. Albert Schwietzer
    10. Linus Torvalds
    (I can't stop at ten that is really to few, maybe it should be a top 50 after all
    11. Henry Ford (Hacked a car that the common man could afford)
    12. Adolf Hitler (Maybe an asshole but his engineers pioneered Jet aircraft under his ideas. I could be wrong on who actually order the research so feel free to correct me but many people under Nazi command made great contributions to modern science)
    13. Wright Brothers

    Tahts all for now, I expect flames very soon, but I stand by my post.
  • He's the one Katz would have written about. :)
  • by brassrat77 ( 9533 ) on Saturday January 01, 2000 @10:23AM (#1422322)
    In no particular order and just a few minutes of thought:

    DaVinci, for reasons already stated.

    Michaelangelo - master architect and builder as well as painter and sculptor. There's real engineering in that art.

    Gallileo; what could be more geek than dropping cannonballs off a tower "as an experiment" or building a telescope from scratch. And he got in trouble with the thought police a few centuries before PC came into vouge.

    Gutenberg - where would OReilley be without *his* invention?

    James Watt - made steam power practical leading to the Industrial Revoultion, etc...

    Bejamin Franklin, for being a geek with style, fame, *and* political clout.

    Samuel Morse - telegraphy became the "internet" of the last century (read the book "The Victorian Internet" [] and see if you agree)

    Thomas Edison - quintessinal hardware hacker, entrepreneur, even suffered from NIH [not invented here] at times and wasn't above stealing a trade secret or two [so was he a cracker as well as a hacker?].

    Otto Diesel - practical internal (infernal?) combustion engine, and all the cars, ships, planes, oil business, smog, etc. that came from it.

    Enrico Fermi - "So you want this grant to build an atomic pile *WHERE*?!"
  • He's not as radical now, since the church pardoned him a couple of years back.

    Of course, the world is flat. Just like my head.

    And, everyone knows that the planets revolve around ME.

  • Hmmm... I think it was the Discovery Channel that had the top 100 most influential people of the milleneum (sp?). Gutenberg came out as number 1 as without a method of mass printing technology could not have advanced as far as fast, not to mention the Reformation.

    for what its worth I would include Godel (sorry no umlats), Grace Hopper, Bohr, Newton, Einstein, the Bernoullis, Schroedinger, Leibnitz, von Nueman, Crick, Watson, Euler, William of Occam, .... damn, there's just too many.....

  • Comment removed based on user account deletion
  • Blaise Pascal was not only a brilliant physicist and mathematician (his accomplishments include the foundations of modern probability theory), but also - arguably - the original existentialist philospher. In his lifetime the geocentric model of the universe was largely abandoned; with this he found himself, and the meaning of human life, at risk of being lost entirely in the vastness of time and space.

    A few quotations, all from Pensees, to contemplate:

    "When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and after, and the little space I fill, and even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of space of which I am ignorant, and which knows me not, I am frightened, and am astonished at being here rather than there, why now rather than then." (#205)

    "I see those frightful spaces of the universe which surround me, and I find myself tied to one corner of this vast expanse, without knowing why I am put in this place rather than in another, nor why the short time which is given me to live is assigned to me at this point rather than at another of the whole eternity which was before me or which shall come after me." (#194)

    "Numbers imitate space, which is of a different nature" (#119)

    "If we dreamt the same thing every night, it would affect us as much as the objects we see every day. And if an artisan were sure to dream every night for twelve hours' duration that he was a king, I believe he would be almost as happy as a king, who should dream every night for twelvc hours on end that we was an artisan.

    "If we were to dream very night that we were pursued by enemies, and harrassed by these painful phantoms, or that we passed every day in different occupations, as in making a voyage, we should suffer almost as much as if it were real, and should fear to sleep, a we fear to wake when we dread in fact to enter on such mishaps. And, indeed, it would cause pretty nearly the same discomforts as the reality.

    "But since dreams are all different, and each single one is diversified, what is seen in them affects us much less than what we see when awake, because of its continuity, which is not, however, so continuous and level as not to change too; but iot changes less abruptly, except rarely, as when we travel, and then we say, "It seems to me that I am dreaming." For life is a dream a little less inconsistant." (#386)

  • by mudshark ( 19714 ) on Saturday January 01, 2000 @10:26AM (#1422328)
    Here are some I thought of rather quickly (by no means an exhaustive roster):

    Alan Turing. No explanation necessary.
    Isaac Asimov. His love of science infused his non-fiction and fiction writing, and he showed millions of readers many possible futures.
    Charles Babbage. The Difference Engine was a real feat in its day, and still impressive now.
    Johannes Gutenberg. I don't know if he qualifies as a geek, but he started the Information Age rolling.
    Nikola Tesla. He had a superior technology for electrical transmission, but was relentlessly out-marketed by Edison's well-financed FUD machine.
    Galileo Galilei. His views were grounded in bleeding-edge science, but he was hounded and marginalized because they ran counter to the establishment religion.
    Leonardo da Vinci. The Renaissance Man made flesh.
    Marie Curie. In an age where women scientists were deemed hobbyists and strictly relegated to the fringes, she managed to actually get credit for her work.

