bbc.co.uk Navigation

Darren Waters

The top tech influencers

  • Darren Waters
  • 29 Jan 08, 09:28 GMT

The results are in, the votes have been counted and I can now reveal the top 45 most influential figures in technology over the last 150 years.

But before I do, I should point out that I was part of the panel that helped compile the list. And when I say “panel”, I mean I was invited to cast my votes alongside other tech journalists, including hacks from IT Pro and The Inquirer, ZDNet, among others.

Tim Berners-LeeWe didn’t vote en masse, we all have individual votes from a long list of about 70 names, which contracted and swelled as we immediately struck out some names – eg Richard Branson – and added others, such as Don Estridge, who led the team behind the original IBM PC. We all gathered to discuss the names, but in truth there was minimal debate and I have no idea how the others voted.

Here’s the top 10:

Tim Berners-Lee – Founder of the modern-day World Wide Web
Sergey Brin – Co-founder of Google
Larry Page – Co-founder of Google
Guglielmo Marconi – Inventor of the Radiotelegraph system
Jack Kilby – Inventor of the Integrated Circuit and Calculator
Gordon Moore – Co-founder of Intel
Alan Turing – played a major role in deciphering German Code in WWII
Robert Noyce – Co-founder of Intel
William Shockley – Co-Inventor of the Transistor
Don Estridge – Led the development of the IBM computer

So who’s in and who’s out?

Microsoft’s Bill Gates is in. “Of course he is,” you say. But on the night there was a strong lobby from some journalists that his influence has not been that great on the technology industry. But he is not as high up in the list as Steve Jobs, for example. Right or wrong? And Mr Jobs is much higher in the list than his Apple partner Steve Wozniak, the engineering brains behind the first Apple computers.

Tim Berners-Lee is top of the pile – but was this more a reflection of a British voting panel? Certainly, he was the favoured candidate among dot.life readers when I first blogged about the poll.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is out. So what? Well, he made the long list.

There’s no Clive Sinclair, the British home computer pioneer.

George Boole, the father of modern computer arithmetic, is in. How many people would have thought of him immediately?

The inventor of the transistor, William Shockley, is at number 9 while Jack Kilby, the inventor of the integrated circuit is at number 5.

Interestingly, the inventor of Ethernet poll, Robert Mecalfe, polls higher than Vint Cerf, the co-creator of TCP/IP, the underlying architecture of the net.

Shawn Fanning, creator of Napster, makes the cut, and Philip Rosedale, creator of Second Life, doesn’t.

The whole exercise was organised by Intel. And two of the firm’s co-founders made the top 10 - Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce. And the whole list has been put in front of Sean Maloney, who passed comment.

"It’s fitting that the people who have influenced the internet turn up in the top three of the list,” said Sean Maloney, executive vice president of Intel. “This emphasises the way the world is heading and that the internet is our industry’s demand driver.”

Here’s the full list. Remember don’t blame me: I was just one of the judges!

The 45 most influential people in technology:

1. Tim Berners-Lee
2. Sergey Brin
3. Larry Page
4. Guglielmo Marconi
5. Jack Kilby
6. Gordon Moore
7. Alan Turing
8. Robert Noyce
9. William Shockley
10. Don Estridge
11. Doug Engelbert
12. Robert Metcalfe
13. Vint Cerf
14. Steve Jobs
15. Andrew Grove
16. Seymour Cray
17. Pierre Omidyar
18. Shawn Fanning
19. Dennis Ritchie
20. Ted Hoff
21. Linus Torvalds
22. Shuji Nakamura
23. Dave Packard
24. Jean Hoerni
25. William Hewlett
26. John Logie Baird
27. George Boole
28. Martin Cooper
29. John Pinkerton
30. Grace Hopper
31. Bill Gates
32. Herman Hollerith
33. Thomas Watson
34. Jeff Bezos
35. Meg Whitman
36. Ada Lovelace
37. Nolan Bushnell
38. Claude Shannon
39. Charles Babbage
40. John Chambers
41. Philo Farnsworth
42. Steve Wozniak
43. Larry Ellison
44. Michael Dell
45. Maurice Wilkes

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 11:08 AM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Piers Karsenbarg wrote:

No Dave Winer, who had a hand in RSS without which a lot of the sites around today wouldn't exist!

  • 2.
  • At 11:36 AM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Behn K wrote:

If Bill Gates had little influence, why does everyone feel the need to take him to court for "shock horror" including software within his operating system?

Mark Zuckerberg - quite right. He basically took an existing idea and just repackaged it.

One thing though - John Logie Baird? really?

  • 3.
  • At 12:34 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • C Cammack wrote:

If we are talking about 150 years, what happened to Edison?

  • 4.
  • At 12:43 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Darren Stephens wrote:

@2 Behn K

you just answered your own question.

For Mark Zuckerberg, read:

Bill Gates - He basically took an existing idea and just repackaged it.

Nothing in the Microsoft product line is really particularity innovative and their OS dominance is partly as a result of the accidents of history. What if Gary Kildall had spoken to IBM instead of Bill. would we all be running GEM and its descendants now?

And although it's tenuous I'd still go back to James Clerk Maxwell, without whom none of the physics that underpins quantum theory and hence semiconductor physics could ever have happened.

