General Question

Ltryptophan's avatar

Which important names are surprisingly absent household recognition?

Asked by Ltryptophan (11920points) July 19th, 2021 from iPhone

George Washington, Napoleon, Hitler, Jesus…

These are names that are known by billions, even there biographic information is known by many. A level of profound fame, or infamy.

In our time, other names are also widely recognized like Mickey Mouse, Pac-man, Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Robert Downey, Jr., et al.

But, much of this is like empty calorie fame in my opinion, or fame that is so well digested that their is nothing left to gain by understanding the contribution of the famous individual.

For instance, Jesus, the titular head of Christianity, and guiding light of the faithful, is wildly important in the daily life of billions, but it’s largely a fixed well understood object of attention. It is no transient or new fame.

What are some names that exist today that have limited fame, but probably should be recognized nearly universally?

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22 Answers

Ltryptophan's avatar

I’ll go: Carl Linnaeus, father of taxonomy

Tropical_Willie's avatar

George Washington Carver – - – - – his inventions include crop rotation, or planting different crops to restore soil instead of single-crop farming, and creating 300 different uses for peanuts.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Thomas Crapper, for sure.

Nikola Tesla (the man)

canidmajor's avatar

Alan Turing

janbb's avatar

I just learned that Thomas Jefferson’s enslaved chef, James Hemings (Sally Heming’s brother) was pretty much responsible for bringing French cooking to America. And a man named Hercules, also enslaved, was George Washington’s chef. They were both brought to Philadelphia by their “owners” but since Pennsylvania law was that a slave in residence for 6 months had to be freed, they were sent back to Virginia periodically to start the clock again!

James Hemings asked to be freed but Jefferson only let him go after he had trained his brother Peter Hemings, to be chef.

And we all should know by now that Sally Hemings, Jefferson’s enslaved mistress, bore him 6 children who have only recently been acknowledged by the other descendants of Jefferson.

The more you know…..

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
stanleybmanly's avatar

Gauss & Leibnitz

elbanditoroso's avatar

@stanleybmanly that sounds like a German law firm

Mimishu1995's avatar

Hugh Mercer. He was a Continental Army general and George Washington’s good friend. He was a very important person of the Continental Army until his death in 1776 during that Delaware river crossing. After that people just… kind of forgot he existed. His name is rarely spoken among the Patriots. That’s a huge mistake because he was one of the people who ensured the battle was a success. In fact, it was said that he was the one who suggested the crossing. During the battle, he fell down from his horse and the British mistook him for Washington and surrounded him. He rolled with it and provoked the British to beat him up, badly. He died of the wounds from that beating.

Also before the American Revolution began, he was wounded in a battle and literally abandoned by his army. He walked back to the fort all by himself for several days, all with a totally beaten up body. The guy was that badass.

ragingloli's avatar

Bela Farin Rod

JLeslie's avatar

Karl Landsteiner. He discovered blood typing and the polio virus. His work with blood typing is what made blood transfusion safe. He was Austrian and Jewish and later in life American. He migrated to the US in the early 1900’s as an adult to further his research.

Charles Drew. The inventor of the Blood Bank. He observed that separating out plasma made it possible to store blood longer and basically created the life saving concept of blood banks we have today. He was a Black American.

LuckyGuy's avatar

William Shockley – “father of the transistor”.
Arguably, he could also be considered the father of Silicon Valley.

canidmajor's avatar

After having watched the launch (and landing) of the Blue Origin flight, I have to also say Jerrie Cobb, the most famous (before this) of the Mercury 13. She was a hero of mine in a younger day, I am so sorry that she died before this day.

elbanditoroso's avatar

@LuckyGuy Schockley was also a very controversial person for his views on eugenics, population control, and the recommendation to sterilize people with low IQs. And his idea that blacks were mentally inferior to whites.