    I have a feeling I'll spend the rest of today thinking about additions to this list. What a great way to commemorate this arbitrary division of time....
  • He turned away from suicide as a complete failure in life, making the rest of his life a conscious experiment in clear, original thinking and contribution in many fields. Agree or disagree with me but I would have to want R. Buckminster (Bucky) Fuller on the list. Hey, Stewart Brand, if your on /., would you agree?
  • hell yeah, the father of computers!
  • I think these guys should definately make it on the list:

    Stephen Hawking
    Alan Turing
    Thomas Edison - True geek, he slept under his workbench : )
    Sigmund Freud

    P.S. I can't think of any female geeks, could someone help me out?

  • I was in Elementary School when the Space Shuttle blew up.... I guess I'm getting old. 26 and already over the hill.

  • Nope, it wasn't Guillermo. His "invention" was merely a copy of the already patented device Tesla had invented almost 2 years previously. Tesla was the first. (And yes I know most history books say Guillermo invented it... they're wrong, plain and simple.)
  • Alan Turing would have to be my pick for the list.

    Here was a closet homosexual who defined much of the underlying architecture for how computers are used and programmed today and was instrumental in helping the western allied forces in their defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II with his codebreaking efforts at Bletchley Park in England. His fundamental Turing Machine is taught in automata courses throughout the world in Computer Science schools.

    Turing was a complete geek. An overachieving social retard who ultimately took his own life in 1954 after being tried in the British courts for being gay and having his security clearance stolen for on the basis of his sexual orientation.

    Alan Turing. A top-10 geek of the millenium.

  • 10. Linus Torvalds

    What did Linus Torvalds do that was so special? Why not list everybody that started an OS? Nate Williams, Jordan Hubbard, Rod Grimes, Bill Jolitz, Theo de Raadt, Steve Jobs...
  • Roger Penrose:

    A mathematician who beat theoretical physicists at their own game. His theory of what fundamental space time is quantized into(twistors: one dimentional objects, twisting in a 4 dimentional complex space-time) is WAAAAY more believable that super-string theory, an ad hoc theory that requires up to 26 dimentions, some of which just decide to "curl up" to leave us with our normal 4-D space-time.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    One of the founders of computer science. A man far ahead of his time.

    Head over to [] if you'd like to learn more.

    I'll be very disappointed if he doesn't get into the top 5...

  • Benjamin Franklin.

    This guy did it all, he was a politician, a soldier and a scientist. He invented bifocals, the franklin stove and others. He was the first to propose daylight savings time, (though it's still pitch black when I leave for and leave from work in the winter time...). He is also credited with creating the first political cartoon. He was instrumental in drumming up support european support for america during the revolutionary war, especially the french.

    If you want more info, check this link /American_Literature/Early_American_Litera ture/Franklin,_Benjamin/Writings/
  • 7. Bill Gates (Flame me all you want he did change the face of modern comuting)

    Indeed, when the place I work had an NT server colocated I found myself commuting to work at late hours quite often to reboot it.
  • The man was not a geek, he was an established scam-artist. He created the printing press, thinking he would be able to make some quick cash off of it. Somehow I think motive should factor into something like this.


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • by YIAAL ( 129110 ) on Saturday January 01, 2000 @10:34AM (#1422343) Homepage
    Ignaz Semmelweiss, physician who discovered that washing one's hand before delivering a baby could cut maternal deaths by over 90%. For this, he was ostracized by his peers, who didn't want to believe they'd been killing their patients, and wound up in an insane asylum. A true geek, he stuck to his principle to the end, and ultimately prevailed. And, as a true ubergeek, had the unforeseen consequence of his new technology creating a population explosion....
  • by kzinti ( 9651 ) on Saturday January 01, 2000 @10:36AM (#1422345) Homepage Journal
    Experimenters, tinkerers, inventors, pioneers, and fine exemplars of the geek spirit -- they made the machines that led us into flight and into spaceflight.

  • ....we shouldn't forget the man that invented the net!
  • Actually the way it is usually written is:
    e^(pi*i) + 1 = 0
    This keeps the five constants (e, pi, i, 1, and 0) in the equation.
    And yeah, he was a way math dude.
  • European monk Adelard of Bath translated Arab mathematicianal-Khowarizmi's book "Al-jabr" in 1120. Within 20 years, Arabic decimals spread throughout Europe.

    Leon Battista Alberti wrote "On Painting" in 1431, the first scientific study of perspective visualiztation. The mathematical interpretation of 3-D scenes as 2-D images continues to be the foundation of computer graphics and simulations.

    William Oughtred invented the most successful computing device in history, the slide rule, based on the development of logarithms seven years earlier, in 1621.
  • Here are my suggestions:

    1. Grace Hopper
    2. Thomas Jefferson
    3. Ben Franklin
    4. That scotsman back in the 1400's who invented the fax

    and if you still need names...

    • Whoever invented PEZ
    • The really fresh people from the Mentos commercials
  • by r2ravens ( 22773 ) on Saturday January 01, 2000 @10:44AM (#1422357)
    Nikola Tesla has to be on the list.

    From tm []:

    The Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, and scientist.

    Born on July 9/10, 1856 in Smiljan, Lika (Austria-Hungary)
    Died on January 7, 1943 in New York City, New York (USA)

    Inventions: a telephone repeater, rotating magnetic field principle, polyphase alternating-current system, induction motor, alternating-current power transmission, Tesla coil transformer, wireless communication, radio, fluorescent lights, and more than 700 other patents.