  • 5.
  • At 12:43 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Derek Mayne wrote:

How come I'm not on the list... ridiculous.

  • 6.
  • At 12:53 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Giles Jones wrote:

In reply to Behn K:

Bill Gates has had a negative influence because he's held back the pace of the development of desktop computing. Competition increases the speed of development and the nature of the development.

Having the business monoculture of Microsoft Windows, Intel processors and Microsoft Office has set back the industry quite a number of years. Just like the dominance of oil has stopped development of alternative fuel sources.


  • 7.
  • At 12:54 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Tony P wrote:

I'm rather annoyed that Tommy Flowers doesn't get a mention. His determination and skill in producing a machine to crack the encryption used by Germany during the war - inspite of his superiors initially rejecting the idea that it could be done - shortened the war by two years.

Not only that, but when his work was destroyed at the end of the war he went back to his day job at the Post Office and never made a fuss about it.

About time he got some more recognition I think!

  • 8.
  • At 12:54 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Will wrote:

I can almost see a point of placing Steve Jobs higher than Bill Gates (though I disagree)... but surely there is no way Linus Torvalds should be above Bill Gates. The list is for influential... how many do you know haven't used a windows pc, but use Linux or Mac all the time. You cant argue iTunes makes Steve Jobs higher on the list, because music was traded online before. And casette walkmans existed, then portable cd players, so the iPod (not the 1st mp3 player) was inevitable, and obvious.

I'd probably include Richard Michael Stallman ahead of Linus Torvalds. Linus' engineering is technically a result of RMS' influence surely.. I guess a more accurate way to paint it would be to analyse who influenced who. It'd then no be so much of a list, but a big "web of influence" - much more apt for the task in hand.

  • 10.
  • At 01:05 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Jon wrote:

Why are Sergey Brin and Larry Page so high up? I can't help but think of them as rather odd ones out on this list. I understand they wrote a 'cool' search engine and some algorythms and have become very rich, but to say they have been more influential than the likes of Gordon More, Alan Turing and even Bill Gates seems preposterous.

Without Quantum Mechanics non of the above would have been acheived, we should not overlook the contributions from the folks who figured out the theory for engineers to implement. Chiefly Born, Heisenberg, Fermi and Feynman. Without contributions from these guy's modern electronics and computing would never have been acheived so swiftly.

  • 12.
  • At 01:19 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Phil Watson wrote:

If Bill Gates took an existing idea and just repackaged it, then what did Steve Jobs do differently?

  • 13.
  • At 01:26 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Floyd wrote:

What? I didn't make the list? tish!

  • 14.
  • At 01:31 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Jingoist wrote:

No William Shatner. What a pity.

  • 15.
  • At 01:55 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • sam wrote:

Antonio Meucci? anyone?

  • 16.
  • At 02:10 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • anon wrote:

Alan Turing did not only work on deciphering german code in WW2. He was a brilliant mathematician who came up with the modern universal computer. Previously a computer was designed purely for one task, if you had a new task, a new computer needed to be built. There was no concept of software only very specialised hardware. Turing designed the idea of a universal computer, made contributions to AI and came up with the idea of programming languages. Turing however did not make a universal computer (otherwise known as a universal Turing machine), it was Von Neumann who implemented the idea. Von Neumann is also missing from your list.

  • 17.
  • At 02:16 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Alastair Dent wrote:

I cannot believe that Grace Hopper was left off this list.
Developed the first compiler
THE major influence on COBOL and natural language programs
Conceived of standards for testing

She may not be well know these days, but pioneered many of the fundamentals of programmable computers.

  • 18.
  • At 02:17 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Howard Leamon wrote:

I think the important distinction is that this list is dealing with technology, rather than just science. Quantum Mechanics may underpin the use of the technology but, without the hardware and vision to put it all into hardware, it's just science (and mainly maths).

Gates has influence because he (or, rather, his vehicle) brought a vast computing array to the masses - Microsoft is ubiquitous, whether you like it or not.

Similarly, Jobs is high because Apple popularised the GUI and mouse.

Perhaps Page and Brin have influence because of the accessibility they gave the net but is that "technology"?

In that case, who came up with the solid state drive, the item that will ultimately replace the disc for large storage?

Edison admitted himself that his genius was "99% perspiration, 1% inspiration", which effectively means that he knew he was onto something but not scientifically how to get there, so he just reiterated until it worked but he still produced the goods. Tesla worked for him for a while and ultimately fell out over the AC-DC argument. Shoudl Tesla be there for promoting DC transmission that underpins the power in everything.

Jon,

Probably because Page and Bring's algo influences the way pretty much every website is developed and marketed, and that Google's engineering "under the bonnet" has also contributed hugely to our understanding of large scale/distributed computing.

  • 20.
  • At 02:27 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Chris Powell wrote:

Where is that GIANT, John von Neumann?

He had so much to do with early computers: ENIAC, EDVAC, sort algorithms, Monte Carlo methods, hardware random number generation (the 'fair coin'), the whole conception of modern computer architecture (ie single memory) - the list is almost endless. And the IEEE John von Neumann Medal is awarded annually by the IEEE "for outstanding achievements in computer-related science and technology."

