In a triumph of collective action, commenters have now managed to identify all of the personal heroes in my portrait gallery, either in comments to the original post or to the followup. For those who would like to check their answers, here is the gallery again, with full captions. After all the pictures, I’ve attached some brief commentary explaining who’s who and why some of these people are here. I’ll write in more detail about some of them over the coming weeks.
|Archimedes||William Shakespeare||John Donne|
|Rene Descartes||Galileo Galilei||Pierre de Fermat|
|Isaac Newton||Benjamin Franklin||Leonhard Euler|
|David Hume||Thomas Jefferson||David Ricardo|
|Carl Friedrich Gauss||Frederic Bastiat||Abraham Lincoln|
|Harriet Tubman||Arthur Cayley||Fyodor Dostoevsky|
|James Clerk Maxwell||Gerard Manley Hopkins||David Hilbert|
|William Butler Yeats||Albert Einstein||Emmy Noether|
|Neils Bohr||The Marx Brothers||Erwin Schrodinger|
|T.S. Eliot||Cole Porter||Winston Churchill|
|Werner Heisenberg||Paul Dirac||Henri Cartan|
|Andre Weil||Saunders MacLane||Johnny Mercer|
|Ronald Reagan||Milton Friedman||Chuck Jones|
|Sammy Eilenberg||Dylan Thomas||Frank Sinatra|
|Robert Preston||Margaret Thatcher||Jean-Pierre Serre|
|Alexandre Grothendieck||Sergio Leone||Clint Eastwood|
|Stephen Sondheim||John Gardner||Robert Lucas|
|Daniel Quillen||Richard Dawkins||Daniel Dennett|
|Jerry Garcia||Martin Scorsese||James Heckman|
|Lou and Peter Berryman||Steven Pinker||David Simon|
(Some listed more than once)
1) Mathematicians, pre-1900: Archimedes, Fermat, Newton, Euler, and Gauss are the giants. (If I could only hang one portrait on my wall, it would surely be Newton’s.) I also included Descartes, Cayley and Hilbert. You could well argue that, say, Riemann ranks higher than Cayley by some reasonably objective criterion, but this is a subjective list. Galois might have belonged here too.
2) Mathematicians, post-1900: Grothendieck is, I think, the single greatest mathematician of all time; the other mid-century titans are Serre, Weil and Henri Cartan. Emmy Noether, the mother of modern algebra and the prophet who was first to perceive and harness the full power of abstraction, was born in 1882 but goes in the post-1900 category because she was decades ahead of her time. I did not hesitate to include MacLane, Eilenberg and Quillen, though I might equally well have included Leray, Milnor, Weyl or Godel.
3) Physicists: The three titans are Newton, Maxwell and Einstein. Close behind are Galileo and the pioneers of quantum mechanics: Bohr, Schrodinger, Heisenberg and Dirac. Emmy Noether made a little avocational foray into physics that could arguably have qualified her here even without counting her major life’s work.
4) Poets: Hopkins, Yeats, Eliot and Dylan Thomas are the modern poets who move me above all others. Going back to the classics we have Shakespeare and Donne. E.E. Cummings (not included) was a contender.
5) Statesmen: Franklin was extraordinary in an astonishing variety of ways; so was Jefferson. These were probably not hard to recognize; neither, I suppose was Lincoln or the three modern leaders: Reagan, Thatcher and Churchill. I might have included Ataturk if I knew more of the relevant history.
6) Philosophers: Descartes, Hume (here for philosophy more than for economics) and Dennett. I considered Bertrand Russell.
7) Economists: I omitted the two greatest economists of the 20th century (Arrow and Samuelson) because this is a personal list and I am more inspired by Ricardo, Friedman, Lucas and Heckman.
8) Popularizers: Bastiat, Dawkins, Dennett, Pinker and again Friedman.
9) Activists: The awesome Harriet Tubman is the only one here, though there were other contenders. Arguably Friedman counts in this category too.
10) Historians: Friedman, Hume, Churchill and Weil, though all were here for other reasons. I could conceivably have included Herodotus, Macaulay or Gibbon.
11) Novelists: Dostoevesky and John Gardner.
12) Entertainers: The Marx Brothers, Johnny Mercer, Frank Sinatra, Robert Preston, and the Berrymans. (Jerry Garcia is in the next category.)
13) Cultural phenomena: Jerry Garcia
14) Lyricists: Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer, Stephen Sondheim and Peter Berryman.
15) Composers: Sondheim makes the list for his lyrics alone and then he makes it again for his music alone.
16) Directors: Chuck Jones, Sergio Leone, Clint Eastwood, Martin Scorsese, David Simon
And now I ask once again: Who is on your list?