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The Fearless 50

* He lifts the veil on the Islamic world
Bernard Lewis, 86
Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University

In 1976, Bernard Lewis made an unfashionable argument: He wrote that secular nationalism was receding in the Middle East in favor of religious politics. Soon enough came the Iranian revolution, the modern world's first vision of a theocratic Islamic state. The prescient professor has foretold many other developments, including key elements of the September 11 attacks. For Lewis, the current clash between Christianity and Islam originates in the two faiths' similarities. Unlike their forebear, Judaism, both claim to be the one and only way to heaven. However, that similarity "may in time lead to a dialogue," says Lewis. "There are people on both sides who see things this way."

* He protects the planet—and the bottom line
Amory Lovins, 55
Energy and Economic Theorist; CEO, Hypercar, Inc.

Lovins insists that society can thrive on what he calls the "soft energy path," meaning that industry can use oil far more efficiently, switching to renewable resources such as solar and wind power, and save money. "The best companies know they have a duty to make the world better and safer," says Lovins, who collaborates with his wife, Hunter. Through his Rocky Mountain Institute near Aspen, Colorado, he has briefed heads of state and CEOs on energy and economics.

Drive, he said: Watch for his new Hypercar, a pollution-free, superefficient vehicle.

* He turns the voices of ordinary guys into poetry
David Mamet, 55
Screenwriter and Playwright

One critic calls Mamet "the testosterone king of American theater," and there's no doubt he has brought to life some very manly men. From The Untouchables to Heist, his characters' staccato dialogue expresses a sense of dislocation in a spiritually vacant world. Mamet has received many honors, including a Pulitzer Prize, and is much imitated, especially by cop show writers. "There's a whole generation of younger guys who want to be David Mamet," says Washington Post critic Peter Marks.

* She stood Charles Darwin on his head
Lynn Margulis, 65
Professor of Geosciences, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

In 1970, Margulis asked the question that would define her career: What if new cells were formed by incorporating the bacteria that invaded them? A radical take on Darwin's "survival of the fittest" hypothesis, her theory—called endosymbiosis—suggested that cooperation, not competition, is what advances evolution, but it was also mocked by other scientists as sheer fantasy. Endosymbiosis is now taught in biology classes, and even her rival Richard Dawkins calls it "one of the great achievements of 20th-century evolutionary biology."

* She snaps the soul of war
Susan Meiselas, 54

Her harrowing images of Central American revolution catapulted Meiselas to prominence; in 1979, she won the Robert Capa Gold Medal for her work in Nicaragua. Meiselas may immerse herself in a single subject for years, and the finished work straddles the lines between reportage, anthropology, and art. For her 1997 book Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History, she made repeated treks to northern Iraq in the wake of the Gulf War and emerged with an unorthodox chronicle of an embattled shadow nation.

Stop and think: "Valuing limbo is a hard thing to do," says Meiselas. "The farmers know better than we do. They value the fallow periods."

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