Tim Berners Lee, Bill Gates, the Google 'twins', none of them would exist without John von Neumann. A list to be ignored for sure!

  • 21.
  • At 02:34 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Mandy Loutrel wrote:

There is more to technology than data processing...
I thought I might see...
Edison for electrical, Einstein for physics, Curies for radiation, Bohr for atomics...etc..etc..etc

Agreed with the comment on Edison. Surely he should be in the list?

What about jerry yang and dave filo? They founded Y! which has helped define the internet.

I guess that is what you get when 5 people vote on the list.

  • 23.
  • At 02:35 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • mik wrote:

I don't see Chuck Peddle in there ! - designer of the PET in the olde days !!!

  • 24.
  • At 02:45 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • G. Ford wrote:

Not to put too fine a point on it, but all these people on your list of 50 might still be working by candle light had Thomas Edison not invented the electric light bulb. And, of course, Edison's pioneering of recording technology did eventually eliminated the need for clay tablets. And then there's that "old foggy" Alexander Graham Bell. He succeeded in overcoming the need to scream back and forth across The Pond. Where would most of your prestigious 50 be without the foundation these two inconsequential souls provided? And need we exaggerate the relieving impact Henry Ford had on the backs of horses. If only horses came with air conditioning and shock absorbers and
power steering and anti lock brakes.

  • 25.
  • At 02:49 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Chris Berry wrote:

Back in 1978 I was using a spreadsheet, word processor -I had mail as well.....and we played dungeons and dragons.

Gates single handedly destroyed decent computing and coding.

If Branson is out so should the "grand marketeer" Gates..... Oh, and before people grizzle, Linux(Unix) is better, because it works.

Written on a Lenovo using Vista, if it stays up long enough to complete.

CB

  • 26.
  • At 02:52 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • CHris Walker wrote:

Steve Furber has just received a gong for his work and following IBMs ideas of RISC computing, designed the ARM processor. It now powers most of todays mobile phones. I would include him above the likes of Google people. I feel that Clive Sinclair should have been included but then if you include him you also need to include Hermann Hauser. Where do you stop?

  • 27.
  • At 02:59 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • John Rade wrote:

Guglielmo Marconi is not inventor of the Radiotelegraph system. If you've never heard the name Nikola Tesla before, it isn't surprising.

  • 28.
  • At 03:15 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Harrison Metzger wrote:

This seems to be more of a "Pop Culture" list than actual advancements in computer science. I was glad to see William Shockley, Dennis Ritchie, Linus Torvalds, one the list, but I feel there are serious omissions. First of all, having Linus on the list is great, but Richard Stallman should be on there. His technological contributions are not only vast, but his social contributions are as well. Think of how much software uses the GNU GPL licenses. In addition, I was surprised by the lack of real computer scientists. The following *should* have been on the list:

Donald Knuth
Niklaus Wirth
Ronald Graham
Edsger Dijkstra
Ronald Rivest and the other inverters or RSA

This list should be of innovators not "marketers" (such as Bill Gates or Steve Jobs)

  • 29.
  • At 03:26 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • David wrote:

Linux (Linus Tovalds) more influential than the mobile phone (Martin Cooper) ?
Brin and Page at 2 and 3 ?
This list is ridiculous !!!!

  • 30.
  • At 03:38 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Jason wrote:

I think you're selling Alan Turing short by describing him as a 'person who help cracked German WWII code'. He formalised the algorithm, that was the achievement.

Also, I think Page and Brin should be in a top business influences list, not this. PageRank is a very simple algorithm, it just recursively calculates a probability distribution of chance to visit. It hardly can be considered as a major scientific advance. It was the new market that it produced that made it important in todays society.

  • 31.
  • At 03:51 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Dicky A wrote:

...as with all these polls you should always remove the top 3 because they are undoubtedly there because of what is currently happening (i.e. fashion). In this case I would happily leave Tim at no1 but the Google guys really? (I guess all the panel want jobs there...?. That's like putting the inventor of sat nav ahead of mercator who invented modern mapping techniques.

Where is the US secretary of State who sanctioned the spend on ARPANET for example?

S

Emphasising further the points raised by Darren Stephens and Alexander Baker, there is no mention of the experimental and intellectual giants upon whose shoulders all the techo folk in the list sit. e.g. the electricity that powers this computer I sit at and the whole world comes from the work of Michael Faraday, who made the first generator. He was also the first to see magnetism affect light and discovered nanoparticles. This experimental work gave the solid grounding needed for Maxwell's work and equations and thus Marconi, Edison, Tesla, Einstein and the quantum physicists that followed.
Transistors and search engines would not work but for Faraday's patience and perserverence. It's not good enough to say that someone would have done it anyway. The fact is that Faraday did it, mostly alone, and his later life fits the time-scale of the "competition".
On the other hand, if there were no Google, there's still be Yahoo etc; no Intel, still Motorola; no Microsoft, still Apple; no Gates, still Jobs. These are all parts of synchronous events in history. Maybe it's the competition between them that was the factor that made them influential?

Page and Brin at 2 & 3? Are you kidding me?

Its a shame lists like this place recent memories of more importance than actual achievements.