    Another site: []

    How many of us have our jobs, hobbies and/or avocations without the inventions of this man? He should also go on the all-time hackers list as well. I just wish he could have gotten that transmission-of-electricity-through-the-air thing working. :)


  • We would be where we are today or further along.

    Babbage persuaded the British government to give him 17,000 lbs. (Wage at the time was 2lbs./week) to build his Difference Engine. When he had spent the money, the engine had still not been built. Instead of trying to finish the job he tried to get more funding for the government to create the 'Analytical Engine'. Since he had failed to produce any results, the government did not grant the funding.

    When the Difference Engine was built nearly 20 years later, it was by two Swedish engineers, Pehr Georg and Edward Georg Scheutz at the cost of 566 lbs.

    They managed to sell two of these devices, both to governments. The Engine was little better than a mechanical abacus and the mathematical tables of the time did a much better job at a lower cost.
  • Nay on Babbage. Seemy other post [].
  • Everyone's been suggesting inventor type geeks. There's someone who didn't really invent anything, but made as big of an impact, perhaps bigger, than all the other geeks on the list.

    That man is Ghandi.
  • All these "best of the millenium" lists concentrate on the last six hundred years of it, but the first four hundred weren't a total wasteland. Take Roger Bacon (circa 1213/19-1292) for example. He was a Franciscan Friar, a theologian and scientist who compiled a great encyclopedia of the sciences. He was probably the first to realize that the calendar that had been in use for the last 700 years or so was drifting off course, and to propose reforms. Truly a great geek. Or Abbo of Fleury (died 1004, he just makes it into this millenium), who wrote voluminously on astronomy, mathematics, and other things, bringing to them an intellectual rigor they had lost over the previous three centuries or so. Abbo is the only person I've heard of who ever coded the calendar into an acrostic poem. Another great geek.

    These guys and others like them are all but forgotten now, but without them there would have been no da Vinci, no Descartes, and no Turing.

  • You can't forget HH The 14th Dalai Lama.

    He advances the Open Souce versions of politics, religion, and spirituality.

  • I nominate John Harrison, who devised the first reliable marine chronograph. Not only did he spend a lifetime building a better clock, he was thoroughly unappreciated in that lifetime. And his clocks changed the world -- the marine chronograph made modern navigation possible, and gave us a whole new window into space and time.
  • 7. Bill (Flame me all you want he did change the face of. .)

    Bill gates changed the landscape of his bank account on the backs of IT people everywhere.

    He's a small man with petty ideals.

  • by Kaufmann ( 16976 ) <rnedal&olimpo,com,br> on Saturday January 01, 2000 @11:18AM (#1422412) Homepage
    First of all, I'd like to say that I intensely dislike this stupid "top ten" nonsense. It reminds me of an anecdote about Enrico Fermi, when he arrived in America around WWII. They told him that somebody or the other was "a great general", to which he replied "what is the definition of a great general?" They figured that it was a general who had won five consecutive battles. He then pointed out that, if all there were no "great generals" and all armies had equal forces, 1/32 - roughly 3% - of all generals would have won five consecutive battles, solely by luck. "Now, has any of them ever won /ten/ consecutive battles...?"

    Also, I should point out that, even though Newton might have been a geek, he was by no means "shunned" or "opressed". He was arrogant, ambitious and ruthless. He was Master of the Mint, Fellow of the Royal Society, and very powerful on the political establishment.

    None of this means that Newton was not a great man. It just means that he definitely does not fit the "outcast genius" stereotype.
  • Bill gates is an uncool geek who lined his bank account on the backs of IT people everywhere.

    He's a small man with petty ideals and vision.

  • I was setting out to write a long response to this message, but then I realized that it was just some anonymous troller trying to get my goat. Well, you can't have it. =p
  • Two points:

    Lb = pounds weight. Its Lb to differentiate from L which was the old symbol for pounds stirling (Look at a £ sign, its a cursive L, crossed).

    As for the difference engines, the Difference engine 1 was to calculate those tables accurately. That was its only purpose. He stopped making it because he was a bit of a perfectionist and wanted to make a more general purpose device. According to "The Code Book" the Difference Engine 2 would have had memory, and a processor which could handle IF..THEN and LOOP type structures.

    However, not managing to get *anything* working after 10 years and £17,470 the government were understandably reluctant to fund a maverick.

    However, they his method for cracking Vinegere ciphers in 1854 whilst the rest of the world considered them uncrackable until 1863. This gave the british an edge during the Crimean war.
  • Puh-lease. This is an entirely non-issue. The point of view you are representing here is thankfully dying out with other such flat-earth flathead memes that could only flourish in an environment of widespread ignorance. That time is coming to an end; *has* come to an end. Stay healthy, you may die out the last of your breed. For an example of how people may see your point of view, and as an illustration to the rest of /. of the aberrant mindset you're coming from, I humbly submit - a truly deranged site. Lorenzo
  • DaVinci immediately sprang to mind as a front-runner but, based strictly on the criterion "What oppressed, nerdy, ignored, and shunned individuals proved everyone wrong" he would be disqaulified; DaVinci was very well-liked. He was cultured and pleasant, and his company wes enjoyable and sought after.

