I'm a big picture, big thinker kind of guy. So while my editors mess around with the 100 most important people right now, I'm swirling a brandy snifter full of smart and compiling a list that tells the story of the human race: the All-Time TIME 100 of All Time™. It is a list, I assume, that will be carved in stone, put in every time capsule and projected by lasers into space. Also, please tweet it and post it on your Facebook walls.
The only thing you need to know about this list is that, like the TIME 100, people are not listed in order of importance. So if you're a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Jew or a Zoroastrian, you have no reason to get upset. I'm hoping, however, that no Scientologists see this.
The Iliad and the Odyssey? That's a lot of our high school hours. I was pretty impressed until All-Time TIME 100 of All Time™ list consultant James Lipton said, "Chances are 10 to 1 there were a number of poets named Homer. It was probably more than one person." Still, Lipton said I had to include him/them.
Sir Isaac Newton
Before Newton, gravity did not exist. People just floated, like on spaceships. It was hard to get stuff done.
Every list needs a little controversy. Many people in Kansas don't believe Darwin exists.
He wrote Medea, Electra and The Trojan Women. He also wrote Phoenician Women, which seems a little derivative to me after The Trojan Women. But Lipton says, "He made the armature on which all drama is built. And interestingly enough, all comedy as well. He looms very large." His output was so immense that he was, in essence, the Tyler Perry of ancient Greece.
You know the Platonic ideal? That comes from Plato. Because he was perfect. I bet he used that at parties to hit on women.
The architects of Notre Dame
This isn't a person. This isn't an achievement on anyone else's list of 100 people. But Lipton kind of insisted: "They fell in love with the gentler side of the Christian faith, and Mary as intercessor. They made churches that would appeal to her as a woman. They were jewels meant to attract our lady. They were jewels! They really were."
He was a star medieval philosopher and the most romantic man in history. He loved Heloise so much that he got castrated for it. And then, even though he was castrated, he still loved her. That's love! If I were castrated, the only thing I would love is TV.
Leonardo da Vinci
I decided to pick only one of the Ninja Turtles. This Renaissance man was the most Renaissancy. Not in a Renaissance fair way, though I bet he could joust and eat a turkey leg too. He could do anything.
To me, his portraits look like every other portrait in that portrait section of the museum, but Lipton says, "He's just plain better than anybody else. He just takes my breath away."
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
You know how we call all instrumental music classical? That's because music from the classical period was so good. And Mozart was the classical guy. He's so good that people mistakenly think he wrote Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. No one thinks Handel wrote Itsy Bitsy Spider.
Johann Sebastian Bach
His fugues was considered fuddy-duddy during his time, and his time was so long ago that the term fuddy-duddy didn't even exist then. But now his stuff fits in on the radio with Mozart, Beethoven and Stravinsky. Soon anything that isn't dubstep will sound the same.
Ludwig van Beethoven
You know how we're totally into expressing our true selves? This ultimate narcissist ushered in the Age of Me. Which makes it weird that Schroeder loved him so much. He was a quiet, humble Peanuts character. Lucy should have loved Beethoven.
When I first read Shakespeare, I was like, What's the big deal? That's because when you're told he's the best writer of all time, you expect something totally different than everything else you've read. But it's more like premier grand cru Bordeaux than a California cult cab it's subtly perfect and nuanced, not big and shocking. Of all the snotty things said about Shakespeare, I'm thinking premier grand cru is up there.
Without him, we'd be calling Superman "Flying Alien Guy." Without him, the deconstructionists would not exist, which would mean that thousands of grad students in the 1980s would have had to get real jobs. Without him, the 1980s band that combined "Freebird" and "Baby, I Love Your Way" would not have been called Will to Power. Also, Hitler would have had to quote Schopenhauer, which would have made him even more unlikable, thus destroying the space-time continuum.
Lipton: "Kean played Shylock like he was a human being. He was the first actor who said, 'This person must be recognizable as a human being.' He was advised by his colleagues not to do it, because it would so shock the audience that was so accustomed to the oratory of Shakespeare performance, but he defied them. And the audiences were on its knees!" Before you judge me too harshly for putting some actor you've never heard of on the list, know that Lipton also wanted me to include Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Ingmar Bergman, W.B. Yeats, Arthur Rimbaud and George Balanchine. So I pretty much held my ground.
I'll just let Lipton talk: "He took what he had seen Salvini [Note: No idea who that is or if I spelled it correctly] and Doozer [Note: No idea who that is or if I spelled it correctly] do, and tried to figure out how they did what they did when they were at their best. His influence on acting is universal. Sure, there were pockets of resistance. You don't use it for the Beijing opera or the Comédie-Française, but with the advent of motion pictures, that kind of acting was no longer appropriate and did look, in the early days of films, foolish."
I don't know all that much about poetry, but Lipton said I had to put Donne on. He also wanted Yeats and Rimbaud, but enough is enough, Lipton!
I know. But Lipton said I had to: "When the history of the 20th century film is written, there will be four or five names, and one of them will be Charlie Chaplin. Though we all know Buster Keaton was a much more sophisticated and revolutionary filmmaker."
