Think of innovators as gift-givers—their work results in bounty for the rest of us. Some innovators set out to do good; others are simply trying to do well. To succeed takes more than intelligence. It takes persistence, focus, and the sort of insight that comes to the well-prepared mind. Innovators who have passed the half-century mark—such as the brilliant and accomplished people we honor here—represent a particular kind of success. Their careers are long arcs of intense dedication, idea building upon idea. And success has sharpened them. Their reputations secure, many veteran innovators feel freer to take risks. Along with this freedom comes a generosity of spirit, a desire to pass knowledge on. This, of course, is their part in a chain. They acknowledge the debts they owe to their predecessors. They know progress comes in steps. One result of this incremental progress is that new ideas are often underestimated. Thomas Edison was sure that the phonograph would be of use chiefly to stenographers. Who can blame him for not envisioning Sensurround? But our very blindness to the future is part of the magic of new ideas. We live in an era of unprecedented discovery. Any day, one of a thousand developments could radically alter our lives. The thrill and the responsibility of innovation lie in coming to recognize what has been placed, shining, in our hands.
—By Jon Spayde
* She discovered a hidden fountain of youth
Elizabeth Blackburn, 53
Professor of Biochemistry, University of California, San Francisco
Regular cells divide a finite number of times, then die. But cancer cells are immortal. In 1985, Blackburn discovered why: an enzyme she named telomerase. In theory, to disable the enzyme is to stop cancer. And telomerase might also keep healthy cells alive indefinitely. Blackburn's finding launched a field devoted to altering the cell's life span. Hailed as an ongoing trailblazer, Blackburn is modest: "Nature is much cleverer than I am," she says.
* She reshaped the art of modern sculpture
Louise Bourgeois, 91
Bourgeois drew from both surrealism and abstract expressionism to create a style that is defiantly her own. Mining memories of a traumatic childhood, she explores themes of sexuality and family drama in room-size installations she calls "cells." With her adventurous use of latex, fabric, and other materials, she has rewritten the rules of sculpture. Recognition came late for Bourgeois, who didn't have a major public commission until 1978. She recently completed one for London's new Tate Modern.
Medicine for the mind: "Art is a guarantee of sanity," Bourgeois once declared. "That is the most important thing I have said."
* He makes peace by believing it possible
Jimmy Carter, 78
Chair, The Carter Center
Jimmy Carter On January 4, 1981, at the First Baptist Church of Washington, D.C., Jimmy Carter taught his last Sunday school class as President of the United States. "Is greatness being a president?" he asked. "An emperor?" His answer, of course, was no, for Jesus taught that "the foundation of greatness is service to others." Last December, when Carter accepted the Nobel Peace Prize and Norwegians greeted him with a torch-light parade in Oslo's winter cold, it was clear that America's 39th president had won the prize for his fidelity to that message.
In his "retirement," Carter has become a citizen of the world. Equipped with a rare mix of spiritual strength, organizational skills, and international experience, he has tackled intractable problems in the world's most volatile places. He has led efforts to eradicate diseases such as guinea worm and river blindness, and directed programs to boost harvests in depleted countries. He has preached religious tolerance and launched an urban rehabilitation program in Atlanta. These endeavors and others pursued under the auspices of the Carter Center he founded with wife, Rosalynn, will stand as his legacy.
A pioneer in election-monitoring techniques, Carter has helped facilitate the transition to democracy in such places as Panama, Haiti, and Nicaragua. He has helped mediate disputes, civil wars, and political transitions in countries including Ethiopia, North Korea, and Bosnia. Why was he invited to these places? Partly because his missionary sensibility implies integrity. Also, Carter disarms dictators and rebel leaders alike with his empathy, lack of pretense, and—as critics see it—his willingness to grant respect even where it might not be merited.
Carter makes it clear that he favors neither side in any dispute and that his sole objective is to end or avert war. Consequently, he will gamble that even brutal dictators have consciences and can be redeemed. He relishes flouting the State Department; it perturbs him that at America's foreign policy bastion the word "peacekeeping" is often followed by "forces." To admirers, Carter is America's global conscience. His detractors see calculated attempts to rehabilitate a mediocre record as president while securing a spot in heaven. But nobody would dispute Carter's unwavering confidence that he can succeed where others failed.
Call it compassionate hubris. If a Georgia peanut farmer could reach the White House, Carter seems to think, why shouldn't he solve a Central American border dispute? As he once told a Bible class, "We'll never know whether something new and wonderful is possible unless we try."