    I might nominate one of the few people that didn't like Leonardo (due, in part, to an envy of the universal affection for Leonardo): A personal hero of mine, Michelangelo. Michelangelo was more the misanthrope than Leonardo. He could be difficult to get along with, bull-headed, occasionally a physical coward, envious and, I think, prone to complain a bit more than the average person. In short, unlike DaVinci and the other member of the triumvirate, Raphael Sanzio, Michelangelo was not always the life of the party.

    Of course, I specified that I "might" nominate him. However, there are two reasons why I don't believe he would qualify.

    First, Michelangelo was not a scientist, not even a naturalist, although he was curious about nature insofar as the knowledge of nature might improve his art (e.g. he dissected human bodies to study musculature and bone structure) I assume that part of "geekness" is an interest in science of some sort, and I don't believe Michelangelo had much interest in science for it's own sake.

    Finally, both Michelangelo and DaVinci fail the "...proved everyone wrong" test. Michelangelo was an acknowledged genius upon completion of the "Pieta" at age 23 or 24. He was hailed as the greatest sculptor since the Classical age and his reputation only increased over time. I know less about Leonardo's young life, but I believe that he too was an acknowledged genius while still quite young. In other words, the western world immediately realized the genius of both men and there was no "...proved everyone wrong" about it: early on, both men set an artistic standard that lasted for generations.
  • DaVinci immediately sprang to mind as a front-runner but, based strictly on the criterion "What oppressed, nerdy, ignored, and shunned individuals proved everyone wrong" he would be disqaulified; DaVinci was very well-liked. He was cultured and pleasant, and his company wes enjoyable and sought after.

    I might nominate one of the few people that didn't like Leonardo (primarily due to an envy of the universal affection for Leonardo): A personal hero of mine, Michelangelo. Michelangelo was more the misanthrope than Leonardo. He could be difficult to get along with, bull-headed, occasionally a physical coward, envious and, I think, prone to complain a bit more than the average person. In short, unlike DaVinci and the other member of the triumvirate, Raphael Sanzio, Michelangelo was not always the life of the party.

    Of course, I specified that I "might" nominate him. However, there are two reasons why I don't believe he would qualify.

    First, Michelangelo was not a scientist, not even a naturalist, although he was curious about nature insofar as the knowledge of nature might improve his art (e.g. he dissected human bodies to study musculature and bone structure) I assume that part of "geekness" is an interest in science of some sort, and I don't believe Michelangelo had much interest in science for it's own sake.

    Finally, both Michelangelo and DaVinci fail the "...proved everyone wrong" test. Michelangelo was an acknowledged genius upon completion of the "Pieta" at age 23 or 24. He was hailed as the greatest sculptor since the Classical age and his reputation only increased over time. I know less about Leonardo's young life, but I believe that he too was an acknowledged genius while still quite young. In other words, the western world immediately realized the genius of both men and there was no "...proved everyone wrong" about it: early on, both men set an artistic standard that lasted for generations.
  • Well, like it or not, here's my top picks: Joseph Lister - the guy who figured out that if a surgeon disinfects before surgury, the patient has a better chance of not dying. Listerine is named after him. Professor Dewar - Invented the thermos Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt - Invented Radar James Young Simpson - The reason surgery doesn't hurt so much, he developed anaesthesia. James Clerk Maxwell - resp. for the concept of the electro-magnetic field, proposed that when a charged particle was accellerated, the radiation produced has the same velocity as light, paved the way for Einstein's Reletivity, and quantum physics. John Logie Baird - A technical genious. Invented Television Alexander Graham Bell - Invented the telephone. Founded AT&T, where Unix was later developed. Sir Alexander Fleming - Penicillin John Boyd Dunlop - The Pneumatic tyre Einstein- duh....
  • You might be wrong too. Check out this link [], which documents experiments by Heinrich Hertz and Nathan Stubblefield, among others. Bottom line is, there's still a great deal of controversy on this issue, but even if he didn't exactly invent radio, Tesla was still one smart guy.
  • by Pomme de Terre! ( 69783 ) on Saturday January 01, 2000 @12:30PM (#1422455)
    I am sad to see that the late Stanley Kubrick has not been mentioned thus far.

    A true geek in the strictest sense of the word, he is largely considered to be one of the greatest film directors to ever live. To watch a Kubrick film is to see art of the first order in cinematic form. He is the Michaelangelo of our times. Symbolism and imagination drip from every Stanley Kubrick work, while a flawless technical precision executes every scene and shot perfectly. A clear sanity in vision illustrates an insane world around us. Every film of his is a masterpiece. And while we have McDonald's directors ruling Hollywood today, pumping out mediocre film after mediocre film, Kubrick was always patient and expert, taking years to complete a film, but always cost conscious. An expensive film != a great film. He knew that all too well.

    That is not even to mention the effect he has had on all geeks that have come since him. What computer scientist in artificial intelligence isn't inspired by HAL from Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey"? Kubrick elevated science fiction film from men dressed in foam lizard suits to a legitimate expressive art form.

    Scientists != geeks. There's more to it than that. And Kubruck is most definitely a geek. If Stanley Kubrick isn't a geek of the millennium, (if only to represent the art of film) then who is?


