The Eight People Who Changed America
People tend to have a butterfly effect on history. One band can show up and change the way all of us look at music; one group of people can start a revolution; one author can change our way of
thinking forever; even one man who changed our very way of living with his inventions. The people you will be either introduced or reintroduced to are people like these; people who made a
life-sized change in America’s history. There is no one person who makes the biggest impact on everything, but many different ants carrying many different kinds of food.
Thomas Edison was very important, to be sure. If he hadn’t been born, who knows if we would even have computers in our homes? Or television? Or those nifty energy efficient light bulbs? Thomas was
a very persistent inventor who just knew he could invent something like a light bulb. Everyone told him it was impossible, but after the 10,000th try, there was light—just like the
billboard says. Without this light bulb, created in 1879, we would’ve been very behind in the inventions department by the 1900’s. Edison also invented the quadruplex telegraph, a sound recorder.
Where would the music industry today be without this invention?
John Dewey is his name; do you recognize it? If not, here’s a refresher: John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer. He’s the reason students take an active role
in research in classes such as history now a days! That kind of education is called Project Based Learning. If it weren’t for him, this essay partially about him wouldn’t exist! He was a
representative of the progressive movement in American schooling during the early 20th Century. He felt that education was very important and expressed this in his works that included
"My Pedagogic Creed" (1897), The School and Society (1900), The Child and Curriculum (1902), Democracy and Education (1916) and Experience and Education (1938). He even
helped set up schools like University of Chicago Laboratory Schools (1896) and The New School for Social Research (1919).
This next person is particularly interesting due to the recent events in the auto industry. Lee Iacocca served as the President and CEO of Chrysler from 1978 and additionally as chairman from 1979,
until his retirement at the end of 1992. He is one of the most famous business people in the world and was responsible for the revival of this car company back in 1980’s. He was named the
18th best CEO of all time by Portfolio, a business magazine. He has coauthored a few books including his own biography and Talking Straight, a book that praised the innovation of
Americans. When he heard of Chrysler’s current condition, he said,
This is a sad day for me. It pains me to see my old company, which has meant so much to America, on the ropes. But Chrysler has been in trouble before, and we got through it, and I believe they can
do it again. If they're smart, they'll bring together a consortium of workers, plant managers and dealers to come up with real solutions. These are the folks on the front lines, and they're the
key to survival. Let's face it, if your car breaks down, you're not going to take it to the White House to get fixed. But, if your company breaks down, you've got to go to the experts on the
ground, not the bureaucrats. Every day I talk to dealers and managers, who are passionate and full of ideas. No one wants Chrysler to survive more than they do. So I'd say to the Obama
administration, don't leave them out. Put their passion and ideas to work.
The Father of the Atomic Bomb is our next guest. Can you remember his name? Robert Oppenheimer was a theoretical physicist and a professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He
was the scientific director of the Manhattan Project during World War II. This was an effort to create the first atomic bomb, which succeeded. During the war, it was used on two Japanese cities,
Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This bomb caused a lot of destruction and the course of history would be very different, even in the U.S., with out it. The question of the morality of dropping the bomb on
the Japanese still remains.
Considered one of the most important figures of twentieth century popular culture, Elvis Presley, king of Rock n Roll, is next on this list of influential people. Globally, he had sold over one
billion records, more than any other artist. He also won more awards than most artists can say they have. But what made him so influential? His music was a style made from combining many different
musical influences and challenged the social and racial barriers of the time. He made it socially acceptable for whites to listen to what used to be known as black music. Thanks to him, a new era
of music in America began.
This guy was pretty important because he developed the anti-glaucoma drug physostigmine. Who was he? Percy Julian was an African-American chemist. He was born in Montgomery, Alabama in 1899. He
grew up in a place where blacks weren’t given a lot of opportunities, but he always knew what he wanted out of life. He was very persistent in becoming a chemist and gained admittance to DePauw
University in Indiana. When he left, his grandfather watched him leave proudly. He was a former slave and waved goodbye with a three-fingered hand—a punishment for learning to read being the reason
for the loss of the other two. Percy Julian hit a lot of bumps in the road and even when he was on his last good wheel, he pursued his dream of becoming a chemist. He is responsible for the
revolution of the treatment of glaucoma and arthritis by making drugs far less expensive for the treatment. He found very good uses for soybeans as well for everything from food to fire
extinguishers. Give the smart guy a round of applause! What would our grandparents do without his help?
One of the most famous lawyers of American history is Thurgood Marshall. He won and represented more cases in front of the Supreme Court than any other American. He represented and won the case of
Brown vs. Board of Education, making it so that blacks could go to any school they pleased by introducing integration. He also won Plessy vs. Ferguson. He was the first African
American to serve on the Supreme Court; nominated by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967. Because of him, blacks across the country have been allowed to attend the schools they deserve to attend.
Harold Eugene "Doc" Edgerton is responsible for an invention that without it, the machine vision system industry would not exist. Stroboscopes were, at first, just small and unknown tools. He
took this existing technology and made it into something useful in the field of photography. For example, the stroboscope makes high-speed photography possible. In medicine, stroboscopes are used
to view the vocal cords for diagnosis. They also are prominent in the study of stresses on machinery in motion and in other research forms. In machine vision systems, strobes make sure all of our
factory’s products are of the highest quality. Products it checks include everything from contact lenses to McDonald’s Styrofoam cups. This generally unsung hero is responsible for this and more.
Without these people—and not just these people, mind you—life in America today wouldn’t be the same. Whether it’s advancements in social and racial barriers, medicine, technology, or
industry, all of these people played great roles in American history. Even though they had great impacts on all of our lives, there are hundreds who have done the same. To those people, we will be
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