—By Douglas Brinkley
* He liberated jazz
Ornette Coleman, 72
Ornette Coleman Bewilderment and hostility greeted the self-taught alto sax player in the 1950s. Coleman's frenetic, soulful improvisations defied all conventions. "I don't know what it is," Dizzy Gillespie sniffed. "But it's not jazz." Others called his music—grounded in a system Coleman dubbed "harmolodics"—an atonal racket. But many of his compositions, such as the magisterial 1972 symphony Skies of America, are now being recognized as masterpieces.
Novelty act: "With Ornette Coleman, jazz established its permanent avant-garde—a 'new' that would always remain new," writes Francis Davis in The Atlantic Monthly.
* They combat sprawl with a new traditionalism
Andres Duany, 53
Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, 52
Principals, Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co., Miami, Florida
These Miami-based architects started out as modernists. But they quickly grew disillusioned with bold, sterile high rises and unwalkable, isolating suburbs. The two began planning towns on a human scale: for example, shops near homes to encourage foot traffic. Their first town, Seaside, Florida, was a stunning success. Since then, Duany and Plater-Zyberk have helped plan more than 200 communities. For each, they study local architecture so they can maintain a sense of place.
Sidetracked: The couple, who were married in 1976, have been too busy to start a family. "I missed the 'mommy track,' " says Plater-Zyberk. "I suppose you could say that our towns are our babies."
Take a virtual tour of the town of Seaside, Fla., that emerged from the architecture of Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk.
* He's still a-changin' with the times
Bob Dylan, 61
To dwell on his simple three-chord sound and that foghorn of a voice would be missing the point. Because it's not just about the music, it's about the vision. And the continuous process of reinvention. Dylan was the iconic protest singer, but he morphed into a rocker, a country boy, a movie actor, a religious mystic (in turns Christian and Jewish), and most recently, a sage, singing about maturity, loss, mortality—things rock 'n' roll was never built to explore.
"It's not dark yet/But it's getting there," he sings on his critically acclaimed album Time Out Of Mind. Describing Dylan is "like trying to talk about the pyramids," U2's Bono once said.
* She tamed cyberspace
Esther Dyson, 51
Chairman, EDventure Holdings
Often called "Queen of the Internet," Dyson is the computer industry's premier power broker and soothsayer. Her early vision of the Web as an entity free of governmental controls set the tone for the Internet we use today. "People don't understand that all that's on the Internet is other people," Dyson says. Her newsletter, Release 1.0, is required reading for the world's digital elite ("What she writes is what I care about," Bill Gates has said), and for 26 years the industry's heaviest hitters have schmoozed at her exclusive annual PC Forum conference.
* He leads the charge against AIDS and bioterror
Anthony Fauci, 62
Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
In 1988, angry activists—protesting the federal government's slow response to the AIDS crisis—demonstrated outside Fauci's office, branding him a "murderer." The NIAID director responded not by having them arrested, but by inviting them in. And, he recalls, "to my amazement and gratification, they made an incredible amount of sense." Fauci joined with them to make unprecedented demands on the Food and Drug Administration, including early access to experimental drugs. Since then, he has also devised treatments for several formerly fatal vascular diseases.
"He's the greatest science administrator, combining both scientific leadership and science, that I have ever seen," scientist Robert Gallo has said. These days, Fauci's institute is boosting the supply of smallpox vaccine and testing Ebola and anthrax vaccines. "I don't see retirement on the horizon," he says.
* He proves that heaven can wait
Caleb Finch, 63
Professor of Neurobiology and Gerontology, University of Southern California
In the 1960s, Nobel laureate Peyton Rous confronted Finch, then a grad student investigating the process of growing old. "Why are you wasting your time on that?" Rous asked. "Everyone knows that aging is mainly about cancer and vascular disease!" But Finch was not swayed: "I had already convinced myself to the contrary." Finch revolutionized gerontology by showing that the aging process can be delayed. Among other advances, he has shown that low-calorie diets can slow brain aging in lab rodents.
You must remember this: In 2001, Finch revealed that the early stages of Alzheimer's may not involve cell death—opening the possibility that its ravages might be reversed.
* He starves cancer cells
Judah Folkman, 70
Director of Surgical Research, Children's Hospital, Boston
When Folkman first published his theory in 1971 that cancerous tumors create their own blood vessels, skeptics howled. "It would be like announcing today that you figured out how to do a head transplant," he has said. But Folkman's research silenced his critics. Knowing how tumors supply themselves with blood, scientists now work on shutting down the supply. Two dozen drugs based on his discovery are now in clinical trials.
