Jacques Mattheij

Technology, Coding and Business

My Heroes

A while ago I got into an argument about ‘heroes’. Whether I look up to Steve Jobs more than Bill Gates or Larry Ellison or something to that effect.

The funny thing is that I look up to none of them.

Sure, they’ve created wealth beyond belief and they’ve been very influential in their own right, I even use some of their products. But they’re not my heroes.

My heroes are a pretty odd list, it contains names that may not even ring a bell to most people.

I’m not going to give you an exhaustive list, but I can give you a sample to give you an idea of who my heroes are:

Alexander Fleming

Isaac Asimov


Charles Babbage

John Bardeen

Tim Berners-Lee

Walter Brattain

Jack Bresenham

Dan Bricklin

Steve Ciarcia

Arthur C Clarke

Marie Curie

Leonardo Da Vinci

Richard Dawkins

Albert Einstein

Douglas Engelbart

Rosalind Franklin

Steven Hawking

Robert A Heinlein

Charles (Tony) Hoare

Robert Hooke

Grace Hopper

Alan Kay

Philippe Kahn

Sal Khan and his team (see http://www.khanacademy.org/about/the-team )

Donald Knuth

David N Levy

Ada Lovelace

Chuck Moore

Samuel Morse

John von Neumann

Isaac Newton

Peter Norvig

Louis Pasteur

Carl Sagan

Claude Shannon

William Shockley

Richard Stallman

Andrew Tanenbaum

Linus Torvalds

Alan Turing

Steve Wozniak

And on and on like that. I’m sure you get the message.

These are the people on whose shoulders we stand, who took time out to educate us or whose thoughts or research power our technology and indirectly power our society and all of its wealth, whose fantasies open our eyes to what is possible in our future and who in some cases gave their lives in the pursuit of knowledge.

Behind each of these names lies a story worth telling, and for each of the names that you recognize on the list there are 100’s more like it that you’d have never heard of. For those names that you don’t recognize I’d encourage you to check out a webpage or two.

All the work these people did, didn’t (or wasn’t going to) make millions or billions directly, which is why (with a few exceptions, unavoidable in a list that long) most of these people never made it big in the way our society measures success, by looking at your bank account.

But once the raw product of these minds was packaged and streamlined it became capable of unbelievable feats.

Not a minute passes in your life that has not been touched by someone on the list above, and possibly more than one. Just by reading this document you are using the brainchildren of more than half the people on that list!

My heroes are not ‘sexy’, they don’t wear hip gear or use cool gadgets or save the battle in the nick of time (well, we should probably make an exception for Alan Turing here, his work probably saved quite a few battles in the nick of time). They typically don’t get statues and for the most part are vastly overshadowed by those that profited from their work more than they ever did.

But for me they’re what we as a human race have to be proud of, achievement and advancement through clear headed thinking, progress that is here to stay, forevermore. Almost to a fault, they’re modest and probably the ones that are still alive will feel they should not be on the list with the ones that are no longer.

But they’re my heroes just the same.