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The 100 Greatest Americans

Provided their year of birth and death, their field of expertise, and a brief overview of their accomplishments, guess the 100 greatest citizens of the United States to have ever lived (according to washington.edu). This list is perhaps biased towards a particular ideology, but everyone has the right to their opinion, as long as it does not incite hatred. The best of luck to you all. Never cede the crusade for knowledge!
Solely typing the surname is sufficient.
Some of these Americans were not born in the United States, but were citizens.
Source: https://www.washington.edu/news/2009/12/10/100-greatest-americans/
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Last updated: June 18, 2023
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First submittedJune 18, 2023
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The 100 Greatest Americans
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Lifetime
Expertise
Accomplishments
Americans
1809-1865
Politics
Led the Union during the Civil War; the most crucial figure in the passage of the XIIIᵗʰ Amendment to abolish slavery.
Abraham Lincoln
1913-2005
Social Reform
Ignited the Montgomery bus boycott; led the movement to prohibit racially segregated buses.
Rosa Parks
1732-1799
Military/Politics
The first commander of the Continental Army; established the presidency as recognised today.
George Washington
1929-1968
Activism
Arguably the frontman of the Civil Rights movement; gave his oration: 'I've Been to the Mountaintop'.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
1879-1955
Physics
A key figure in the introduction of quantum mechanics; devised the photoelectric effect and Brownian motion.
Albert Einstein
1705-1790
Politics/Science
The first Postmaster General; led the innovation of optics and electricity during the Enlightenment period.
Benjamin Franklin
1743-1826
Politics
Chiefly wrote the Declaration of Independence; approved the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleonic France.
Thomas Jefferson
1882-1945
Politics
Issued the New Deal, including the CCC, WPA, FSA and SSA; oversaw the suspension of the gold standard.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
1818?-1895
Social Reform
Wrote 'Narrative of the Life of ---, an American Slave; was appointed Minister Resident to Haiti in 1889.
Frederick Douglass
1822-1913
Social Reform
Rescued escaped slaves via the Underground Railroad; supported John Brown's raid at Harpers Ferry.
Harriet Tubman
1847-1931
Innovation/Business
Pioneered the phonograph, kinetoscope and DC electricity; established the first industrial research lab.
Thomas Edison
1820-1906
Social Reform
Co-founded the National Woman Suffrage Association; advocated for temperance well before the XIXᵗʰ Amendment.
Susan B. Anthony
1838-1914
Environmentalism
Preserved such wilderness area as Yosemite Valley; founded the Sierra Club: a prominent conservation organisation.
John Muir
1884-1962
Politics
Served as the first chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights; largely supported refugees and the right to education.
Eleanor Roosevelt
1927-1993
Social Reform
Organised the United Farm Workers labour union; promoted the rights of Chicanos and workers with wage standards.
Cesar Chavez
1856-1915
Social Reform
Supported racial uplift through gradual means; founded Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute.
Booker T. Washington
1817-1862
Natural Philosophy
Leading transcendentalist philosopher; penned the essay 'Civil Disobedience': arguing for disobedience to an unjust state.
Henry David Thoreau
born 1928
Linguistics/Reform
A critic of the U.S. interventionist foreign policy; created the minimalist program - modelling the understanding of language.
Noam Chomsky
1858-1919
Politics
Led the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War; ignited the Progressive Era through his anti-trust and welfare policies.
Theodore Roosevelt
1839-1903
Physics/Chemistry
Created statistical mechanics to explain the laws of thermodynamics; invented modern vector calculus.
Josiah Willard Gibbs
1907-1964
Biology
Wrote 'Silent Spring' - advancing the global environmental movement; served in the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries.
Rachel Carson
1919-1972
Sports
Played baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke the sport's colour line; won the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1949.
Jackie Robinson
born 1955/64
Business/Reform
Jointly established a private charity foundation to enhance healthcare and reduce extreme poverty across the world.
Bill & Melinda Gates
1930-1978
Politics
The first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California; broadly sympathised with the 1960s counterculture.
Harvey Milk
1863-1947
Innovation/Business
Chief developer of the assembly line technique of mass production; pioneered the five-day work week.
Henry Ford
1755-1835
Law/Politics
Implemented the principle of 'separation of powers'; decided McCulloch v. Maryland and Marbury v. Madison.
John Marshall
1917-1963
Politics
Eased U.S-Soviet tensions following the Cuban Missile Crisis; created the 'New Frontier' welfare program.
John F. Kennedy
1925-1968
Politics
The icon of modern liberalism for his efforts in social and economic equality; fought organised crime and the Mafia.
Robert F. Kennedy
1908-1993
Law/Politics
Argued against 'separate but equal' in Brown v. Board of Education; considered a defender of the freedom of expression.
Thurgood Marshall
1835-1910
Literature
Penned such American classics as 'Pudd'nhead Wilson'; passionately criticised political corruption and imperialism.
Mark Twain
born 1928
Biology
Proposed the double helix structure of the DNA molecule; championed an increased focus in molecular biology.
James Watson
1914-1995
Biology
Developed one of the first successful polio vaccines; attempted to research a vaccine against HIV.