Soul man: "My father was a rabbi, and he expected that I would be one too," Folkman says. "When I announced that I wanted to be a doctor, he gave me his blessing, but he said, 'You should be a rabbi-like doctor.' 'What's that?' I asked, and he said: 'You should always be of service.' "
* He declared the end of history—and fears the end of human nature
Francis Fukuyama, 50
Dean of Faculty and Professor of International Political Economy, School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University
Fukuyama made a splash in 1989 with an essay defining history as an argument over the best system of government. He concluded that, with Communism crumbling, Western liberal democracy would be "the final form of human government." Fukuyama expanded his theory in the 1992 bestseller The End of History and the Last Man. In his latest book, Our Posthuman Future, Fukuyama argues that manipulating DNA could someday prove disastrous: "What will happen to political rights once we are able, in effect, to breed some people with saddles on their backs, and others with boots and spurs?"
* He brought black culture into the canon
Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 52
Chair, Department of Afro-American Studies, Harvard University
Gates has transformed African American studies from a politicized backwater into a serious academic discipline. With a mix of passion, scholarship, and showmanship, Gates—known as Skip—brought unknown works to light, recruited and trained scholars, and, with Kwame Anthony Appiah, compiled Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African-American Experience. "Wherever there is Afro-American studies," says a colleague, "there is Skip Gates."
Role model: "My mother was the first colored secretary of the Piedmont PTA," recalls Gates, who grew up in West Virginia. "I didn't think 'Oh, my mother's a writer.' But in retrospect I realized that was an example. She'd write so well. We'd get all dressed up and go watch Mama read the minutes of the meetings. It was like watching Toni Morrison read Beloved."
* He bent the rules (and walls) of architecture
Frank Gehry, 74
Architect, Gehry Partners LLP
Frank Gehry In a field that was mainly about straight lines and symmetry, Frank Gehry's irregular, rounded, organic shapes have set a new artistic standard. His masterpiece, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, is wrapped in undulating titanium panels that suggest the billowing sails of a ship. Architect Philip Johnson called it "the most important building of our time." In April, Gehry's $62 million Bard College Performing Arts Center in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, will be unveiled. Other future projects include a biodiversity museum at the entrance to the Panama Canal and the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem.
Gehry's epiphany: "The turning point in my creative life was when I realized that what I was doing and thinking was the only thing I could do and think. Anything else would have been contrived."
Marvel at some of Frank Gehry's architecture, including the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California.
* He defeated a plague once. Now he faces it again
D.A. Henderson, 74
Principal Science Advisor, Federal Office of Public Health Emergency Preparedness
When the World Health Organization decided to eradicate smallpox in 1966, the U.S. Surgeon General tapped employee Henderson to lead the effort. "I declined," recalls the physician. "I wanted to discuss career options. He told me, 'This is your career option.' " Henderson rose to the challenge, devising a strategy to surround and contain outbreaks. Smallpox, which killed 2 million people in 1967, was wiped out by 1977. "D.A. is one of history's great leaders," a doctor who participated in the initiative has said. After an academic career, Henderson rejoined the government to coordinate our national response to public health emergencies—including his old enemy, smallpox. "We need to plan, not panic," Henderson says.
* She made comfort chic—and designer fashion affordable
Norma Kamali, 57
Founder, Norma Kamali, Inc.
The first high-fashion designer to market her clothing to working women, Norma Kamali is responsible for some of the last quarter-century's most memorable trends: parachute pants, high-cut swimsuits, sleeping-bag coats, urban sportswear made of sweatshirt fleece… and those enormous shoulder pads. "My clothes aren't worn by bland people," Kamali once joked. The winner of numerous awards, she was added to New York's Fashion Walk of Fame last year. Lately, Kamali has been mentoring aspiring designers through the New York City public schools and working to keep up with demand for her much imitated clothing line. "If you want to understand the year in fashion," writes ultra-hip Paper magazine, "go to Norma Kamali."
Not the same old, same old: Kamali says baby boomers are inventing a new way to mature. "The word for 'old' is really 'experienced,' " she explains. "Technology gives us the ability to live longer, healthier lives. It opens tremendous possibilities for our generation to grow further with innovation, using experience and a strong self-confidence that no generation before us has had. We can focus on a philosophical objective—the dream—and making the fantasy real."
* When he plays, we all win
Dean Kamen, 51
CEO, Segway LLC
As a child, Dean Kamen was obsessed with spinning tops. In college he helped his brother, a doctor, by inventing a portable insulin pump. After dropping out, he started a medical equipment company and developed a portable dialysis machine. Then one slushy day in the late '80s he saw a man struggling to get his wheelchair up a curb. "I thought, Well, I could make a better wheelchair than this," Kamen recalls. And he did: The self-balancing iBOT not only climbs stairs, it zips along at a runner's pace and rises up on its rear wheels, elevating occupants so they're eye-to-eye with standing people. Last year Kamen made a splash with his Segway, a two-wheeled gyroscopically balanced scooter that he believes will revolutionize urban transportation. And these are just his latest inventions: Kamen holds more than 150 patents.