  • 34.
  • At 04:19 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Rosty Hermanyuk wrote:

Norbert Wiener and John von Neumann instead of likes of Mr.Dell, for sure -- Mr.Dell profited from technology developed by others, but is marketing of technology as important as technology itself?

  • 35.
  • At 04:29 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Allen Michaels wrote:

Nikola Tesla and NOT Marconi is the inventor of the radiotelegraph system and Nikola Tesla holds the current patent for it.

There you have it...stupid computer nerds...Bill Gates is not only a household name but a legend. Bill Gates not Denny Crain.

  • 37.
  • At 04:42 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Dermot wrote:

No place for Dr E.F.Codd the Genius behind Relational Theory and SQL...all of today's databases rely upon those theories...bonkers....not to include him.... Just goes to show the industry has lost the plot...

  • 38.
  • At 04:54 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Tim Dennell wrote:

Influential? Thomas & John Knoll came up with the programming for the first digital image-editing application that turned into PhotoShop; if that (and its raft of imitators) hasn’t proved influential, with the public in particular, then what has?

Gates and Jobs are really very good businessmen (though Job’s passion for good design has also taken Apple much further than it would otherwise had gone.) not technical innovators.

All lists just reflect tastes at that time but I’d also include mathematician Frederick Gauss.(died 1855) and John Vincent Atanasoff & Clifford Berry who built the first binary computer back in 1937.

Although he falls outside the 150 yr limit it's worth remembering that it was Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716) who developed differential and integral calculus, (Before Newton too, to Newton’s very public annoyance.)

Leibniz also came up with binary as we know it today, without which the digital age could never have started and built the first non-programmable computer –the step reckoner (1671) long before Charles Babbage came up with his design for a difference engine.

And Gates and Jobs should really fund a public memorial to all those 'Unknown Programmers' that continue to shape our world; some I suspect more influentially than their high profile bosses.

  • 39.
  • At 05:09 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Chris wrote:

Tesla, Edison, and Bell all have to be included in top technology inventors of the past 150 years.

This list would be more acceptable if looking at the last 40 years even tough the Google bros should no way be included in the top 10.

  • 40.
  • At 05:09 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Alistair Morley wrote:

I can't see a disclaimer that says "Information Technology Only" rather than "Technology generally". The result is a list which looks like the outpouring of parochial IT hacks. Am I wrong?

Amazingly, there is no mention of inventors or propogators of technologies and techniques in the fields of engineering, materials, pharmaceuticals, medicine, chemistry, biochemistry, aerospace, optics, etc.

Finally there's wanton confusion between the people who did the foundational maths or science in favour of the people who engineered or popularised the gadget. Were the panel given any grading definitions and criteria at all?

So where is Lee de Forest?
He only invented the whole of the electronics industry with the vacuum tube.

  • 42.
  • At 05:18 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • sguna wrote:

Is IT the only form of technology?

  • 43.
  • At 05:20 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Don wrote:

Interesting list, but very focussed on those that directly contributed on a practical level. What about those who influenced technology with their ideas rather than their inventions? Einstein? Isaac Asimov?

  • 44.
  • At 05:22 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Tom wrote:

Glad to see Alan Turing, high up. My only issue is that he isn't first.

  • 45.
  • At 05:56 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Marty wrote:

The fact that Jeff Bezos is on the list but John Bardeen (two Nobel Prizes: Invention of the Transistor AND Superconducter theory) is not shows exactly how shortsighted your list is.

  • 46.
  • At 05:58 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Mike J wrote:

To not include Nikola Tesla on your list is a grave mistake. As pointed on several comments earlier, he is the one who invented radiotelegraph. Besides so many other things that we are using today. Wireless anything? Check the origins and you'll se whose name crops up. No wonder, the true genius died alone, centless and his legacy is not clearly recognised to this day. But one thing is known. His apartment was raided not long after he died and all of his papers and works taken away to be pondered over by masses of nerds. If they understood anything, and what of this today is someones 'invention', we'll never know.

  • 47.
  • At 06:05 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Thommy wrote:

Ridiculous list ! Such an understatement about Turing !! Most of the people in the list helped in bringing technology to the people. The people who realized the technologies have been seriously undermined.

Sir Robert Alexander Watson-Watt (creator of the first workable radar)?
I am astounded that you Brits would leave him off the list. He was a descendant of James Watt, inventor of the steam engine.

  • 49.
  • At 06:10 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Analyn Revilla wrote:

Uh... what about a visionary man who's making waves now with the XO laptop, which is an extension of his visions described in his book, "Being Digital"... I think Mr. Nicholas Negroponte belongs in the top 10 list.

As some people have questioned - there's no one from the worlds of engineering, or chemistry, or aerospace etc.

That's because we were restricted to ICT.

I wanted Edison and the Wright brothers on there - but they weren't allowed in!

And @Alistair - yes, there were grading definitions and categories, which were:

Innovation, Ground-break tech, Industry success, Impact on society and Influence.

There were sub-categories - innovation, for example, also included "exploitation" of new ideas.

