What is one human being's greatest accomplishment?

I’m curious if you could cite any one person from history (or the present) who accomplished some amazing feat, who and what would be at the top of your list?

I will begin by suggesting that perhaps Beethoven writing all the music he did after becoming deaf might well be a possibility for one person’s s greatest accomplishment ever. I can’t think of anything more amazing at this time.

I think this should be restricted to examples that are generally known to be real and can be proven from history.

For example, I would have to scratch Beethoven in favor of Noah if it could be proven that God really spoke with him and told him a big flood was on the way and he needed to get two animals of every species and build an arc to save all the life on earth and that he then did that and saved all the life on the planet.

But, I don’t think that can be proven or known for a fact that it really happened.

So, please choose something that is generally accepted as having happened in fact.

I nominate myself for inventing the Monkhormel Burrito.

From this thread.

Otto Rohwedder. Invented sliced bread.

Nothing since has come close.

It’s either that, or General Relativity. Tough call.

As a guess (and that is all this is) John Von Neumann helping lay the groundwork for a wide range of scientific and technological fields despite dying in his early 50s.

I don’t know about a single human, but I think Newton and Leibniz inventing calculus completely independently of each other at virtually the same time ranks as a high spot for humanity.

Most definitely. A fine example.

But, I have heard that one of them may be deserving of the award for first in Industrial Espionage - even though there was no such thing as Industry - to speak of. And also, at that time, there was hardly anything that could be classed as Espionage.

However, after this incident, one of those had a very sharp introduction to the field of Industrial Espionage - or perhaps it could better be called Intellectual Espionage?

But that is entirely secondary to the fact that Calculus was a real game changer at that time. The world would never be the same again. It became a far more interesting place after that.

If I had to make a wager, I would suspect it was Newton who was the true originator and Leibniz who was the copy cat. It’s just the feeling I get from reading some of his journals. From what I recall, there were just never terribly precise.


Plato, for his work on inventing the plate.

Can you just imagine what kind of fantastic contributions he could have made if only he had lived for another 20 years or so?

It just staggers the imagination.

Plates? Hey! Can’t you be serious? I would ask you please to keep in mind this is a serious thread.

Everyone knows that his claim to Fame was the invention of Play-Dough.

Norman Borlaug. He fed the world.

Oh, imagine my surprise. I figured this was another joke nomination but when I followed your link, I saw that he was actually a very serious man who made a truly wonderful contribution to humankind.

I even checked on various spellings of his first and last name - looking for some kind of joke when spelling his name backwards. But no! You made a very fine nomination.

If not for you, I’m guessing many people here would never have heard of Norman Borlaug.

Well done.

I was going to tell you about Socrates and why I think he should be nominated. He would be a very close second to Plato. You remember the 1970s comedy TV show called, “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”? Perhaps you may remember the phrase he made famous that was used on that show?

But now I’m too embarrassed to make a cheap joke about that. I guess I should retire from this thread now. Shame on me.

I thought about nominating Borlaug, but picked Von Neumann instead.

Maurice Hilleman was pretty productive too.

Borlaug and Hilleman combined probably saved 1.5 billion lives or so.

That’s pretty damn impressive…

And it sure beats my suggestions:
I was going to say that the prize should go to Thomas Edison( or N.Tesla?) , for making electricity practical.
Or the guy who invented the flush toilet.

In both cases, they created the necessary conditions for modern life.

Painting the upper walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel ranks high in my book, as does insisting on a 481-foot high, ever-lasting pyramid for a tomb. Calculus and general relativity? Nah, I’d rather look at real accomplishments like making the first atomic bomb, and the Saturn V rocket.

Not only did they save them, they saved them well-- that is to say, they didn’t just extend life, they made people live healthier, safer lives. I was going to suggest Hilleman, but instead, I’ll throw in Ignaz Semmelweis, the guy who convinced doctors to wash their hands between patients, and kicked off antiseptis as a research field.

Holy Smoke! I once saw a B&W movie about Louis Pasteur and it made it look like it was Pasteur who was the one responsible for doctors washing their hands.

Do you mean to tell me I am a victim of some modern Hollywood Industrial Dream Complex?

It would have been great if he had convinced them. Semmelweis is a famously tragic figure. His ideas caught on only after his death, with Pasteur and the development of germ theory. In his lifetime, he was rejected as unscientific, and was widely ridiculed.

He suffered some kind of mental breakdown, and died in an asylum in 1865.

I would assume it would be an identiable person and specific situation. Otherwise, during the “Axial Age” - around 700 - 400 BCE, different individuals and groups developed the capacity to focus on questions of Purpose and Meaning. Most major religions and philosophies were framed in this era and have shaped us since. Buddha, Confucious, Socrates Plato Aristotle, Monotheism in Judea and the region, etc.

Hard to argue with Einstein and his insights - he was standing on the shoulders of a lot of thought that had gone on up to that point, but he pulled it all together and understood the implications.

  • Calculus and Newton & Leibniz;

  • Evolution with Darwin (again, he pulled together a variety of existing threads and achievements and understood the implications).