Running on empty: Currently, he is working on a generator for Third World nations that can run on anything from animal dung to butane to jet fuel. And the engine heat it produces powers a device that purifies water. "Polluted drinking water is one of the world's worst problems," he says.
On creativity: "People think I wake up and check out my calendar: '9:30: Invent something. 10:45: Get new idea. 11:30: See the world differently from other people.' If I could tell you how to innovate, I'd be sitting on a cloud throwing lightning bolts. I never have a final image of a project until I reach the point where I can say, 'That's pretty neat.' "
Use an interactive map to determine how much farther you can travel in 20 minutes via a Segway—or how long it will take to get to a specific location via a Segway.
* He made computers everybody-friendly
Alan Kay, 62
President, Viewpoints Research Institute
The Windows concept is so entrenched that we have forgotten what it took to work a computer before we could just point and click. Apple founder Steve Jobs was blown away when he glimpsed an early model of a Windows-like operating system on a visit to Kay's workshop at Xerox in 1979. "I thought it was the best thing I'd ever seen in my life," Jobs has said. (Xerox disagreed, so Jobs's copy, for Macintosh, was the first graphic user interface.) These days Kay aims his products at kids. His computer language, Squeak, enables youngsters to create programs from scratch. "The best way to predict the future," he has said, "is to invent it."
* She reinvented the rerun
Geraldine Laybourne, 55
Chairman and CEO, Oxygen Media
In 1985, when Laybourne was president of kid network Nickelodeon, she faced a post-bedtime programming conundrum. Her solution: Nick at Nite, a comfort-viewing selection of beloved reruns. Nickelodeon went from also-ran to known brand. What's more, in the cutthroat TV world, Laybourne was likable. Her Mother's Little Management Manifesto, rules for nurturing leadership, starts with: "It's not enough to know your customers. You also have to like them." In 1998 Laybourne noisily launched Oxygen Media, a TV-and-Internet network. It's still a work in progress, but Laybourne is confident. "I'm an optimist," she has said. "I'm a Norwegian and a textbook middle child. I have a high tolerance for struggling."
* He showed us tiny is beautiful
Leon Lederman, 80
Director Emeritus, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
The subatomic particles that physicist Lederman has discovered, such as the "beauty" quark, are so small they don't have a radius. Yet these fleeting specks are the building blocks of the universe, and Lederman's research earned him a 1988 Nobel Prize. After nearly three decades on the faculty of Columbia University, his new crusade is to reverse the order in which high school science is taught. Lederman advocates teaching physics first, then chemistry, and then biology, because they build upon each other. And he teaches high schoolers himself, at a public academy he helped found. "It's self-serving, really," he says. "Working with children is the secret to eternal youth."
* 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."
* She changed the face of literature
Toni Morrison, 72
Novelist and Robert F. Goheen Professor in the Humanities, Princeton University
As a young reader, Toni Morrison was drawn to the novels of Jane Austen, Gustave Flaubert, and the great Russian writers. "Those books were not written for a little black girl in Lorain, Ohio, but they spoke directly to me out of their specificity," she has said. "I wanted to capture that same specificity about the nature and feeling of the culture I grew up in." With her seven unflinching, lyrical novels, she has added the African American experience to that classical literary tradition—and to the consciousness of the rest of the world. In 1988, Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved, the searing tale of an escaped slave who kills her own child to spare her the horror of capture. (She also won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.) Critic John Leonard has said of Beloved, "What happened in 1988 was a novel we'd always needed, a book whose absence on the canonical shelf of Wonder Bread white boys left a heart-sized hole in our literature big enough to die from. It's as if we'd never heard the sorrow songs or seen slavery before."
For Morrison, the act of writing, though solitary, is not complete until the work is read. And reading is an intimate act, a "sustained surrender to the company of my own mind while it touches another's," she said in a 1996 speech. With her work as a novelist, critic, and teacher, Morrison opens the whole of American experience to what she calls a dance of two minds.
Join the Toni Morrison Society, an official author society of the American Literature
* He seeks justice by the numbers
Robert Moses, 67
Civil Rights Activist, Math Teacher
As a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the soft-spoken Moses became a bona fide folk hero during 1964's Freedom Summer, when he organized African Americans in rural Mississippi to demand their voting rights. "One rarely runs into such an implacable being," says Moses's longtime friend, the Rev. Dr. James Breeden. Thirty years later, Moses fights on a new front in the civil rights struggle: math literacy. His Algebra Project teaches low-income kids the math skills they need for college. Each week Moses flies from his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to teach ninth-grade algebra at a Mississippi high school, and he's training grads to teach their younger peers.
