The sun revolves around the earth.
Animal species never change.
Black people are inferior to white people.
The government can’t provide health insurance to old folks.
Humans can’t fly to the moon.
Telephones are only for talking and listening.
Some of these assumptions had the force of science behind them, others just the force of habit, but all of them seem ridiculous in retrospect. All of them collapsed only because someone had the courage to step outside the consoling, persuading flow of tradition and ask fundamental questions about why things are the way they are, and how they might be instead. The Atlantic has always aspired to challenge its readers, and its times, by giving voice to some of the most provocative thinkers of their eras. Brave Thinking, from Henry David Thoreau’s blunt naturalism to Martin Luther King’s calls for justice, can be unsettling. But it drives society forward. Now, in our first annual Brave Thinkers issue, we have identified a small group of men and women who have risked their careers, reputations, fortunes, and, in some cases, even lives to advance ideas that upend an established order. Why 27? Because after months of research, tabulation, and debate about hundreds of candidates, that’s how many we could agree on. Some of them may prove to be wrong, and others wrong-headed. But all of them embody the kind of courage that stirs the spirit and inspires us to think for ourselves.
Click here to view all of The Atlantic’s Brave Thinkers, or browse the list below.
CEO and Founder of Specialisterne
Chairman of the Federal Reserve
Prime Minister of Zimbabwe
Professor, University of Texas at Austin
Founder of Better Place
Steve Jobs and John Lasseter
Co-founder and Chief Creative Officer, Pixar Animation Studios
Senior Social Scientist at the Human Terrain System
Professor Emeritus, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton
Chief Justice of Pakistan
Mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania
Arthur Sulzberger Jr.
Publisher of the New York Times
Dallas District Attorney
Director of the Stanford Center for Law and the Bio-Sciences
Walter E. Hussman Jr.
Publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Perennial Third-Party Presidential Candidate
Sheila C. Bair
Chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Founder of International Development Enterprises and D-Rev
Trey Parker and Matt Stone
South Park Creators
President of the United States
Founder and CEO of Facebook
Founder and President of Eprida
Senator from Virginia
President and CEO of NBC Universal
Founder and CEO of Meredith Whitney Advisory Group LLC
Alex de Waal
Program Director at the Social Science Research Council