  • 51.
  • At 06:30 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Analyn Revilla wrote:

Uh... what about a visionary man who's making waves now with the XO laptop, which is an extension of his visions described in his book, "Being Digital"... I think Mr. Nicholas Negroponte belongs in the top 10 list.

  • 52.
  • At 06:32 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Paddy Wright wrote:

Robert Oppenheimer? He saved the world from oblivion after all?

  • 53.
  • At 06:49 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Edward West wrote:

I have been involved with personnel computers since the 70s in San Francisco.

Bill Gates and Microsoft deserve to be in the top five. Windows and Intel are the foundation of the modern computer age. By establishing a dominant standard, they allowed thousands of companies to base their technology on universal protocols. Plug and play could not exist without Microsoft.

While people love their Macs, the Windows world of software and peripherals is far larger. There is much more competition in the Windows world and prices are significantly lower. Then there is Linux, which reminded me of ancient computer history when only the nerds and techies were brave enough to enter the computer age.

Thirty years ago, software and hardware was a technological tower of babble. Peripherals were usually machine specific, and software often clashed. We're living in computer heaven after the early days of the 70s and 80s.

The founders of Google, which I use daily, rated in the top two or three? Give me a break.

  • 54.
  • At 06:49 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Don Mitchell wrote:

Heavily biased by journalist's perceptions of recent technology.

Tim Berners-Lee is tops because he is Europe's great claim to having any impact on the modern tech world, but www was verfy derivative. Gopher, SGML, hypertext all came first.

Linus Torvalds was one of many who ported UNIX to the PC. A good programmer, but mostly made famous by a political mass movement.

Bill Gates is hugely important, and look at how much time was spent bashing him in the comments. Microsoft did a lot of important and original things, but they are hated for being successful, wealthy and American.

  • 55.
  • At 07:00 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Michael Thomas wrote:

Most of these people are businessmen and cannot be put in the same league as scientists, who possess true greatness.

For what its worth my vote goes to the great Serbian scientist, Nikola Tesla. Without his invention of A/C electriciy we would all still be listening to our wind-up gramaphones and reading by candlelight.

The founders of Google or the "inventor" of the world-wide-web are no doubt very rich, but that does not make them great.

  • 56.
  • At 07:50 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Vyk wrote:

I don't see Richard Stallman and Jimmy Wales in the list.
Richard Stallman is the creator of the GNU project. Even though Linus Torvalds created Linux, the software that is run under Linux is ALL GNU: inside pretty much every GNU/Linux distribution out there: Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, KNOPPIX..... I think that RMS is much more influential than Linus Torvalds.

And Jimmy Wales? One of the founders of Wikipedia!

Well, Bill Gates definitely influenced technology. But in an infamous way for us GNU people.

Bill Gates? Steve Jobs? *giggles*
They're merely the figures that represent the big companies.

  • 57.
  • At 07:53 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Pieter Hugo wrote:

I am not a particular fan of Bill Gates, but give the man his due. Before MS Dos and MS Windows the computing world was a disjointed and confusing world. Between Sinclair, Apple, CP/M and a myriad other competing (and incompatible) OSes it was a bit like before the first day.

Lambasting him for being anticompetive is a bit like saying he would have been higher up the list if he had not been so dang successful. Infuential surely meand 'having influenced people'? Bills efforts have directly influenced less people than Linus? Less than Steve? Please.

  • 58.
  • At 08:07 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • nick foster wrote:

what about Nikola Tesla? duh!

I'm just ticked that they misspelled Douglas Englebart's name. He invented hypertext and the mouse.

  • 60.
  • At 08:35 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • bananaman wrote:

Anyone ever heard of Eckert and Mauchly

  • 61.
  • At 08:44 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Darian wrote:

Sorry, but I find it absurd to place Tim Berners-Lee at the top of the pile.

Some reasons:

1. The web is an implementation of Vannevar Bush's "memex," later termed "hypertext" by Ted Nelson. The idea that TBL invented the web is ridiculous. The early BBS's were also important predecessors of the web, as was USENET - both of which were widely used years before the web.

2. Even HTML was little more of a rehash of earlier technologies, especially SGML.

3. TBL's vision of the web was limited to text only pages shared by academics, and TBL was famously furious when Marc Andresson added images. It is widely held that Mosaic created the Internet boom, not TBL's limited concept.

So where are Vannevar Bush, Ted Nelson and Marc Andresson on the list?

It's particularly daft to put TBL ahead of Vint Cerf!

  • 62.
  • At 08:52 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • ashton king wrote:

What about Ken Thompson? - one of the founders of Unix. Dennis Ritchie gets in probably because he went on the create the C language but surely Ken deserves a place?

  • 63.
  • At 09:02 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Dan A wrote:

Len Bosack, Sandy Lerner and William Yeager of Cisco deserve a mention. There'd be no internet without Cisco.

  • 64.
  • At 09:27 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Edward West wrote:

The young ones who are bashing Bill Gates apparently aren't aware that Bill Gates and Paul Allen were among the original nerds. They co-authored the first Basic for PCs and help write the original MS-Dos.

Unlike the vast majority of nerds, Gates evolved into a world class executive.

Steve Jobs was more visionary than nerd, but in the early days of Apple Core, the original Apple club, he could hold his own in the discussions. He and Wozniak were early members of the Home Brew Club in Silicon Valley, and this club, many whose members started their companies, did not suffer fools.