* She celebrates the spirit of the natural world
Mary Oliver, 67
It takes a certain eye to see the miraculous in the commonplace. In Oliver's poems—named for times of day, types of weather, flowers, birds, or even walks she has taken—everyday objects are revealed anew. Oliver's popular and accessible poems have been collected in more than 10 volumes, earning her a Pulitzer Prize (1984), the National Book Award (1992), and many other awards. "I don't know any other American poet who seems as immersed in the beauty of the growing world as she is," says Stanley Kunitz, former U.S. poet laureate.
* He helps dying people move past fear
Frank Ostaseski, 51
Founding Director, The Zen Hospice Project, San Francisco, California
Combining conventional hospice services with 2,500-year-old Buddhist traditions, Ostaseski trains his 100-member volunteer staff to practice meditation and to form deep bonds with patients. His hospice has become a national model. "The word compassion literally means 'suffer with others,' " he has said. "We have to be able to build an empathetic bridge from our own experience."
Ostaseski on fear: "The nature of fear is that it separates us from the people around us, from ourselves. When we can come into contact with this fear without running in the other direction, we can make some peace with it."
* He stretches the boundaries of art
Robert Rauschenberg, 77
Rauschenberg's breakthrough work, 1959's "Monogram," is an assemblage of a stuffed angora goat harnessed by a tire and standing on a paint-slathered canvas. Rauschenberg called this mix of painting, collage, and sculpture a "combine," and it redefined what could be considered "art." Rauschenberg's career is filled with such moments. A monumentally prolific artist and an open-hearted collaborator, Rauschenberg led the way in much late 20th-century art, including silkscreening onto canvas and performance art. As critic Robert Hughes writes, "There has never been anything in American art to match the effusive, unconstrained energy of Rauschenberg's generous imagination." Today, the artist works in Captiva Island, Florida, with a group of assistants. Working with others "takes away the egotistical loneliness of creation," Rauschenberg once said. "But the downside is that you have to wake up with an idea that will keep eight people busy for eight hours."
* He uses his stardom as a bully pulpit
Robert Redford, 65
Actor, Filmmaker, Environmentalist
When Redford bought two acres in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah in the early 1960s, he was simply an actor who loved to ski. In the intervening years, he has become a movie star, a producer, and an Oscar-winning director. But his signal achievements have always been linked to the land he kept adding on to, eventually totaling 6,000 acres. It inspired his environmental advocacy and became headquarters for Sundance, his life-support system for independent filmmaking. In Washington, D.C., Redford has been a forceful proponent of the Clean Air Act, the Energy Conservation and Protection Act, and bills that regulate strip mining. Redford's efforts on behalf of independent moviemaking have been equally impressive. As critic Roger Ebert put it, "No one in recent movie history has had a more positive influence on new directions in American films."
Turn down the lights, and review the latest in independent filmmaking via Sundance's online film festival.
* He brings classical music into the here-and-now
Terry Riley, 67
In 1964, pianist Terry Riley excited—and horrified—music lovers with his "Seminal In C," a structured improvisation full of repetition and tonal permutations that one critic described as "music like none other on earth." The piece launched the minimalist movement, paving the way for composers such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich. But Riley continued to evolve, devoting himself to the study of classical raga vocals of north India. "The highest point of music for me is to become in a place where there is no desire, no craving, wanting to do anything else," Riley has said. "It is the best place you have ever been, and yet there is nothing there." So it is fitting that Riley recently completed a piece NASA commissioned for the Kronos Quartet that incorporates sounds from outer space.
* The Internet knows him as Dad
Lawrence Roberts, 65
Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Caspian Networks
Many lay claim to the Web's paternity, but it was Lawrence Roberts who, in October 1965, first got two computers to "talk" to each other. Since then, he's been a leading voice in the design and use of the Internet and was one of the first e-entrepreneurs, building and promoting ever more efficient data systems. "His mind is like a ballet dancer's legs," says Nicholas Negroponte, chairman, MIT Media Laboratory. Roberts's company recently started selling a next-generation switching system that will help make possible high-quality video and voice transmission over the Web.
* The bad boy of American letters grows up
Philip Roth, 69
His 1969 novel, Portnoy's Complaint—a hilarious and raunchy diatribe on sex, family, and being Jewish—introduced a new kind of narrator, so confessional and raw he made reading feel like eavesdropping. In a prolific career, Roth has tackled huge subjects including terrorism, McCarthyism, and race. He has followed adolescent sexual candor to its ripe conclusion: the erotic life of characters over 70 (with a nod to Viagra). "Both in terms of quality of work and productivity, he simply has no peer right now," Joel Conarroe, president of the Guggenheim Foundation, has said. Roth is more modest: "I think I've put on plenty of pounds as a writer. And I would hope that most of those pounds are muscle."