  • by vitaflo ( 20507 ) on Saturday January 01, 2000 @12:33PM (#1422457) Homepage
    I don't know about you people, but I don't think anyone fits the bill of "geek" as it is meant today like Steve Wozniak. When you think of his accomplishments, and how well he has always carried himself, he's gotta be my top vote.
  • by trakwebster ( 132050 ) on Saturday January 01, 2000 @12:35PM (#1422458) Homepage
    When Edison's DC generators were found incapable of sending electricity for any useful distance, Nicolai Tesla's AC generators and his patents were 'leased' to a man named Westinghouse, who manufactured generators and created the enabling technology (electric power) which has made possible radio, television, computers, MTV, CD's, lighted houses, street lamps, stop lights, Times Square, the transistor, logic gates, embedded computers, linux, perl, basic, cobol, electric typewriters, most modern manufacturing, space launches, satellites, and therefore their products such as Elvis, REM, Puff Daddy, Milton Berle, televised boxing matches, Star Wars, and more. The drive for dominance between DC and AC as methods was intense: The Edison faction, trying to get DC accepted, publically electocuted a dog with AC to show the danger of alternating current. Tesla also held initial patents and built working devices for many radio devices, a form of television, sonar, radio-controlled guidance systems, a source of illumination which had no obvious point of origin, photography of the 'kirlian aura', and wireless transmission of electric power. And let us not forget the Tesla Coil, without which 'It's Alive! It's Alive!' would probably have never been possible (Frankenstein). Tesla was an unusual man. The scent of peaches made him pass out and he required exactly thirteen napkins at each meal. He suffered from fevers as a child. He reported that his idea of electricity was fundamentally different from all current views, and he could build his machines in his mind to test them with the consequence that his first physical implementation frequently worked perfectly. He is said to have built massive coils of wire whose diameter may have been as large as a foot, and which coils used the thickness of the earth as a resonant device -- these coils on one occasion were said to produce small earthquakes. His sale of generator patents to Westinghouse contained a payment of so many cents per kilowatt, but Westinghouse later induced Tesla to give up this payment. Tesla did so. He died penniless in the late 40's. Tesla gave us our world as we know it. Tesla's later experiments concerned a set of devices he'd invented which would ring the globe, providing free electric power for the entire world's population. It actually worked. You could stick light bulbs into the ground a half mile from his laboratory, and they would light up. Needless to say, Tesla's plans for free power for the world didn't sound so great to Westinghouse and Company. Strangely, a fire destroyed his laboratory and all notes with it, and this was the end of free power for the world. Let's tip the hat to Nicolai Tesla ... the original open source kind of guy, and the man who enabled every day you experience. Thank you, Mr. Tesla
  • What oppressed, nerdy, ignored, and shunned individuals proved everyone wrong?

    If you don't think he was oppressed, nerdy, ignored, and shunned, then boy do I have a book for you to read.

  • Oops.... I was thinking of the "past 2000 years", not the past millenia.


  • A suggested list, just my opinion....
    I think that if we are to truly give credit where credit is due, we should pick people who created something totally new, instead of taking previously existing technology and massaging it into something popular (Bill Gates, etc.). These would be my picks:

    1 - Johannes Guttenberg (Invented mass comm.)
    2 - Isaac Newton (Invented most of physics/calc.)
    3 - Albert Einstein (THE geek posterboy, E=MC^2)
    4 - Leonardo Da Vinci (The Do-Everything geek)
    5 - Charles Babbage (Invented the computer)
    6 - Nikolai Tesla (Invented AC motors, radio)
    7 - Verner Von Braun (Gave us spaceflight)
    8 - Galileo Galilei (Astronomer, Inventor, Rebel)
    9 - James Watt (Started the industrial revolution)
    10 - Henry Ford (Invented the assembly line)

    A quick note on item 6 - Tesla. People will say "wait a minute... didn't marconi invent radio ?". The answer is no. Tesla is the actual inventor of radio, a fact that the supreme court of the U.S. has upheld. There is a website (tesla: forgotten at the smithsonian) which documents this.

    Also, if this list extended to groups of people instead of just individuals, I would put NASA, Bell Labs, and the Lockheed Skunk Works on the list somewhere.... although it would be hard to rank these organizations in comparison with the individuals named. Perhaps 2 lists are needed ?
  • by BenByer ( 59573 ) on Saturday January 01, 2000 @12:59PM (#1422472)
    There have been some real good references, including Godel and especially Gauss, but there are two that at least deserve discussion before the matter is laid to rest (as if it everwill :)

    Bernhard Riemann - He "invented" the integral as most readers here would know it, worked in multiple dimensions (impetus for Einstein's work), and other general cool math stuff (important stuff if you ask me).

    Evariste Galois - Has to be number 1. He died at age 21 in a duel that he knew he was going to lose. The night before he wrote down as much new math as he could trying to impart his impressive genius to the rest of us. His contributions led to the only area of math named after a person (Galois Theory obviously). Why was he a geek. Well, his reckless, anti-social demise was pretty much the ultimate fuck you to the rest of us. If he had lived algebra would be an entirely different subject today.

    Just sticking up for the mathematicions a bit.