  • 65.
  • At 09:28 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Matthew Howes wrote:

I'm staggered this list seems to define tech as a primarily IT phenomenon. As others have pointed out it is so much broader than that.

Where are the Wright Brothers? I think the Internal Combustion Engine has been pretty important too. And Brunel died in 1859 so he ought to be here somewhere.

It is depressing that these are missing but only the omission of the inventor of Second Life merits comment from the writer.

How old is he? 12?

  • 66.
  • At 09:28 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • David Roberts wrote:

Gordon Moore but no George Perlegos? (One of the head developers of EEPROM)

Looks to me like a list of "People who I know were something to do with technology XYZ" rather than a list of the actual people who were behind the scenes making it happen (there are exceptions, and some of the people in the list are well placed, but most of them are merely corporate figureheads rather than significant pioneers of their field(s))

  • 67.
  • At 09:47 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Ade Hollingsworth wrote:

Why no Nikolai Tesla ?

Nikola Tesla is the father of modern technology. Alternating Current was invented by Tesla and his inventions changed the face of the world like nothing else ever did or probably will. The fact that he is not even on the list shows that popular views on such subjects are completely meaningless.

  • 69.
  • At 11:28 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • I.D. Ivankovich wrote:

The fact that Marconi is touted as a reputable character over that of Nikola Tesla is a disgrace. This list seems to support the commercial appropriation of technology over its true innovators.

  • 70.
  • At 11:38 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Simon wrote:

An interesting list but obviously, the debate is more interesting.

The biggest omission is Richard Stallman who started the GNU project and more importantly the discussion about 'Free Software'. That single idea influenced the huge number of coders to develop 'Free' and 'Open' software on which the most of application stack of the internet is based. For reference, see the Linux, Apache, Perl, Ruby, Jakarta, MySql, JBoss and a myriad of other projects that constitute the basis of the web as we know it today. Without GNU the internet would have advanced more slowly.

It also appears that those people who developed programming languages are the next biggest omissions? C, SQL, COBOL, ADA, Fortran, Lisp, Perl, Java, Ruby and so on. These languages and concepts they embody have been the greatest enabler of software development. And does not matter how fancy the chip is - no software and it is just a piece of silicon.

And finally... Steve Jobs is more influential than Bill Gates. The vitriol that is directed at Bill Gates surely indicates his influence. If Steve Jobs or Linus Torvalds were more influential we would all be running Macs and Linux?

  • 71.
  • At 11:48 PM on 29 Jan 2008,
  • Cy wrote:

I'm astounded - is IT the only technology the BBC care about?

Alan Turing listed for his work on enigma, but not on the universal turing machine? No Tommy Flowers? No Von Neumman?

Marconi (not an inventor) but no Popov, Tesla, Hertz, Faraday? No Watson-Watt, Appleton, Armstrong?

Shockley listed but no de Forrest?

An uninspired list by a bunch of computer nerds.

Where is TESLA? He must be there.

  • 73.
  • At 12:19 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Zach wrote:

Where is Nikolai Tesla?

  • 74.
  • At 12:26 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Ian Cuthbert wrote:

This list is definitely IT biased and myopic as a result. Why does no one mention Alan Blumlein, developer of stereo recording and father of modern television (NOT Logie Baird). No Major Armstrong, inventor of the superhet, the dominant radio receiver design for so long and also the father of FM broadcasting. How about Heinrich Hertz who harnessed electromagnetic waves for radio? Why no Frank Whittle (jet engine) or Charles Parsons (steam turbine), Fleming (penicillin)or the Lumiere brothers (moving pictures). No Simpson (anasthetics) of Lister (surgery) or Pasteur (microbiology) - I could go on. By the way I liked the man who mentioned that he had worked on "personnel computers"!

  • 75.
  • At 01:17 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Mike Speagle wrote:

Yes. Why no Tesla? Especically if you put Guglielmo Marconi on the list. Marconi actually stole the technology from Tesla. Tesla won a patent lawsuit against Marconi.

You should also take into account that he was the person who invented and implemented AC instead of DC as our electrical grid.

  • 76.
  • At 02:06 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Boogie wrote:

Jack Tramiel surely deserves a place on the list?

  • 77.
  • At 03:12 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Peter Smith wrote:

Who? Well I'm sorry I don't rate anyone from Google as the most influential in IT. We wouldnt have a search engine called Google - so what. Ask in 2 years time and they will probably be bankrupt and forgotten about.

If you were to go back in time and remove any of the following, then computers would be radically different or would not exist as they are today.

Bill Gates/Steve Jobs - PC
Claude Shannon - Information Theory
George Boole - Boolean Logic
Alan Turing - Universal Computer
Don Estridge - IBM
William Barton Rogers - MIT
Dennis Ritchie - UNIX, C
Grace Hopper - The only woman? - COBOL, compilers
Charles Peter McColough - Xerox PARC
William Gibson - Cyber Space

Others :
Slug Russell, Shag Graetz, and Alan Kotok who wrote SpaceWar!
Thomas Kurtz and John Kemeny creators of BASIC
Jack Tramiel - Commodore
Edsger Dijkstra

  • 78.
  • At 03:25 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • AC wrote:

Howard Leamon post#18: One important correction: "Tesla worked for him for a while and ultimately fell out over the AC-DC argument. Should Tesla be there for promoting DC transmission that underpins the power in everything."

