What was the most skillful act/event achieved by a human being in history?

I am talking of a specific event (for example, in the world of motor car racing, a specific race) in which the particular individual in question excelled or achieved something that ranks as majestic amongst the achievements of humankind.

The term “majestic” implies some sort of speciality in the particular achievement. In other words, something quite remarkable. It is difficult to define I know, but here are some things you might want to consider when making your nominations:

  1. It does not necessarily have to be something that has gone down in history or is particularly famous. Like all my threads, I encourage (and indeed to be point blank honest, prefer) the unknown achievements that when viewed from a birds-eye perspective, truly are astonishing.

  2. Think very carefully when making your nominations. It is a question of “skillfullness” here, and although I realise that there must be some skill involved when picking up a 300lb weight, I am sure you can think of some event/activity that has required more pure skill (and once again I realise that this is difficult to extract and to define) in order to achieve it.

  3. Try to consider the statistical odds which are at work in your example. Has it ever been achieved before? If so, how many times? What were the odds of it being successful? Were the odds overwhelmingly in favour of the opposing side? etc.

All that said, my nomination goes to the Swiss pig gelder (whatever that is) who in (around) 1500 performed the worlds first succesful cesarean section operation (successful in that the mother didn’t die for a change). It is mentioned by Cecil in one of his columns. Think about it, he was coping with primitive technology, and didn’t have the knowledge, understanding or innovations of modern day medicine (including anaesthetics or antibiotics). Yet he was still successful.

So, who would you nominate? Try to justify your answers by explaining why you chose who you did (and obviously what they did).

Here’s my tentative nomination (tentative because I’ll probably agree with other nominations to come…)

Karl Gauss, given only some spotty observational data, solving the orbit of Ceres. This was a mathematical tour de force, and helps to establish Gauss as (in the opinion of some) as the greatest mathematician who ever lived.


I think perhaps my vote would be for the mathematicians who cracked the German Enigma code at Bletchley during world war 2, especially Allen Turing. The Germans who had there own brilliant scientists working on encoding were convinced that their machines could not be decrypted, so even when they began to suspect that the war in North Africa was going against them due to leaked information, they believed that Italy was leaking info to the Allies, rather than believe their enigma machines were compromised.

The first human to create a functional wheel did pretty well.

Bush being elected president.

Nah. The dope forgot to sign the patent application.

I think the fact that a team of people successfully sent three people a quarter million miles in a vacuum, landed two them on a celestial object, had them walk around a bit and returned them back home is pretty cool.

Moderator’s Notes:[ol][li]I think this is more of a poll, so I’m moving it to IMHO.[/li]
Reeder, this is not a Bush-bashing Pit thread. You obviously know how to start Bush-bashing Pit threads; you don’t need to go and hijack totally unrelated GD and/or IMHO threads.[/ol]

Did I bash Bush? Or did I answer the question? What did I say bad about him?

I don’t mean this to sound insulting or somehow anti-religion. But I must say, to fulfill the Op’s question, I offer the following.

In what is called now the Fertile Crescent, the idea of developing and cultivating land and remaining in one relative place to live, instead of moving with seasons and game, altered civilization as we know it. Since we became grounded to one place, we were availed of something we didn’t have as a species.

Time. Time to think, time to breathe and advance. Time to become more advanced in myriad ways.

Whoever it was that first tried this out, IMHO, forever altered who we are as an advanced species. He/She is unknown, but the impact is still felt.

Those who cannot feed themselves week to week and month to month even now, struggle to survive the year. My remark about not being anti-religion is that for a very long time before and after the Fertile Crescent became just that, people prayed to the gods ( God ) for good crops. The person who really did cultivate land, did it using the dirt, not the diety.

We have never been the same.


How bout that dude who walked a tightrope over Niagara Falls, and made an omelette, and carried his manager, and all that?

Not earthshaking but unbelievably skillful.

That was Jean Francois Gravelet, aka Charles Blondin.

I vote for Isaac Newton creating calculus as the ultimate mental feat, but physical feats can be damn-near impossible to compare and pick a winner. I’m sure there are people in history who killed polar bears with their bare (heh-heh) hands and such, but a single most impressive physical feat doesn’t come to mind.

Some of the wartime feats of Vasily Zaitsev and Carlos Hathcock are pretty notable…they both were, reportedly, able to fire a shot through the scope of an enemy sniper.

I think Michalangelo’s carving of David would be a good contender. It required formidable physical strength and endurance under trying circumstances over a lengthy period of time. It required artistic and creative skill beyond almost anything which had gone before, or which has been achieved since. It called for great intelligence, to plan and work out how to get from lump of stone to finished article in practical terms (and many of M’s contemporaries insisted that it couldn’t be done). Not many ‘skill’ tasks require the harnessing of these different physical, creative and intellectual faculties. I honestly think it’s worth making the trip all the way to Florence just to see it. I did, and have never regretted it.

Then there’s van Halen’s guitar solo on ‘Beat It’.

Maybe not, but he did sign his paper on the concept

Two words: Corbomite manuever.

Bob Weir’s guitar piece at the begining of China Cat Europe 72

Actually, a lot of contemporary evidence suggests that M was more of a enterprising manager than a lone genius. Still doesn’t detract from the amazingness of the work.

2,500 yards converts to nearly one and a half miles. That is simply a-fricking-mazing.

So, I’ve got to ask. Did they actually find dead snipers with an eye socket entry wound and a rifle scope that had both lenses shattered? That’s some d@mn good Kentucky windage going on there.

It’s been done, but think about it: the only way to nail a guy through his own scope is if at that moment, he was aiming at you. Sniping is an impressive skill, but shooting a guy through his scope just means you got him a half-second before he could shoot you through your scope.

Zenster , the History Channel airs a show called Snipers a couple of times a year that has interviews with Hathcock in which he talks about both the .50 caliber shot and the bullet thru the scope shot. According to him, the body was indeed found with the scope shot thru and a bullet wound to the eye. Check it out if you get a chance, it’s an interesting show.