  • Some have already mentioned Copernicus, but it is not clear just why he is one of the more important people who could go on the list. As others have noted, there are very few people from the first half of the millenium. This is because not much new or interesting was thought of between the decline of classical civilization and the rennaisance. Copernicus was the first to really push western thinking back up to the plane acheived by Greek Scholars two thousand years before. It could be argued that his insight into the structure of the universe in general and the solar system in particular were an essential precondition to the acheivement of a Western Technological Civilization. Why? Because a system of thought that cannot accurately explain the most obvious and observable phenomena of the natural world cannot achieve much in the way of technological innovation. Copernicus got the ball rolling. Think of the insight and courage neccessary to go against the entire world order of the time. Few of us, even some of the people rightly nominated for this list, can claim both of these attributes.
  • 1) Richard Feynmann- Kind of an All-American Hacker... Pioneered Quantum ElectroDynamics, was one the first to outline quantum computing (and pointed out that reversible computation had no thermodynamic effects), hence having large impacts on not only Quantum Computing, but Nanotech, etc. This work alone will change the way we think of Reality. He was also one of the first computer hackers in the sense we think of them today.

    2) Alan Turing- You gotta admit, it takes a pretty bizarre mind to come up with shit like a UTM when there were no computers around.

    3) Marie Curie- not only opened up the world to radioactivity (and hence Quantum Mechanics, etc.), but had to overcome being female in very backwards time.

    4) Nikola Tesla- On of the fathers of the modern world of electric power. His so called "wacko" experiments are currently leading the way in research of ionospheric energy and information transfer, and effects of weather control (can anyone say "HAARP"?)

    5) Robert Anton Wilson- In my view, his philosophical writings (which are really a coalesence of many marginalized voices) has had a huge impact on the "underground" and any type of out-of-the-box thinking that is driving the latter half of the 20th century

    6) Ivan Stang- founder of the Church of Subgenius. Praise "Bob"! 'nuff said.

    7) Gregor Mendel - formalized breeding patterns of recessive/dominant genes. Although, from what I understand he massively fudged his numbers :-)

    8) Robert Oppenheimer- Father of the A-Bomb, radical populist who was eventually blacklisted. Kind of a sucky position to be in...

    9) Adam Smith- for better or worse, outlined all modern economic thought in "The Wealth of Nations"...

    10) Richard Stallman - This choice may seem rather idolistic, but his work and ideas form the fundamental undercurrents of current Geek thought.
  • since scotsmen invented half of everything.

    What, only half? You've got something against the scots? (My favorite scotsman would have me believe they invented everything.) 8^)

  • ...but to what extent does her role in the creation of COBOL stand for or against her ?

    Hmmm... Two houses on my block recently sold for $800K each. COBOL pays my mortgage. Hmmmm...

    But even if you are one of the unenlightened children, her other work is enough.

  • He was a self taught genius clock maker with no formal education who solved the most difficult navigational problem of his time.

    was determined by dead reckoning and the dead part happened frequently when captains were wrong.

    His improvements in accuracy and solutions to a thousand problems rendering a clock useless at sea are awe inspiring.

    The marine chronometer perfected in the late 18 century was little modified and still in use in the middle of
    the 20th century.

    By the way there is really good book on the subject titled Longitude, by the same author of gallileo's daughter who's name escapes me presently.


  • If anyone here has read Dick Feynman's autobiography "Surely you must be joking, Mr Feynman - The Adventures of a Curious Character", then you MUST agree that he epitomizes everything that stands for Geekdom. He is a model of self-improvement, He won a Nobel Prize and worked on the Manhattan Project, and he has varied interests - consider:

    He once took a bet (he took plenty of bets) that he could learn to play the Flight of the Bumblebee on Clarinet in two weeks (without previous knowledge of the ways of the clarinet)

    He spent many of his later years learning to paint - and became a fairly accomplished gallery artist

    He beat an asian fellow in a contest of wits, his pencil and paper versus this fellow's abacus, and won (computing the cube root of a very large number by hand)

    one of his hobbies at los alamos was safecracking. That's just cool.

    his lectures are widely seen as not only incredibly informative, but also a source of great comedy

    and this is just the start. HE should have got man of the century, if you ask me. but no one is.

  • by freeBill ( 3843 ) on Saturday January 01, 2000 @03:07PM (#1422539) Homepage
    1. William of Occam
    2. Gutenberg
    3. Galileo
    4. Descartes
    5. Copernicus
    6. Darwin
    7. Turing, the one computer guy who should be here, although he based his ideas on the next guy
    8. Godel
    9. Semmelweis []
    10. Einstein

    If they're not known by a single name, they don't qualify for my list. (OK, you may not know Ignaz Semmelweis [] by his last name, but you should. Click on the link.) Based on the criteria listed in this post, he qualifies before most of the others.

    My only question is whether Einstein should be there, on account of the large number of erroneous things being said about him (even in "Time"). He didn't invent the bomb. (Didn't have anything to do with it, except signing a letter to Roosevelt. He rejected the underlying science to his death.) I use two criteria for including him: the originality of his ideas (although quantum mechanics is equally daring in its willingness to question our deepest-held ideas) and the fact that without him no one else would have arrived at the same conclusions for decades (perhaps centuries).

