The most influential person in the last thousand years

A question from Yahoo! Answers:

Who was the most influential person in the last thousand years?

In the year 2000, the biography channel did a special highlighting who their experts considered the most influential people in the last thousand years. I thought they did a good job on the top 5–though I disagreed with # 1 and wasn’t too happy to see Princess Diana on the list, much less ahead of Jonas Salk. Who is your pick for the number one most influential person in the last thousand years?

Assuming you mean a person who has lived within the last 1,000 years (so Gautama, Jesus, and Mohammed are disqualified), that would be Johannes Gutenberg.   Both Industrial Revolution and modern democracy depended on reliable vehicles of storing and disseminating information.   Gutenberg’s movable type (much improved by others) provided such a vehicle.   It can be argued that without movable type, development of both technology and democracy would have been severely impeded.

This said, one should wonder whether movable type would have been invented by someone else if Gutenberg didn’t invent it…

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