Roth on his next novel: "I'm hoping it takes me the rest of my life to finish it. I can't take starting from scratch one more time."
* He says what he thinks, and says it perfectly
William Safire, 73
Columnist, The New York Times
If someone had told you in 1973 that one of Richard Nixon's speechwriters would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, you might have been flabbergasted. But William Safire delights in flabbergasting. In his two regular columns for The New York Times, he covers politics (right-leaning, but open-minded) and language (learned, but accessible). In 1978, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his columns on the accounting irregularities of the Carter administration's budget director, Bert Lance, who subsequently resigned. (The two later became friends.) Safire, who quit college to pursue his career, has also written more than 25 books. His work is inventive, surprising, original: "Whether Safire is being silly or serious, reassuring or provocative, wrong or right, or all of these things at once, he is always read," former secretary of state Madeleine Albright has said.
* He inspires a generation to gain and share wisdom
Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, 78
Founder, The Spiritual Eldering Institute, Boulder, Colorado
Already one of America's most controversial rabbis—he embraced reincarnation and declared that social commitment trumps philosophy and creed—Schachter-Shalomi is now enlisting an interfaith mix of older people to come to terms with their mortality, learn contemplative skills, and share their knowledge with younger generations. "You don't want to leave this world with incompletes," he says. "The extended life span needs extended consciousness and extended awareness. If you don't have extended consciousness along with extended life span, you're just dying longer, not living longer." Through his workshops, conferences, and publications, he wants to inspire people who will act "as guide, mentor, and agent of healing and reconciliation on behalf of the planet, nation, tribe, clan, and family."
* He unveiled the power of DNA fingerprinting
Barry Scheck, 53
He might have been the most reluctant Dream Teammate at the O.J. Simpson trial, but media-savvy Scheck had his own reasons for taking that case: He knew that 1995's Trial of the Century could be a national stage for his specialization, DNA evidence. His surgical dissection of LAPD procedures displayed the remarkable powers, and limits, of genetic fingerprinting. Scheck had been defending DNA testing since the 1980s, and in 1992 co-founded the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic at Yeshiva University's law school. To date, the clinic has used DNA evidence to exonerate 123 people wrongfully imprisoned for crimes such as rape and murder. The resulting publicity has shaken the legal foundations of the death penalty and raised troubling questions about fundamental inequalities in our criminal justice system.
Case closed: Of the Innocence Project, Scheck has said, "If there is any justification for being a lawyer, this is it."
Read case profiles for each of the 123 inmates exonerated by the Innocence Project.
* She leads the fight for women's rights
Eleanor Smeal, 63
President, Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF)
When you hear the term "gender gap," credit Smeal. She discovered the gulf between male and female voting patterns in the 1980s. "The pundits all thought we were crazy," recalls Smeal, who was then president of the National Organization for Women (NOW). But by 2000, both major parties were feverishly wooing "soccer moms." Today, Smeal's causes include improved police response to domestic violence, more equitable Social Security for women, and protection against violent protests at abortion clinics. In 1997, she was one of the first to raise the alarm about the Taliban's repression of women. Smeal now helps Afghan women support themselves by marketing their handicrafts on the FMF website.
Change agent: "Without Ellie Smeal, there would be no women's movement. No single person has had more of an impact on politics and policy," says Kathy Rodgers, president, NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund.
* He draws and gives no quarter
Edward Sorel, 73
Cartoonist, Caricaturist, Illustrator
Magazines love Sorel's scribble-like images of celebs and politicians. "Caricaturists are, for the most part, mean-spirited people who enjoy ridiculing others," he says, "which may explain why I was attracted to it." He works directly with pen—no pencil outline—which means he must start over anytime he makes a blunder. As National Portrait Gallery curator Wendy Wick Reaves has said: "Sorel's figures often emerge from a dense, wiry tangle of overlapping pen strokes that crackle with energy."
How he started: At nine, Sorel spent a year in bed with pneumonia. "All I could do to entertain myself was draw," he once said. "By the time I got well, I was an artist."
* He's changing the world, $100 million at a time
George Soros, 72
Investment Manager, Philanthropist
Soros plans to give away most of his fortune during his lifetime. He's worth $7 billion, and has already donated $4 billion to his causes. Sample projects: Poland's Solidarity movement, Internet access for former Soviet Bloc countries, a water filtration plant for the city of Sarajevo, and strengthening public defenders' offices in the U.S. A survivor of the Nazi occupation of Hungary, Soros studied economics in London, came to the U.S. in 1956, and made his billions as a fund manager. Says his biographer, Michael T. Kaufman: "No one since Carnegie and Rockefeller has come near to Soros as a philanthropist. He doesn't stroke his ego with his charity. He simply desires to improve things."