Jonas Salk
born 1934
Social Reform
Led the movement of second-wave feminism; co-founded the feminist 'Ms.' magazine.
Gloria Steinem
1928-2014
Literature/Reform
Authored civil rights-centred poems, such as 'Still I Rise'; wrote her autobiography: 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings'.
Maya Angelou
1803-1882
Political Philosophy
A prominent individualist due to his essays, such as 'Self-Reliance'; established the 'transparent eyeball' metaphor.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
1751-1836
Politics
Drafted the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights and The Federalist Papers; led the United States during the War of 1812.
James Madison
1878-1968
Politics/Literature
Wrote 'The Jungle' - exposing sanitary conditions in the U.S. meatpacking industry; publicized the issue of yellow journalism.
Upton Sinclair
1815-1902
Social Reform
Founded the Woman's Loyal National League; started a newspaper called 'The Revolution' to discuss woman's rights.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
1925-1965
Social Reform
Orated 'The Ballot or the Bullet' speech in 1964; a prominent spokesman for the Nation of Islam.
Malcolm X
1856-1924
Politics
Founded the League of Nations through the Fourteen Points; advocated the eight-hour workday and regulation of child labour.
Woodrow Wilson
1767-1845
Politics
Famed hero of the Battle of New Orleans; the first 'populist' president - framing modern democracy.
Andrew Jackson
born 1957
Literature
Co-authored the bestseller 'Three Cups of Tea'; promoted girls' education and literacy around the world.
Greg Mortenson
1868-1963
Social Reform
One of the founders of the NAACP; insisted on unequivocal civil rights and representation for African-Americans.
W.E.B. Dubois
1835-1919
Business
Laid the foundation of the U.S. Steel Corporation; supported progressive taxation and an estate tax.
Andrew Carnegie
born 1961
Politics
Signed the Affordable Care Act to expand healthcare; regulated the financial sector with the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act.
Barack Obama
1862-1931
Social Reform
Wrote 'A Red Record': an account about lynching of African-Americans; expressed activity in the Negro Women's Club.
Ida B. Wells
1904-1967
Physics
Known as the "father of the atomic bomb" for his role in the Manhattan Project; called to avert nuclear proliferation.
J. Robert Oppenheimer
1901-1966
Cinema
Pioneered Technicolor, feature-length, and synchronised-sound cartoons; produced such entertainment films as 'Mary Poppins'.
Walt Disney
1880-1968
Social Reform
Leading disability rights advocate due to her deafblindnesss; worked for the American Foundation for the Blind.
Helen Keller
1869-1939
Biology
Pioneered brain surgery and became the first exclusive neurosurgeon; introduced blood pressure measurement.
Harvey Cushing
1757-1804
Politics
A pivotal figure behind the charter of the first national bank; penned the majority of the Federalist Papers.
Alexander Hamilton
1880-1959
Military
General of the Army during World War Two; advocated a U.S. economic commitment to post-war European recovery.
George C. Marshall
1932-2009
Politics
Advocated universal healthcare; defended government intervention with the oration: 'The Dream Shall Never Die'.
Ted Kennedy
1867/71-1912/48
Innovation
Created a three-axis control system in flight dynamics; conducted extensive glider tests with their aircraft.
The Wright brothers
1890-1969
Military/Politics
Led Operation Torch in the North African campaign in World War Two; oversaw the start of NASA and the Space Race.
Dwight Eisenhower
1913-1980
Sports
Won four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games; specialised in the sprints and the long jump.
Jesse Owens
1899-1974
Music
Pioneered the big-band jazz orchestra as a pianist; composed tunes with a "Spanish tinge", such as 'Caravan'.
Duke Ellington
1897-1962
Literature
Used the 'stream-of-consciousness' method in characterisation; an icon of Southern literature with such novels as 'Sartoris'.
William Faulkner
1856-1943
Innovation/Science
Introduced mainstream domestic current - induction motors and dynamos; devised potential for wireless communication.
Nikola Tesla
1902-1968
Literature
Explored the downtrodden and penniless in his works, such as in 'Of Mice and Men'; utilised a 'sense of place' in literature.
John Steinbeck
1959-2022
Anthropology
Founded 'Partners in Health' to provide healthcare in developing countries; worked to end the cholera epidemic in Haiti.
Paul Farmer
1926-1991
Music
Led a jazz quintet - defining jazz fusion in the post-World War Two period; recorded the modal jazz album 'Kind of Blue'.
Miles Davis
1936-1990
Cinema
Created 'The Muppets' - innovating puppetry; won fame with his characters, such as Kermit the Frog and Rowlf the Dog.
Jim Henson
1894-1956
Biology
The first major figure in sexology; influenced entomology with his research on the mating patterns of gall wasps.
Alfred Kinsey
1901-1971
Music
Renowned for his emotional and creative expression as a jazz soloist; recorded such tunes as 'La Vie en Rose'.
Louis Armstrong
1897-1939?
Aviation
The first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean; influenced the formation of the 99s - for female pilots.
Amelia Earhart
1905-1982
Ethical Philosophy
Developed Objectivism as an ethical system; wrote 'The Fountainhead', defining her individualistic thought.
