It's a reflection of how the human brain and heart combine to decide who is important. How else can one explain why I've got people whose influence on the world is as varied as Buffalo Bob Smith and Ferdinand Marcos? There are three assassinated heads of state (Kennedy, Gandhi, and Park) and seven Nobel Prize winners (marked in the table below.)
Two are still alive - architect I.M. Pei and voice of Rocky Squirrel June Foray.
There's one Alaskan on the list - Judge Robert Boochever. He's probably not a household name, but he was a fine judge and he was also the father-in-law of my doctor (until he retired.)
I hope to do more with this list, but I wanted to get it up on this first day of 2017 - one hundred years after these people were born. While we know about people who gain public attention, we rarely (at least I rarely), think about people who are in the same cohort, or in this case the same birth year. It fascinates me to think about these people all going to the same schools from Kindergarten through high school. In that context, this chart below makes sense. The famous folks are listed in birth order - something that would have meaning to kids.
These are all folks who would have grown up at the same time and been impacted by the same historical events - though from different parts of the world in a number of cases. Ray Massey had a popular video tape many years ago that argued that people's world views are shaped by the times they lived and that explained differences between those who grew up during the depression and those who grew up after WW II. We see the same sort of thing today in discussions about Millennials and other generations. That certainly plays a factor in our world views. So seeing this group of people who were all born in the same year gives one lots to think about. In addition to the time they grew up, one has to consider their economic situation, race, geographic location, family influences, etc.
When I first made a list like this - 2008 - it was much harder to track people down. That year I was googling "born 1908" to find people until I found a website that listed historical events by day in a year. That's how I picked up many of the names. Nowadays there are lots of sites that list people by birth year. This year I used NNDB which has a long list of people born in 1917 and links to bios about each. I'll try to do some bios about a few people on the list - particularly those not so well known, but who made significant contributions to the world. You can see similar posts for other years by clicking on the "Famous People Born label".
If you find substantive errors or typos you can email me (see just above 'blog archive') or leave a comment. Thanks.