* He invites us into the lush, often scary theme park of his imagination
Steven Spielberg, 56
Film Director, Producer, Writer
Steven Spielberg The question is not "Who is Steven Spielberg?" but rather, "Who will Steven Spielberg be next?" From TV prodigy to futuristic visionary to philanthropist, he is in a steady state of reinvention. Yet no matter how many incarnations he goes through, Spielberg remains at heart the young boy from Phoenix who, according to his mother, "was scared of just about everything," the jumpy kid who would run into her bed when tree branches brushed the house.
His earliest movies, made as a kid, fed on fear and calamity: He filmed crashes of his Lionel trains and, for special effects, exploded cherries jubilee in the kitchen. At 19, he spent the summer casting himself in the role of professional filmmaker at Universal Studios, faking his way past the guards each day in his bar mitzvah suit, carrying a briefcase he borrowed from his father.
He attended California State University at Long Beach, but left a few months shy of his 21st birthday when a student film got him noticed at Universal. There, he would direct episodes of Night Gallery and other TV shows. Shifting to the big screen, he earned critical praise for the low-budget chase flick, The Sugarland Express. He expected his first big project, Jaws, to be a thrill-a-minute chomp fest. But when the mechanical shark self-destructed as filming started, he had to act fast. As he later told CNN's Larry King, he used the "Hitchcockian rule, which is basically shooting the water and suggesting the shark without showing it."
After frightening a generation out of the water, Spielberg abruptly became a spinner of fairy tales—each with a subtle dark edge. E.T., for all its magical fantasy, is at its heart "really about a young boy in search of some stability in his life," Spielberg, who was traumatized by his parents' divorce, has said.
In the decade that followed, Spielberg continued to listen to his inner lost boy, his work culminating in the Never-Never Land of Hook and the menacing velociraptors of Jurassic Park. But just when it seemed he might never stop playing out his childhood insecurities, Spielberg shed yet another skin, starkly confronting the Nazi Holocaust in Schindler's List. "I forced myself into the background of the subject matter," he has said. "And I think that's the first time I've ever done that before."
He won Oscars for best director and best picture, and then plunged deeper into the material, creating the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which has videotaped some 50,000 testimonials of concentration camp survivors. "Kids used to recognize me in malls and ask me if I was making another E.T.," he told In Style magazine. "Now 80-year-olds come up to me to talk about the Shoah Foundation."
Still, the master of reinvention refuses to be typecast: After assuming the mantle of his dark-visioned idol, the late Stanley Kubrick, with A.I. and Minority Report, he released last Christmas's playful Catch Me If You Can. As Spielberg has said, "I don't have enough time in a lifetime to tell all the stories I want to tell."
Watch videos from the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation.
* He prods the faithful to deeper thought
John S. Spong, 72
Retired Episcopal Bishop of Newark, New Jersey
He insists he's a Christian, but Spong persistently challenges major tenets, including the idea of the Resurrection as a physical phenomenon. "Christianity must escape the traditional understandings in which it has been captured," he writes, "or it will die." While traditionalists of all stripes have risen to defend their faith, supporters laud his creative thought. "[Spong has] courage and imagination unintimidated by conventional wisdom," writes Harvard's Peter Gomes.
* She brings fantasies to life
Julie Taymor, 50
Theater and Film Director, Costume Designer
Julie Taymor Taymor's two films, last year's Frida and 1999's Titus, have electrified audiences with their time-shifting, reality-bending fantasy sequences. But Taymor is best known for her Broadway production of The Lion King, which won six Tony awards, including best director and best costume design. When it opened in 1997, theatergoers were blown away by the half-human, half-animal puppet costumes—inspired by her world travels and years in both live and puppet theater. Taymor insisted the costumes bear real beads, not plastic, because "the people wearing the beads would know, and the spirit and soul of the craftsmen would be in the fabric and materials."
* He changed the face of TV, and now he's rewriting the rules of philanthropy
Ted Turner, 64
Vice Chairman, AOL Time Warner; Chairman, Turner Foundation
He won the America's Cup yacht race, created the first cable-TV "superstation," and invented 24-hour TV news. But CNN founder Turner—the volatile "mouth of the South" who once challenged rival Rupert Murdoch to a boxing match—says his proudest moment was in giving away $1 billion to the UN before Wall Street took its toll. His gift is being used to remove land mines, deliver medicine, and assist refugees. The Turner Foundation tackles environmental and population issues; Turner's Nuclear Threat Initiative helps governments limit nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Says Turner: "The most difficult challenge in dealing with these nearly intractable problems is staying cheerful."
