Behind the people and stories that dominated the headlines in 2017 there were the individuals who did amazing things and didn’t get the recognition we thought they deserved. Here you’ll find the game-changing stories of 20 people that helped make 2017 an unforgettable 365 days. We proudly present to you INSH’s First Annual 20 Most Interesting People selections.
1. Tali Gumbiner, Lizzie Wilson and Kristen Visbal
Wall Street is famous for the statue of the charging bull that symbolizes the aggressive power of the stock market. This year, the bull was joined by a small statue of a young girl staring down the bull; an idea brought to life by Tali, Lizzie and Kristen. With her defiant spirit, the statue of “Fearless Girl” is an excellent piece of art to describe this year.
2. Sarah Parcak
Not only is she a pioneer of “space archeology,” Sarah has brought her tools to the masses with her organization GlobalXplorer; giving satellite tools to ordinary people. Together, novice archeologists have used the platform to find tens of thousands of archaeological sites and features in Peru since launch earlier this year.
3. Alan Flake
In the U.S., approximately 10% of babies are born prematurely, and 6% of those are born extremely premature. Preemies require extensive health support and often face lifelong health consequences. Alan, a fetal surgeon at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, and his team aim to change things in this area; they have created an artificial womb that has worked for lambs and could revolutionize treatment for premature births.
4. Jason deCaires Taylor
An artist and environmentalist, Jason worked with Museo Atlántico in an effort to re-establish coral reef beds by building underwater art installations that are friendly to the growth of coral. He is one of the first artists to marry contemporary art with the conservation of marine life.
5. Satoshi Nakamoto
While there is still no official identity (or face to put to the name) of its creator, Bitcoin has hit multiple new record highs this year and was even adopted by several major investment firms. Satoshi’s impact has been felt this year more than any other, even if his identity is still a secret.
6. Kunihiro Morishima
This Nagoya University physicist led the team that found a previously unknown cavity in the Great Pyramid of Egypt. They used subatomic particles called muons to find the undiscovered cavern—proving once again that science and archeology continue to become close friends.
This year will go down in history as the year a robot was declared a citizen of a country. You might think a story like this would come from Japan, but in reality, the world’s first Robot Citizen has a Saudi Arabian passport, and is named Sophia.
8. Menno Schilthuizen and Iva Njunjić
Scientists estimate that 80% of the world’s species are still unknown, but the founders of Taxon Expeditions—a company that teaches citizen scientists how to find new species—are aiming to help change this total. On their first expedition, their citizen scientists helped discover six new species of beetles.
9. Kylie Mines
In the Pacific islands, donations of outdated and improperly sized wheelchairs create an environmental issue without helping solve a humanitarian one. Kylie created a foundation called “Motivation Australia”, which is helping to make “wheelchair graveyards” a thing of the past by providing properly fitted equipment to people in need.
10. Stephen Wiltshire
All too often, we think of disability as a limiting factor, but Stephen Wiltshire proves to us again and again that it can be a superpower. In 2017, this autistic artist drew the entire New York City skyline—in 5 days—from memory. Did we mention he did this after only a 45 minute helicopter ride?
11. Shoukhrat Mitalipov
Medical science has been breathtaking in what it has accomplished this year. Using the revolutionary CRISPR technology, Shoukhrat led a team in Oregon to perform the first successful edit on a human embryo in the US. Although controversial, this is definitely opening a door to an interesting future.
12. Guy Wilkinson
The Large Hadron Collider is one of the most awe-inspiring research tools humanity has ever created but it is only a tool with the right people. Guy led the Large Hadron Collider team when a new particle named Ξcc++ (pronounced Ksi c c plus plus) was discovered. This discovery has helped us shine a light in another dark corner of the material that makes up the Universe.
13. Elon Musk
The challenge with Elon is he does so much that some of his accomplishments slip through the cracks. While famous for his work on Tesla, Hyperloop, the Boring company, helping rebuild Puerto Rico, and other ventures, one can argue that Musk’s greatest achievement this year was launching a re-used rocket from SpaceX. This is a giant first step in significantly reducing the cost of space exploration.
With the pace Artificial Intelligence is advancing at, is it any surprise that they make a list like this? Shelley, named after Mary Shelley, is a horror-story writing AI. She composes stories on Twitter in partnership with different human interactions and the results are…spine chilling.
15. The Red Cross
While it might be odd to include an organization on a list of people, this one cares a lot about people so we’re including it. In a year of hurricanes, wars, storms, and other disasters, the Red Cross delivered more food and shelter stays in 2017 than in the last 4 years combined. We salute them and their amazing work.
In 2017, Sesame Street introduced a new Muppet named Julia. Julia has autism, and her involvement on Sesame Street will help teach a generation of children a new way to interact with a group that has been frequently marginalized by the media.
17. Zahi Hawass
The story of Egypt’s most famous king could have another chapter. Zahi Hawass is an archeologist leading a team investigating a site that could be the tomb of King Tutankhamun’s wife. Perhaps it will be a store of cultural treasure equal to the tomb of her husband.
18. Carter Wilkerson
Some people stumble on greatness…some people pursue it. Carter broke a record for the number of retweets received on Twitter in order to get free chicken nuggets from Wendy’s for a year. But this victory wasn’t just for him—Wendy’s donated $100,000 to the Dave Thomas Foundation in his name— helping children in foster care to find permanent homes.
19. Mas Subramanian
While this Oregon State University chemistry professor discovered a new shade of blue (the first in 200 years) in 2009, it is only now being released as a Crayola crayon this year. The new color will be a part of the childhoods of millions going forward.
20. John Goehrke
One of the most fun stories of 2017 reminds us to take a chance on love. John made a bet with tennis star Eugenie Bouchard on Twitter about the Super Bowl, for a date—they had no connection before the wager. There are no guarantees in this crazy world, but the two recently got together for another date. We are not the betting type, but this just might make a strong case for taking a chance on love.