    The Wright brothers probably deserve consideration (but do you count them as one or two on the list?) The same counting problem occurs with the quantum-mechanicians. Once you say "Bohr," you just about have to include Schroedinger and then the floodgates are open.

    Based on the criteria given, you'd have to consider Dr. Charles R. Drew, who invented blood transfusion (with others) and who was then died because he was refused a transfusion at an all-white Southern hospital because he was black.
  • For those of you who don't know the story...

    Isaac Newton was in college when the black plague hit. He returned home for a few years until it was over. While he was home he tried to figure out planetary motion. Mathematics of the day was inadequate for the job, so he invented calculus. He figured out that planets travelled in ellipses but his calculations were off slightly because he had left all of his text books back at school and couldn't remember the exact diameter of the Earth. So he put away his work and forgot about. Eventually he went back to college. When the head of mathematics saw some of his work, he immediately resigned and gave the title to Newton. Twenty years later some other scientists were still trying to solve the problem of planetary motion and came to Newton for help with the math. Newton told them that he had already worked that out twenty years earlier but his numbers were slightly off. When others fixed the number for the radius of the Earth everything fell into place and FORCE = MASS * ACCELERATION was born. Newton's law of physics explained so much of the physical world that the various churches could no longer suppress science. For the first time, even the tides could be explained. And the world moved from an age of superstitions to an age of science and reason. The profound change in mindset still rules today.
  • You all fire up a Von Nueman machine every day but you completely forget about him for top 10 lists.

    I'm glad to see several Eulers in this thread.

    I'm suprised Gallios (father of modern algebra) didn't get a mention.

    Others worth noting would be Gauss, Fourier, Fibinaci, and Fermat

    OK that's a pretty Math-heavy group how 'bout:
    Alfred Nobel - blowing stuff up is fun

    Buckminister Fuller - I can't beleive he's not a top 10 geek

    Linus Pauling - 2 Nobel Prizes (vitaman C is a good thing; Global Nuclear war is not!)

    Charlie Papazian - Beer Geek, father of US homebrew and Microbrew movement. If like beer you owe this man a vote!!
  • God how obnoxious the US $ is not the only currnecy in the world you know...
    Your showing how full of themselves americans are.

    Well first of all, you can't know for sure that the guy (or girl) you're responding to is an American. It's flamebait, don't sink to the same level.

    Second of all, although it was expressed rather obnoxiously, expressing monetary amounts in $ makes practical sense in many contexts. Most people from non-U.S. countries will tend to know the conversion rate between their own currency and U.S. Dollars; this is less likely with other currencies.

    That said, given the time frame of this particular case, converting to $ wouldn't make it any easier to relate to current values of the currencies ;-)
  • by Money__ ( 87045 ) on Saturday January 01, 2000 @04:54PM (#1422581)
    Word Frequency
    tesla 36
    turing 28
    Einstein 26
    Newton 24
    vinci 22
    Copernicus 13
    leonardo 11
    edison 11
    Linus 9
    Gutenberg 9
    Galileo 9
    Babbage 9

  • Yeah, but his supposed geekiness is built on vaporware.

    "Okay, now prove it"

    "Um... Err..."

    - Jeff A. Campbell
    - VelociNews ( [])
  • by Millennium ( 2451 ) on Saturday January 01, 2000 @07:02PM (#1422622)
    Think about this. Gutenberg was the one who made the printing press a practical invenion by introducing movable type. This fact is what kick-started the freer flow of information, which is how we humans have come to be defined. daVinci, Curie, Einstein, Hawking, Torvalds... all great in their own respects, but had Gutenberg not come before them they would be nothing. After Gutenberg, then Alexander Graham Bell, no so much for the telephone as the telephone line. Think of just how many devices now depend on telephone lines. Also consider this: while a telephone line may have more wires n it now, the basic ideas haven't changed since the device was first invented. Now that is impressive. After Bell, then Babbage. The one whose ideas would later inspire the modern computer. Only the first of his three machines (Difference Engine, Analytical Engine, "Dream Engine") were ever built, but the ideas carried on. After Babbage, then A and B (whose names I can't remember, but they built the A-B-C, the first electronic computer, predating its more famous descendant the ENIAC by one or two decades). Then the people behind ENIAC, who made the term a household word. Then Admiral Grace Hopper, who helped with the first programming languages. Then the inventors of the transistor, then the the microprocessor. I'm sure you see where I'm going here. Keep the list going, and you'll reach the original writers of UNIX, the Xerox PARC team, Jobs and Wozniak, and so on until you reach Torvalds. The point: The top geeks of this century have done great things indeed, but we shouldn't forget who made these possible. And it all started, more or less, with Gutenberg.
  • by Stradivarius ( 7490 ) on Saturday January 01, 2000 @07:08PM (#1422627)
    I hate to be the discordant note here, especially with all the great suggestions as to the Top Ten, but...

    Has it occurred to anyone else that we may be taking this whole "geek" thing a bit far? I mean, sure, there have been a good number of geniuses, of which many were oppressed or ignored, etc. But it seems as if we're slapping this "geek" label on anyone who made a name for themselves in a non-"popular" area. Especially if they were ignored at first, or oppressed at some point (which many were). It's as if we're this big self-conscious group looking for validation, saying "hey look! so-and-so-genius was ignored and unpopular, so hey I'm like them!". This, despite the fact that we know so little about the lives (especially of a personal nature) of many of these millenial "geeks". We don't know, and often don't have the information to make a good educated guess, as to whether they would have even agreed with the label.