Ayn Rand
1867-1959
Architecture
Pioneered organic architecture, exemplified in his 'Fallingwater' house; developed the concept of the 'Usonian' home.
Frank Lloyd Wright
1824-1885
Military/Politics
Created the Justice Department to protect African Americans during Reconstruction; led the successful Vicksburg campaign.
Ulysses S. Grant
1896-1940
Literature
Wrote novels depicting the flamboyance of the Jazz Age, such as 'Tender is the Night'; pioneered modernist literature.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
(multiple)
Military
First African American soldiers to enter the Army Air Corps; served in World War Two in Fighter and Bombardment Groups.
Tuskegee Airmen
1925-2008
Cinema
Starred in major film roles, such as Hud Bannon in 'Hud'; partook in racing events, including the 24 Hours of Daytona.
Paul Newman
1935-1977
Music
Propagated the rock and roll genre with such songs as 'Blue Suede Shoes'; starred in romatic films, including 'Blue Hawaii'.
Elvis Presley
1908-1965
Journalism/Media
Reported the latest developments in the Second World War on CBS; led the investigative program 'This I Believe'.
Edward R. Murrow
born 1930
Law/Politics
The first female justice of the Supreme Court; decided in such cases as Grutter v. Bollinger and Hamdi v. Rumsfeld.
Sandra Day O’Connor
born 1924
Politics
Pursued the Camp David Accords and SALT II; contributed to the non-profit organisation: 'Habitat for Humanity'.
Jimmy Carter
1809-1849
Literature
Influential writer in the Romantic era - adopting a macabre style in his works; wrote such mystic poems as 'Annabel Lee'.
Edgar Allan Poe
1904-1991
Literature
Wrote and illustrated numerous children's books, such as 'The Cat in the Hat'; drew cartoons for such magazines as 'Life'.
Theodore Seuss Geisel
born 1954
Media
Led a syndicated daytime talk show for 25 years; voiced several movie characters, such as Gussie in 'Charlotte's Web'.
Oprah Winfrey
1942-1970
Music
Contributed to psychedelic rock, with such albums as 'Electric Ladyland'; implemented fuzz distortion and audio feedback.
Jimi Hendrix
1847-1922
Innovation
Co-founded AT&T Corporation for early telecommunication; developed an early metal detector and hydroplane.
Alexander Graham Bell
1901-1967
Literature/Reform
Led the Harlem Renaissance with his work on jazz poetry; wrote the short story collection 'The Ways of White Folks'.
Langston Hughes
1955-2011
Innovation/Business
Developed the 'Lisa': one of the first computers with a graphical user interface; directed Pixar and helped produce 'Toy Story'.
Steve Jobs
born 1948
Politics
Expanded access to the Internet (did not invent it); wrote 'An Inconvenient Truth' to raise awareness on climate change.
Al Gore
1915-1985
Cinema
Directed stage adaptations of literary classics, such as 'Caesar'; co-founded the Mercury Theatre in New York CIty.
Orson Welles
born 1936
Social Reform
Wrote several books on public education in the United States; founded 'The Education Action Fund'.
Jonathan Kozol
1881-1956
Aviation/Innovation
Founded among the largest global aerospace manufacturers; led to the formation of 'United Airlines'.
William Boeing
born 1944
Political Philosophy
Majorly active in the Communist Party USA and in the Occupy movement; attempted to abolish the prison-industrial complex.
Angela Davis
1839-1937
Business
Established the Standard Oil Company; founded institutions for medical research and the University of Chicago.
John D. Rockefeller
born 1947
Politics
Advocated the Foster Care Independence Act and the CHIP; was Secretary of State during the Arab Spring.
Hillary Clinton
1897-1991
Cinema
Directed such 1930s classics as 'It Happened One Night'; was President of the Motion Picture Academy.
Frank Capra
1887-1986
Painting
Pioneered American modernism with such paintings as the 'Red Canna'; painted several works of desert landscapes.
Georgia O’Keeffe
1894-1978
Painting
Painted cultural and political paintings, such as 'Four Freedoms'; illustrated the covers for 'The Saturday Evening Post'.
Norman Rockwell
1934-1992
Social Reform
Key figure in third-wave feminism due to her theory relating it with race struggles; combatted classism through her poetry.
Audre Lorde
1819-1891
Literature
Penned several American Renaissance novels, including 'Typee'; wrote the epic poem 'Clarel', spanning 18,000 lines.
Herman Melville
1922-2010
Political Philosophy
Major socialist intellectual, authoring 'A People's History of the United States'; taught political science at Boston University.
Howard Zinn
1902-1984
Photography
Formulated the Zone System for determining optimal film exposure; took "pure" iconic photographs of the American West.
Ansel Adams
1840-1877
Military?
Led the South Dakota-based Oglala tribe; fought in the Black Hills War, and defeated Custer in the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
Crazy Horse
born 1954
Social Reform
Desegregated the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana; advocates education against racism.
Ruby Bridges
born 1946
Cinema
Pioneered the blockbuster, such as 'Saving Private Ryan'; popularised historical dramas with such films as 'The Post'.
Steven Spielberg
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