Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Who Will Be Remembered in 200 Years?

At some point during my teenage years, I decided that, if my life and achievements were not remembered 200 years from now, my life would not have been worth living. I no longer believe this, and I feel that such an approach to life is unhealthy and dangerous. (I once knew a guy who said that, if he was reaching the end of his life and still had done nothing noteworthy, he would attempt to assassinate the president, just so he'd be remembered. He was young. I'm sure he feels differently now.) Still, recalling my former views on life, value, and notoriety got me thinking: Of people currently living today, who will best be remembered in 200 years?

I have some ideas, but I thought I'd throw out the question to the Internet and collect some feedback before compiling a list. Here are a few criteria and things to consider:

  • To be more specific, let's change "who will best be remembered in 200 years" to "who will best be remembered in the United States in 200 years." I have no way of judging which persons will have lasting notoriety in Sri Lanka or Estonia. That said, a person need not be American to make the list. Were we to make a list of persons from 200 years ago whom Americans today remember, Napoleon almost certainly would be high on the list.

  • Let's define "best remembered" as a combination of name recognition and familiarity with a person's life and accomplishments. For example, when considering persons alive two centuries ago, many people today recognize the names of James Monroe and Martin Van Buren because both were American presidents. But aside from a passing familiarity with the Monroe doctrine, few really have any idea what these presidents did while in office. While the names of John Keats, Mary Shelley, and Henry David Thoreau are probably no more recognizable than those of more obscure American presidents, our culture is much more familiar with the work of Keats, Shelley, and Thoreau than with the actions of Monroe and Van Buren.

  • I am not looking for a list of the greatest people alive today, but those who will be the most notable two centuries from now. People have a tendency to remember those who are controversial or even wicked. In other words, don't limit your suggestions to people you like or admire.

Leave your suggestions in the comments, on Facebook, or wherever.


Blogger gavin richardson said...

not sure who is going to be remembered, but all this digital archive available there will probably be some version of Brother Lawrence

4:17 PM  

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