Time released its annual list of the 100 most influential people today. Many of the names are well-known: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Arianna Huffington, Julian Assange. (And yes, write-in voters, the pop star Rain is on there too.) Many others, though, were unfamiliar, at least to us. Here's a look at some of the less famous names who are nevertheless, according to Time, shaping our world:
Nathan Wolfe. Who he is: Founder and director of the Global Virus Forecasting Initiative, which tries to identify deadly diseases before they can leap from animal populations to humans. Evidence of commitment: Per Time, Wolfe "spends much of his time traveling in Africa, collecting blood samples and chasing down outbreaks. It's dirty, dangerous work--Wolfe has almost died of malaria." Unmentioned in Time: Wolfe used to smoke cigarettes, but according to a New Yorker profile that appeared last year, he's since switched to a tobacco-vaporizer device called the Ploom.
Felisa Wolfe-Simon. Who she is: Research fellow at NASA's Astrobiology Institute. Claim to fame: Wolfe-Simon was the lead author of a much-debated paper last year, which said that there's a species of bacteria in California's Mono Lake that can use arsenic instead of phosphorus to synthesize the proteins in its body. This is a big claim to make--phosphorus was previously thought to be a necessary building block in all forms of life on Earth--but Wolfe-Simon's ideas aren't universally accepted just yet. Many critics have questioned the research methods of her and her team. But Time notes that "Wolfe-Simon stands by her work." Unmentioned in Time: She also plays the oboe and the electric bass.
Saad Mohseni. Who he is: Founder of the MOBY Group, the largest media company in Afghanistan. How he wields his power: In all the right ways, according to Rupert Murdoch, who wrote the blurb on Mohseni for Time. "He has shown great courage in publicly and strongly criticizing the Karzai government for corruption and incompetence," Murdoch writes. "He hasn't been afraid to show men and women on TV--a practice the Taliban did not allow. With shows like the talent contest Afghan Star, he has broken a lot of conventions, and I think he's broken them in the right way: they were extremely detrimental to women; ending them makes a huge difference in their lives." Unmentioned in Time: According to a New Yorker piece from last July, Mohseni has seen every episode of Seinfeld, The Sopranos, Cheers, and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Rob Bell. Who he is: An author and pastor based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. What he believes: Actually, Bell is better known for what he doesn't believe; his views skew toward skepticism. One of his most controversial positions has to do with hell--Bell's not convinced that it works in the traditionally understood way, or indeed if there's even a need for it in a Christian theology. In a recent Time profile, Jon Meacham wrote that Bell's ideas have "ignited a new holy war in Christian circles and beyond." Unmentioned in Time: Bell is a big Eddie Izzard fan.
Aruna Roy. Who she is: An activist who's worked for decades to increase the transparency of the Indian government. Best known for: Her work with the Right to Information movement, which in 2005 made it possible for Indian citizens to request information from state authorities. Time notes that the Right to Information law "has given the nation's poor a powerful tool to fight for their rights and has influenced similar measures in other countries. It has also inspired thousands of RTI activists, who have exposed everything from land scams to bank embezzlement to the misuse of public funds meant for the poor." Unmentioned in Time: Roy was a voracious reader as a child. According to a biography at the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation Web site, "when she was interviewed for admission to Indraprastra College in New Delhi, the panel thought she was lying when she told them everything she had read. No sixteen-year-old, they thought, could have read all that."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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