You are on the right track, but the whole competition was vice-versa. Edison was the DC man, while Tesla could see the AC was the only way to go. Indeed, the electric chair was meant to demonstrate the harms AC could cause. Edison's DC just would not travel the distance well, it caused lots of power dissipation on the lines. Today, we use a mixture of AC and DC. AC has the advantage that it can travel long distances, while electronic circuits are DC based.

Tesla's contribution to the science was not limited to AC electricity. Tesla was a genius, he could understand how the electromagnetic fields worked (AC electricity and the radio waves). According to the Americans, it is not Marconi who invented the radio but Tesla.

Marconi also happens to be one of the co-founder of the BBC. So, he did have an impact on our lives, and he does deserve his place in the list.

I understand it is very difficult to draw such a list. But I probably would have made it on invention basis rather than technological impact. I think the list is unfair towards the real scientists.


"Innovation, Ground-break tech, Industry success, Impact on society and Influence."


Hedy Lamarr invented a way to prevent jamming by frequency hopping and was co-inventor of radio communications systems, like GSM cell phones, used by 1.2 billion people over the world.

Claire

  • 80.
  • At 05:56 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Simon Birkett wrote:

No Bill Joy?

  • 81.
  • At 06:52 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Warren wrote:

OK, let's say that by "technology" you really mean "computation". I'm fortunate to know a few people on your list.

Have to agree with a few posters that Von Neuman should be on the list, if not in the top 10. He laid out the groundwork for both CPU architecture and neural nets.

I also think that Gates should rank higher - his "open letter to hobbyists" is the cornerstone of what has become a whole new industry: that of software development.


  • 82.
  • At 07:38 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • GreenHouse Scientist wrote:

This list is Insane! Does technology only means that related to computer software and hardware? How about all those technologies invented for material characterization and manipulation without which no computer would exist today? Take for example, Lasers ! How about Albert Einstein who first contemplated optical pumping? If it was about computers only, what about folks who developed top ten algorithms like FFT?

  • 83.
  • At 07:54 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Kenya wrote:

How can you note include the African Bill Gates - Philip Emeagwali?! He is the unsung hero behind the internet who helped give birth to the Supercomputer....come on now!

  • 84.
  • At 08:23 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Conrad Taylor wrote:

I would have included Dr John Warnock, the computer scientist who co-founded Adobe and invented the PostScript page description language. His work completely transformed the publishing industry, introduced scaleable quality fonts to the personal computer, and led to the PDF format.

If you were limited to the world of ICT then you should have said so! Such a limited list has little relevance and even less interest. It's just a bunch of computer nerds pleasuring themselves again.

Without the rest of science, like Tesla, Edison, and the Wright Brothers, ICT is an empty artifact. Oh, you do know the difference between artiface and science don't you? Also, that Computers and software are as purely artface as the Mona Lisa, and are not science.

  • 86.
  • At 08:35 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • micke wrote:

Next year i want to see Mark Shuttleworh on that list! (Founder of Thawte, Canonical and Ubuntu)

  • 87.
  • At 09:19 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Steve Salt wrote:

Why does technology refer to only IT equipment all of a sudden, why are the Wright brothers and Frank Whittle not in this list, three people who Easyjet owe their entire existence to! Manufacturing in Britain may be in decline but we still produce some of the most high-tech MACHINES in the world.

  • 88.
  • At 10:01 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Phil Thompson wrote:

It's not surprising that Tesla is missing as he seems to have slipped between the historical cracks. Still the invention of useful and safe electrical generation is no big deal...

However, since Edison gets shunted as well maybe it was a conscious decision to ignore electric?

Facebook? The long list? Bah.

Tesla actually promoted the AC system, not DC, Edison treated him appalingly, and tried to ruin him. Edison championed the DC system for widespread electrical distribution, when it was clear AC was the more effective system, and moreover was a visionary in a number of fields including wireless transmission, and radio, which the US patent office actually gave him rights to, stripping marconi of the discovery. I suggest reading the Wikipedia notes for Tesla, and then telling me why he was not in the top ten at least?

  • 90.
  • At 10:31 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Sri Kamineni wrote:

I get the feeling the list is similar to the FIFA player of the century list where Maradona was voted higher than Pele in internet polls.People who took part in compiling the list reflected mostly on recent "computing" technology and ignored or did not know of roots of the technology.Even taking into account only "computing" they did a botched up job by forgetting John von Neumann.IMHO list should definitely include Richard M Stallman and Jimmy Wales.One should understand great technological changes are the ones which helps in saving lives or improving quality of life,not the ones which makes it easier to download music or create an online profile.

  • 91.
  • At 10:34 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Cy wrote:

I suppose if you get some computer mag journalists to write a top n list of tech, that you must expect to be presented with a who's who of home computing.

Alan Turing for work on Enigma? What about his earlier works on computing machines or Tommy Flowers work on Collosus?

