Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

Who Are the Twenty Greatest Men? (S691a: 1912)

A Symposium Started by Mr. Andrew Carnegie.

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: In its January 1912 issue Review of Reviews (London) printed a collection of responses it had solicited from prominent persons, commenting on Andrew Carnegie's answer to this question (Carnegie's list of twenty included only four figures who were not inventors!). Wallace's reply appeared on page 25 of the article. To link directly to this page, connect with:

Dr. Alfred R. Wallace.

     Our greatest modern man of science is Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace, who almost tied with Darwin in the discovery of the great principle which has been the inspiration of modern science. He does not enter into the subject at the same length as Mr. Frederic Harrison, but he makes the very practical suggestion that in compiling lists of great men they should be arranged in chronological order. If this is done it will be found that eleven out of Mr. Carnegie's list of twenty greatest men were born in the eighteenth century, and none were born before the fifteenth.

     Dr. Wallace writes:--"Mr. Carnegie's list of the twenty greatest men is the most preposterous I have ever seen! I can only retain one of them--namely, Shakespeare. I daresay I should alter mine a good deal if I had more time to give it. I take 'greatness' to apply to character more than to any one or more striking or useful discoveries which have often been made by very small--and what a Yankee might call a 'one-horse' man. The great difficulty is that around any one supremely great man there is a cluster of others almost as great, who might almost monopolise the whole twenty, as in the case of Socrates and Michaelangelo. I think my list fairly shows the different types of greatness. Scott, Dickens, and R. Owen will be most objected to, but I could give very good reasons for including each of them. I think Jenner in Mr. Carnegie's list is perhaps the very smallest of over-estimated men. Both Columbus and Lincoln seem to me second-rate."

Homer, 10th or 11th century B.C. Buddha, 5th century B.C.
Pericles, about 490 B.C.
Phidias, about 490 B.C.
Socrates, about 469 B.C.
Alexander the Great, B.C. 356-B.C. 323.
Archimedes, B.C. 287-B.C. 212.
Jesus of Nazareth.
Alfred the Great, 849-901.
Michael Angelo, 1475-1564.
Shakespeare, 1564-1616.
Newton, 1642-1727.
Swedenborg, 1688-1772.
Washington, 1732-1799.
Walter Scott, 1771-1832.
Robert Owen of Lanark, 1771-1858.
Faraday, 1791-1867.
Darwin, 1809-1882.
Charles Dickens, 1812-1870.
Tolstoi, 1828-1910.

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