If this list were illustrated, he would have the largest picture. You do not want a list with just ugly people. No one reads that list.
Suleiman the Magnificent
Despite the name, not actually a magician. He did wear a very magician-like hat. But still, not a magician.
This list totally disses Socrates. Why do you think we ignored you, Socrates? Is it, perhaps, because this method of learning where we ask questions is super-annoying?
All-Time TIME 100 of All Time™ list consultant Cornel West really wanted St. Francis of Assisi, and that bird thing is cool, but I'm guessing West isn't going to click through this list, so I'm going Aquinas.
Martin Luther King Jr.
A holiday and a U2 song? I need no further justification.
I did not put him on the list because Turkish people flooded TIME.com with requests for Atatürk on the list of the most important person of the 20th century, and I don't need that kind of flood in my personal inbox. No, I did it because he deserves it.
Cornel West was nice enough to help me and really wanted Coltrane on the list. Plus, without "A Love Supreme," NPR would have nothing to start their shows with.
He's the father of the greatest, best country that God has ever given man on the face of the earth, as Sean Hannity has called it.
I was on the fence about this one until I heard about the vampire hunting.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
He was President a lot of times.
You know what he invented? Everything. That thing you're using right now? Edison invented it. The thing you were using right before that? Edison invented that too. The thing you're about to use? That one wasn't Edison. But it's not really that great.
Imagine running an incredibly successful business while not getting along with the union or the Jews. That's a rough path.
Pliny the Elder
He was the Theodore Roosevelt of ancient Rome. He liked plants a lot.
Not actually a President, but knew a lot of Presidents. Plus, he invented things. And slept with French women.
A good list needs a name that will generate controversy.
Lesbian stuff used to be named after her until the Internet came along and replaced it with "girl on girl."
Historian and All-Time TIME 100 of All Time™ list consultant Douglas Brinkley wanted me to include Neil Armstrong, but if that guy was so influential, wouldn't lots of people be going to the moon? Armstrong is the equivalent of Christopher Columbus going across the ocean and discovering Cleveland.
It's called Euclidian geometry for a reason. If they called it Diophantine algebra, Diophantus would make the list. The point is: It's all marketing. Euclid would totally have been one of those guys who takes a shirtless photo of himself in the mirror for his Facebook profile picture.
The Prophet Muhammad
He is very influential.
Three billion Christians can't all be wrong. I mean, they could be, but still, if 3 billion people follow your teachings 2,000 years after you're dead, that's pretty influential.
Siddhartha Gautama Buddha
The only thing that made me even think about not putting him on the list is that most influential people are a little better at managing their image. I'm just saying that for a skinny dude, there's a lot of Chinese restaurants with statues of him looking ginormous.
Though he doesn't get the credit, he wrote Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother long before Amy Chua.
Without him, we wouldn't have the printing press. Which was an important system for distributing information before the Internet.
He is known as the father of modern observational astronomy, the father of modern physics, the father of science, the father of modern science and the father of giving your kids crazy-ass names.
Though he somehow seemed to believe there were only two dimensions, he did an awful lot with them.
Alexander the Great
Anyone called "the Great" pretty much made my list.
Think about every single protest you've ever seen. Would any one of those people be out there if Gandhi had come up with violent civil obedience? No. They'd be home eating Doritos and rocking out to Phish records.
Totally convincing. Totally wrong. Still, he's on board for a nice try.
Without him, we would not have Oprah.
Thanks to Rumi, weddings are all six minutes longer than necessary.
I would have also put Louis Homogen on the list but could not Google who invented homogenizing milk.
Nearly 70 years after his death, the meanest thing you can do is compare someone to Hitler. You can say someone is acting crazy like Charles Manson or that an anti-intellectual is a little Pol Pot-y, but as soon as you mention Hitler, you go to conversation jail.
No one before and no one after became such an acceptable part of public-school education with a book containing that long of a fart joke.
Everyone called her Madame. That's pretty impressive. Also, I needed more women on the list. Women weren't allowed to do much stuff for most of history. It took me a long time to understand that. I was very confused about why we learned about Clara Barton in school.
About 30 million people today are great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchildren of Genghis Khan. Impregnating lots and lots of women is a very solid way to become influential.
Yes, his steam engine led to the Industrial Revolution, which led people from the country to the city. But what's more impressive is all the things that are named after him: the kilowatt, megawatt, gigawatt, nanowatt, microwatt, picowatt, femtowatt, terawatt and petawatt. But not the "What you talkin 'bout, Willis," which was invented by Gary Coleman, who did not make the list.
He represented everything that was good about the Enlightenment and France and then, quickly, everything that was bad about the Enlightenment and France. Plus, before him, no one had a quick way to explain what jerks short guys are.
Watson and Crick
Thanks to them, you can now spit in a vile, mail it to a company and, for a couple hundred bucks, spend a lot of time worrying about the fact that you're 28% more likely than the average person to get macular degeneration.
He was the Occupy movement guy of his time.
William the Conqueror
Although not as great as "the Great," being called "the Conqueror" probably means you got some stuff done.