Marconi - an excellent salesman - but inventor? Surely Popov and Hertz are more deserving.

Shockley and Jack Kilby, but no de Forrest or Armstrong for their work on Vacuum Valves and Superheterodynes?

Then there's no Whittle, Diesel, Benz, Parsons, Tesla, Faraday, Braun, etc. As a list of who's who in IT it's OK (despite omitting the likes of Von Neumman who in anyone's mind is more important to computing than Dell, Shuttleworth et. al.). As a list of technology leaders it's appalling.

  • 92.
  • At 10:44 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Jorge Lopes wrote:


A raking is always a wrong way to pay respect to people who have changed our society. Bill Gates, Tomas Edison, Linus Trovalds, Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Wozniak, etc, all played a very important part in the evolution of technologies. Instead of voting who's more influential among them he should celebrate them all and study their cases to leave their history documented. Some day in the future kids should understand where our modern technological society had it's start. It's for them that we should leave this document.

Saudações Portuguesas

  • 93.
  • At 10:59 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Kevin Purcell wrote:

It's no wonder Jobs was higher than Gates; there was a button on the Mac designed especially to help those anti-Gates journalists vote Jobs.

  • 94.
  • At 11:12 AM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • dc wrote:

????????

Alexander Graham Bell (1847 - 1922)
Thomas edison (1847 – 1931)
Gaston Plante (for inventing batteries)(1834 - 1889)

Do these guys just miss out? Or were they forgotten? Guess if you are going by DOB they do.

Where are Rivest, Shamir or Aldeman?

What about Reginald Fessenden for inventing plastics, where would consumer electroincs be without that.

But hold on a sec these guys were inventors not innovators; not the free thinking types that could take an idea from an inventor and turn it loose on the masses.

Jobs/Gates/Moore certainly did that.

  • 95.
  • At 12:07 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Stephen Wood wrote:

So, this is a list of the most influential people in technology?

It seems to be restricted entirely to the computing world. Apart from a few token ealy names, it seems to only include people who have brought a peice of hardware or software to the market.

For example, Brin & Page neither invented search engines nor online advertising. They are only on the list because Google is popular.

While Shockley and Kilby deserve their places on the list, it is a shame that there is no recognition for the pioneers of quantum mechanics. Without the research of the likes of Einstein, Planck, Schroedinger and Dirac the transistor could not have been created.

Similary, there is no recognition for the inventors of the process by which large wafers of pure silicon are made. Without them there would be no such thing as a 'home computer', and Moore's Law would have never been invented.

Turning away from computing, let's look at transport for a moment. Where on the list is Karl Benz, Rudolf Diesel or Nikolaus Otto (invented the four-stroke cycle). Where are the Wright brothers, Frank Whittle or Robert Goddard (rocket engines). How different would the world be if the horse was the fastest mode of transport?

That was just one other area of technology. There are many others: from high performance materials (carbon fibre, anyone?) to construction technology that give us skyscrapers in excess of 500m tall; from the fundemental research that cracked the DNA code, to techniques in keyhole surgery, and drugs that can target cancerous cells.

The whole concept of this list is simply a flawed excersise.

  • 96.
  • At 01:51 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Sten wrote:

Influencers???
It is telling that the "achievement" listed for 4 of the top 10 is founding a successful IT-company. I what way has Brin & Page influenced technology? They launched the 10th or so search engine. It was a little better, their timing turned out to be great and they sized the opportunity admirably. But nothing new. Would you put Michael O'Leary as top aerospace technology influencer because Ryan air is very successful?

  • 97.
  • At 03:35 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Sten wrote:

Influencers???
It is telling that the "achievement" listed for 4 of the top 10 is founding a successful IT-company. I what way has Brin & Page influenced technology? They launched the 10th or so search engine. It was a little better, their timing turned out to be great and they sized the opportunity admirably. But nothing new. Would you put Michael O'Leary as top aerospace technology influencer because Ryan air is very successful?

  • 98.
  • At 05:02 PM on 30 Jan 2008,
  • Al wrote:

Those on the list that will irk most are the 'sales men' who didnt actually invent or create anything themselves.

Bill Gates is king in this respect - all Microsoft ideas - yes, research them all - were created elsewhere, first - from Windows to Word. He is a marketing genius, not a technological one.

People often miss the real people in technology. Is Gates important - absolutely - but you need to be clear for what reasons, ie. marketing and sales vs technological achievement.

There is no way you could compare him to inventors like Babbage, Turing, Burners Lee etc.

  • 99.
  • At 07:41 PM on 31 Jan 2008,
  • Johannes Schöön wrote:

I can't believe this. All of you have forgotten Alfred Nobel.

  • 100.
  • At 04:01 PM on 09 Feb 2008,
  • Hassan wrote:

Hey, this list is not correct without posting the name of Bill Gates.

Kary Mullis,
PCR was Developed in 1983 by Kary Mullis and I think i needs mentioning. PCR is used very widely in many disciplines, however one of its most interesting applications is in forensic science. It is used to identify a person or organism by comparing experimental DNAs through different PCR-based methods. FOR people who want to read or learn more about PCR go to:

http://microbiology-world.blogspot.com

This post is closed to new comments.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

BBC.co.uk