* She changed the way America eats
Alice Waters, 59
Owner and Founder, Chez Panisse
Waters is why restaurants brag that chicken is free-range, tomatoes are organic, and oysters have been harvested from a certain Maine cove. When she and a few friends opened Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, in 1971, all she planned was a spot where diners could enjoy food prepared as she had seen in France—with fresh ingredients from local farms and fisheries. It became the launching pad for a generation of fresh-and-local chefs. Waters's Chez Panisse Foundation promotes sustainable agriculture and teaches children to value fine food over fast food.
* He teaches us how to heal ourselves
Andrew Weil, 60
Director, Program in Integrative Medicine, University of Arizona
Weil challenged the medical establishment's core beliefs about healing—and proved that many of grandma's cures weren't as nutty as we thought. Before his books, including Health and Healing and Eight Weeks to Optimum Health, began finding an audience in the 1980s, doctors scoffed at healing traditions of the past and of other cultures. But the rebel physician's central message—that the body can often heal itself with proper nutrition, mental conditioning, and herbal therapies—has now gone mainstream. Still, many of his ideas remain controversial. "I should hope so!" he says. "If I didn't make people think and disagree, I wouldn't be doing my job." Yet he hasn't totally abandoned Western medicine. "If I have a car accident, don't take me to an herbalist," he says.
* She's making land mines obsolete
Jody Williams, 52
Founding Coordinator, International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL)
Williams turned a pie-in-the-sky notion—eliminating land mines from world arsenals—into an international treaty. The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty not only bans trade and manufacturing of land mines, it requires governments to dig them out of the ground. She made this happen by assembling an alliance of some 1,400 nongovernmental organizations. Next step: ratification. "She's the living embodiment of the fact that one person can make a difference in the world," says filmmaker David Haugland, who's making a documentary about the treaty.
Use the International Campaign to Ban Landmines' website to help the program in many ways, including sponsoring a mine-detection dog.
* He helps the poor help themselves
Robert Woodson, 65
Urban Activist, Founder of the National Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (NCNE)
What's the best cure for urban ills? Woodson preaches the gospel of entrepreneurship and economic self-determination. His center supports what he calls "community healers"—the church groups and block clubs that keep violence at bay and families intact. "These small institutions are like the neighborhood's immune system," he says. Woodson stumped for "faith-based initiatives" as early as the 1980s, and some of his concepts, such as anti-gang violence-free zones, have been implemented nationwide. His center is now working with poor families in rural Alabama. John McWhorter, author of Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America, has said, "Woodson is God. He is what we need."
* He draws back the curtain on Washington
Bob Woodward, 60
Assistant Managing Editor, The Washington Post
Bob Woodward Bob Woodward is, of course, the reporter who worked with Carl Bernstein to expose the Watergate cover-up and help bring down Richard Nixon. But his contribution to the country goes far beyond that. "Deep Throat," the still-unnamed source who gave Woodward pivotal information in the case, set the tone for a career. Through a series of books, including studies of the Supreme Court, the Clinton White House, and—in 2002—George W. Bush's wartime leadership, he has established himself as the king of access, "a reporting god," in the words of writer Nicholas Lemann. Like no other writer, he brings his readers into the corridors of power. Though he has been criticized for allowing his sources anonymity, that tactic may account for his uncanny ability to get high officials to confide in him. Today, he and the many younger reporters he inspired work to ensure that secrets of national consequence do not remain secret forever.
WashingtonPost.com's Revisiting Watergate section is packed with actual Post coverage, facts and profiles, an interactive quiz, and more.
* He's the voice of our fastest-growing minority
Raul Yzaguirre, 63
President, National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
His teen years were spent working on a fishing boat off the Texas coast—until he jumped ship and helped form a series of Latino activist organizations. Now he heads the largest of them all, NCLR (3.5 million people, 270 affiliates), which works to improve employment, health care, education, and immigration policy for Spanish-speaking people. As the NCLR spokesperson on Capitol Hill and in business boardrooms, Yzaguirre has become a major voice in U.S. policy.
His message: "Because there are those who are frightened by [Latino population] growth, it is important that we convey in no uncertain terms the wonderful news of our presence in this nation."
Editors: Margaret Guroff and Gabrielle deGroot Redford
Writers: David Dudley, Corinne Hayward, Monica Hesse, Michael Hopkins, Jennifer Howard, Christina Ianzito, Marilyn Johnson, Bill Newcott, Abby McGanney Nolan, Maggie Pouncey, J.D. Reed, and Jon Spayde
*The name of this award was originally the Impact Award. In 2008, the awards were renamed as the Inspire Awards.