Qin Shi Huang
Did he burn some books? Sure. Did he bury a few scholars alive? Yeah. But he instituted legalism, without which the Chinese would not have been so ready for communism. Also, he built a lot of the Great Wall and those terra-cotta soldiers, without which China would not have tourism.
Without him, we'd all be walking around unable to take amounts of energy and figure out how much mass they were equal to. And we'd all be stupidly trying to go faster than light. Thanks, Einstein!
May not have been a real person. Which would kick him off the list. It turns out, however, that modern scholars disagree on whether it would be worth my time to research whether he was a real person.
The only person from the 21st century on the list. Steve Jobs just made things pretty. Zuckerberg ushered in an age where it's totally acceptable to take near naked photos of yourself in the bathroom mirror, post them publicly and then refer to it as part of your self-branding.
Yeah, I left off Mencius. Mencius is the Socrates of China.
Cyrus the Great
No idea what he did, but he was called "the Great," and that's good enough for me.
The first celebrity chef. Known as "the king of chefs and the chef of kings," which I'm sure sounds even better in French.
We spent a lot of time in elementary school learning all those explorers, so they must be important. Then again, we spent a lot of time learning the names of clouds and Greek columns.
Not the guy who killed Medusa, who was not a real guy. This one didn't behead any snake-haired women, but he did make ancient Greece the kind of place where people voted and watched plays about people who beheaded snake-haired women.
Attila the Hun
I wonder if he was offended by being called Attila the Hun. It seems like a bunch of gentiles calling me Joel the Jew.
Ashoka the Great
I assume there was some "Great" committee that vetted these things.
Hammurabi's code of 1772 B.C. established law and justice. It's also superfun to say.
So incredibly popular, they made a sequel.
Hildegard of Bingen
I may be stretching here to get women on the list.
Not until Lady Gaga will a woman with such a decent-size nose be this powerful again.
Joan of Arc
I do not understand who she really was or what she really did. But the French use her as a symbol for everything. I'm guessing there's a lot of feminism classes at L'Ecole about Joan d'Arc and returning the gaze.
Catherine de Medici
Showtime may have gone with the Borgias, but the Medicis kicked their butts.
Catherine the Great
I'm starting to worry that people just called themselves "Great."
She wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and had a daughter who wrote Frankenstein. Also, she slept around. Very riot grrl.
Invented the camera. Do you know how much Facebook would have paid for that?
So charming that even after beating back the Crusaders, Christian poets wrote really nice poems about him.
Otto the Great
Is it possible "Great" meant something else back then, like "Dude"?
Frederick the Great
Would never had made this list if not for the "Great" part. And Charlemagne would have, if he had stuck with his other name, "Charles the Great." Bad call, Charlemagne. That's the hubris of wanting a name that works in a Steely Dan song.
Ramses the Great
Sure, most people know this pharaoh as Ramses II, but I swear he was also known as Ramses the Great. Maybe that's not so shocking, since you have to be pretty great to have a condom named after you.
Constantine the Great
He is why Istanbul was Constantinople. Thus influencing novelty songs.
Thorough research proved, to my surprise, that he was not Martin Luther King Jr.'s dad. Which means he made it on this list on his own merit.
You know him better as Emperor Gaozu of Han. Actually, you don't know him, unless you live in China and you're using Google Translate to read this. In which case I'm sure there's lots of funny mistakes. I bet this stuff about "the Great" has been translated to be "the Big," with some sexual connotation. That would be awesome.
Alfred the Great
The only English monarch ever to be called "the Great." Though I have high hopes for Prince William.
Pope Leo the Great
He convinced Attila the Hun to turn around and not take over Rome, thus allowing all our modern restaurants to be Italian. But mostly he's on here because he was called "the Great."
Gregory the Great
Also known as Pope Gregory I, John Calvin called him the last good pope. He's the patron saint of musicians, singers, students, teachers and people who make lists of the 100 most influential people of all time.
Ivan the Great
I'm going to admit that when you're trying to come up with 100 names, this "the Great" thing is a bit of a crutch.
Without his debates where he out-geniused Einstein about the existence of quantum mechanics, millions of freshman-year conversations between stoners about reality just being a series of probabilities would not exist.
I love when you get two people for one spot. It's like finding a loophole in the listmaking rule.
This explorer's early 15th century voyages were so legendary that an epic about them was written in 1597 called "The Romance of the Three-Jeweled Eunuch." That's right: he was propelled to fame and bravery despite not being able to have sex.
Peter the Great
He modernized Russia. Unfortunately, he died at 42 and his work is still unfinished.
Without Augustus, we'd go straight from July to September, thus effectively eviscerating summer vacation.
If it weren't for Picasso, we wouldn't be drawing everything as unrecognizable, multinosed cubes. Oh wait ...
It came down to either this philosopher, who ushered in the Enlightenment, or Immanuel Kant, who wrote the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, which is perhaps the most boring book I've ever read. Locke!
Akbar the Great
Different than Ashoka the Great, but not all that different.
He gave us the concept of free will, without which there would be neither a Tea Party nor Rush lyrics.
Without him, Wall Street Journal editorials would have no one to quote.
Darius the Great
He was actually pretty great.