    I guess this kinda ties into what I see as a certain ambiguity as to the meaning of the word "geek" today. You've got some people using it to refer to any unpopular or outcast person; others who use it to refer to just about any intelligent and usually motivated individual; and some who mean some mix of the two. How to know which is meant?

    So, my question to you all is, am I making any sense here? Does anyone else see something a little odd in this latching onto every genius and referring to them as a "geek" (whatever that means)? Anyone think I'm full of hot air (if so, do try to enlighten me :-)

    (BTW, I'm an engineer not a pyschoanalyst, so forgive any psycho-babble :-p )
  • Fermat's last therom took 350 years to solve with proof.
    x^n + y^n = z^n has no solutions for n > 2 while x,y & z are integers. No proof given.

    If Fermat lived in our time no doubt he'd be the best obfuscated C programmer ever, no comments, no reasoning.

    And in reality nobody else has probably caused such great interest in mathamatics.
  • The really interesting thing about the American government is it's Big Brother method of "simplifying" history.

    Take a look here at the Smithsonian [] to see how Edison is basically given credit for the total use of electricity in the world! Wow!


  • but to what extent does her role in the creation of COBOL stand for or against her ?

    The creation of COBOL isn't what gives Grace Hopper a place in a top 10. The creation of COBOL is just a result of her pioneering work on the concept, and implementation of early compilers. When she first starting with computers, there were no compilers, or higher level languages. But the result of her work shaped the computing world as we know of to a large extend: high level languages and compilers. Without her, many of the people on /. wouldn't have the job they have now. And that ears her a place on the list.

    -- Abigail

  • Man.. I just love being insightful and overrated in the same post. No bias at Slashdot -- free speech reigns!

    (I have a karma of 150+ -- I can be a jerk. -1 here I come!)

  • Whoa! That's two compressed into one! There's Rudolf Diesel [] and then there's Nikolaus Otto []. Kinda like saying Nikolai Edison, :))

  • here []

  • True, we did not lionize the intellectuals and give them access to political power, and that's a damn good thing. Unlike what we have now.
    Intellectuals with political power in America? Hello? I really don't think so. Some would argue for Mario Cuomo, but I don't think we've seen an `intellectual' with any political power in this country since Woodrow Wilson. In fact, the media-driven, ephemeral nature of our shallow society seems to preclude intellectuals from rising to power. The flickering attention spans and non-existent analytical skills of the general public render them largely immune to intellectual discourse. Remember that we're talking about a country in which being a "dummy", an "idiot", or a non-reader is touted as a virtue. I see no intellectual movement whatsoever.
  • You can't name any specific female nerds?

    Marie Curie?
    Ada Lovelace?
    Grace Hopper?

    Any of these ring a bell? :-)

    (Leaving aside that the point of science is that gender and race don't matter as much as the ideas, so the idea of lauding someone as a "female scientist" is to me less impressive than lauding them as a "scientist".)
  • Prove to me that you exist. Prove to me that Julius Caesar existed -- or Socrates. Why do you question the existence of Jesus (who is documented in several sources outside the Bible, plus at least 6 seperate authors within the bible) but not the existence of Socrates (who is only mentioned as a primary source by Plato and one other Greek philosopher whose name escapes me)?

    Ultimately, I can't prove anything. But I can tell you that there is very good evidence for Jesus.

  • First off, your characterization of how the Christian faith rose is patently false. Yes, the Roman government endorsed the christian faith in an attempt to restore public morals. But: the Roman government just endorsed a religion that was already accepted by the plurality of its citizens. Prior to this endorsement (that did not happen until the fourth century) the church spread by being the only organization that cared for the little guy.

    As for you being God: I'll buy that as soon as I see you or hear from a half-dozen sources that you rose from the dead and have said report confirmed by the holy spirit and believed by otherwise wise people for 2000 years. I'll beleive that as soon as I see faith in you turn alcoholics into missionaries; slave traders into preachers. Where are your saints? Jesus has many, most of whom will never be heard of because they were doing good for people who the world had decided didn't matter.

    You also betray a gross misunderstanding of Christian doctrine. Nowhere does the bible say that we are to love only other Christians. We are called to love other Christians, but we are also called to love all mankind. Love them enough to spread the gospel. That you think the gospel is worthless is irrelevant -- we think it is worthwhile, and it requires a lot of effort and money to spread it.

    As for voluntary self-discipline: I've seen where that route goes. Nowhere. I have yet to see any evidence that voluntary self-discipline will produce anything like the levels of character found in the Christian saints -- heralded and unheralded. Maybe you should pay more attention to the saints and less to the Popes (who were with only a few exceptions a miserable lot)?

    Finally: historically, Christianity has not spread primarily through force. While there were some isolated incidents, we left spreading at the point of a sword to Islam and... Oops! Hinduism. (Or are you unfamiliar with Indian history? The centuries of holy wars between Shaivites and Vishnite? The thugee?) I used to be a Hindu monk (Sanyassin) -- I might know a bit more than you gambled for.

Karl's version of Parkinson's Law: Work expands to exceed the time alloted it.