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23 August 2006 @ 06:51 pm
Who was the greatest American (read: US person) of the 19th century?

I already have answers for the 18th and 20th centuries, and an idea for the 19th, but I'd like to see what everyone else thinks.
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carlos_norris: Beatdowncarlos_norris on August 24th, 2006 03:11 am (UTC)
Is it that easy?
I'll give you that Edison was a great inventor, but the only major invention that gave him fame was the phonograph. But even that was worked on before he achieved his breakthrough. He was definitely famous for the light bulb, but that would have happened within a few years of when he reached his breakthrough anyway.

In fact, even though he was the first to market electricity distribution, he ended up pushing an inferior DC instead of AC to the point of paying for public electrocutions of animals to try and prove that DC was "safer" than AC.

He wasn't much different than the mega-entrepreneurs like JP Morgan and Andrew Carnegie in that he tried to monopolize his industry as much as possible. Certainly the machine moved better with him leading the work, but it would have moved with or without him.

Basically, he lucked out to cash in on something useful at the time (multiplex telegraph machines), and used that windfall to create the best research laboratory in the country. To imply that our world would be without light bulbs, records, or electricity had he not existed is grossly inaccurate.
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carlos_norris: HScarlos_norris on August 24th, 2006 06:29 pm (UTC)
Re: Is it that easy?
Again, I'm not disagreeing with you (except for the fact that most of Carnegie's philanthropy was done in the 20th century), Edison was definitely one of the most influential people of his time.

But back to my original point. Edison was one of countless people who were building and running research labs in the 19th century. Being the biggest and best is commendable, but it doesn't necessarily make you the greatest person. He merely accelerated several things that would inevitably have happened anyway.

Doug Turbocrazylikezaxon on August 26th, 2006 11:28 am (UTC)
bruce muthafuckin' lee
carlos_norris: HScarlos_norris on August 26th, 2006 05:28 pm (UTC)
Since sarcasm doesn't cary well over the internet......
You do realize that the 19th century is the 1800s right?
Doug Turbocrazylikezaxon on August 26th, 2006 06:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Since sarcasm doesn't cary well over the internet......
ooops, fuck. lol, that's what i get for posting after one a.m.
susan b. anthony/elizabeth cady stanton then. but if they find a way to bring bruce lee back from the dead, and time travel then i reinstate my vote for Bruce muthafuckin' lee.

carlos_norris: CNcarlos_norris on August 26th, 2006 08:09 pm (UTC)
No worries, as I said jokes don't always carry well over the internet, so I'm not sure if you were being serious.

However, I'll give you the win for Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Oddly enough, my first thought (Thomas Edison) was refuted above by the original suggestion that it was an easy question. Questions like this are always going to be subjective, but I think it's a great answer for one simple fact. The 19th century had 3 major historical elements to it: slavery/civil rights, womens rights and the industrial revolution.

All three had starts in the 18th century and carried over into the 20th century for their conclusion (if you even want to admit that the movements have ended, which is another useless debate), or at least major achievements with the end of segregation/civil right movement, right for women to vote, and the assembly line/mass production. But of some of my other finalists (Anthony, Edison, etc) only got involved in one main area. Anthony was definitely involved in slavery, but Stanton seemed more into both that and overall women's rights as opposed to just sufferage which was Anthony's goal.

And going back to your original answer, Bruce wasn't my winner for the 20th century either. However, my actual choice would probably surprise just about everyone. But Bruce is a good choice, and I love the influence he's spread over film and martial arts.