So as brilliant as he was in transistors, he was not a paragon of humanity.

dabbler's avatar

Gustave Whitehead
was the first human to make a controlled, sustained, level, powered, heavier-than-air flight, August 14, 1901 – more than two years before the Wrights series of crash-landings on the beach in Dec 1903.
The Wrights were vicious business persons who protected their “claim” vigorously, and their estate has continued the practice.

Compare the feats:
Wright Brothers 17 Dec, 1903 Kitty Hawk, with gusting headwinds over 20 mph (an advantage)
The craft is launched on a downward-inclined rail from the top of a hill, landing downhill on the beach. Top speeds approximately 10 mph.
flight 1 – 120 feet downhill, 10 feet off the ground straight line (the famous photo of this “flight” shows the plane about two feet off the ground, low enough for ground effects.
flight 2 – 175 feet downhill, 10 feet off the ground straight line
flight 3 – 200 feet downhill, 10 feet off the ground straight line
flight 4 – 852 feet downhill, up to 15 feet off the ground, straight line, crashed hard enough the plane could not fly again without major repair to the front rudder structure.

(Whitehead made a flight longer than these one night in 1899 in Pittsburgh but crashed into a building so the police prohibited him from further testing in the city. He moved to Fairfield, CT)

Whitehead Aug 14, 1901 Fairfield, CT – no wind
Whitehead drives his #21 flyer (yes! actual flying car!) to an open level farm field.
He took off and reach a height about 50 feet, toward the end of the field he turned the craft using a combination of shifting his weight and “wing-warping” (Wrights later claim to invent wing-warping, which evolved into today’s ailerons, despite their own notes referring to glider-maker Lillienthall proving the technique in the 1800’s) after returning to the launch zone he cut the engine and glided to a safe landing. Total flight distance about a half mile (2600+ feet).
This flight was covered in Scientific American and Collier’s Weekly.
Whitehead made additional flights in 1902 with more powerful engines (his own designs) in his #22.

I think it’s interesting that the Wrights visited Whitehead in CT between 1901 and 1903 to discuss engine designs and who knows what else. They later claim Whitehead could not have built engines good enough. Whitehead had worked for years in an engine foundry in Germany before emigrating, The Wrights were bicycle mechanics.

Whitehead was unfortunately no businessman, but spent his time improving his designs and dodging creditors.

The Wright estate have a contract with the Smithsonian, secret until recent years, that allows the Smithsonian to display the Wright Flyer as long as no Smithsonian anywhere ever mentions that anyone flew before the Wrights. This was not directed specifically at Whitehead but more at Langley, the former director of the Smithsonian who had made several very well funded attempts to fly but were spectacular failures. With Langley’s position and notoriety there was some possibility of him making a claim stick.
That contract is still active, the Wright flyer is on display, around the corner is a little plaque about Whitehead explaining that he is crediting with some interesting glider development powered aircraft research.

Sceptics who cite the lack of hard evidence that Gustave flew on 14 Aug, 1901 are not so wrong. But in fact there is not much more evidence of the Wrights flights beyond that photo that shows their plane at the end of the launch rail only two feet off the ground.

nikipedia's avatar

I’d like to see the inventors of COVID vaccines receive historical notoriety, especially Katalin Kariko.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
gondwanalon's avatar

William Shockley in 1956 won the Nobel Prize in physics for inventing the transistor. Without transistor technology our smart phones would be the size of a large school bus.

Edited: Oops I didn’t notice that William Shockley has already been mentioned.

ragingloli's avatar

Konrad Zuse: inventor of the computer.
Philipp Reis: inventor of the telephone.
Karl Jatho: actual first powered flight, 4 months before the Wright brothers.

rockfan's avatar

Mathematicians Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. Fortunately the movie “Hidden Figures” really brought attention to their work.

dabbler's avatar

@ragingloli If Karl Jatho was 4 months before the Wrights, he’s two years after Gustave Whitehead (see above). – But thanks! I had never heard of Karl Jatho before, will investigate.

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