10 Forgotten People who made a Profound difference

10. John Fielding introduces law and order, crafts modern police force


With his brother Henry, Sir John Fielding (above left as seen in TV series City of Vice) established the Bow Street Runners, the world’s  first professional police force in 1750. John Fielding was blinded in a navy accident at the age of 19 but he served as his brother’s personal assistant from 1750 until Henry’s death four years later. Known as the “Blind Beak of Bow Street”, John Fielding expended the runners (which originally numbered eight) into the first truly effective organization, later even adding horseback patrols, street lighting and a maritime police force. He divided London into six areas with their own patrols and police stations, and introduced highways patrols which ended highway robberies.  His patrol, equipped with truncheon, cutlass and pistol, and dressed in leather hats, blue coats with brass buttons, blue trousers and boots, became a precursor for the modern police force. John Fielding also introduced a newssheet, Hue and Cry, which collected and disseminated information about crimes, suspected criminals, and convictions, placing Bow Street at the centre of a national criminal intelligence network. It is a feat worthy of a man who could reputedly tell 3000 criminals apart by the sounds of their voices.

9. Kankan Musa spends lavishly, invites greed


Mansa (Emperor) Kankan Musa, who ruled the Mali Empire in the 14th century, was best known for his  hajj to Mecca. In the 14th year of his reign (1324), he set out on his famous pilgrimage to Mecca-the pilgrimage that revealed Mali’s wealth the world to the stupendous wealth of Mali. Traveling to Cairo, his retinue consisted of 60,000 men, 12,000 slaves (all of whom wore brocade and Persian silk), 80 to 100 camels loaded with 300 pounds of gold each. The emperor rode on horseback and was directly preceded by 500 slaves, each of whom carried a four-pound staff of solid gold. So lavish was the emperor’s spending in Cairo that he devalued gold prices there. He invited back Islamic scholars from Mecca to Mali. He embarked on large building projects in Timbuktu, which has since become synonymous with exoticism in Europe. His brazen statements of Mali’s wealth had but one result: it made Africa’s interior a more desirable target for the European conquest.

8. Jan Coen reforms trade, creates the modern colonialism


In 1619, Jan Pieterszoon Coen was appointed Governor-General of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). A major problem in the European trade with Asia at the time was that the Europeans could offer few goods that Asians wanted, except silver and gold. By starting intra-Asiatic trade system between various colonies, Coen stopped the need for exports of gold and silver from Europe, making colonial ventures more profitable. By reinvesting the profits, the VOC became not only an economic but also a political power-something very different from the previous colonial models under the Spanish and the Portuguese. Coen also pioneered the introduction of Christian missionaries and modern technology to the East, and his trade post on Dejima was for more than two hundred years the only place where Europeans were permitted to trade with Japan. In one of the first examples of outsourcing, the VOC closed its shipyard in 1649, realizing it would be more profitable to hire others’ ships than to build its own. By 1669, the VOC was already the richest private company the world had ever seen, with over 150 merchant ships, 40 warships, 50,000 employees, a private army of 10,000 soldiers, and a dividend payment of 40% on the original investment, with only 4% of the ships imperiled. (In 2003, Microsoft’s dividend was .03 percent.)

7. Rhodopis sells her body, builds a pyramid, becomes Cinderella


According to the legends, in the 6th century B.C., a Greek slave Rhodopis worked in the same household as the slave Aesop. She was eventually taken to Egypt to work as a prostitute, where she was freed by an enamored Greek wine merchant Charaxus. Charaxus was the brother of the famous poetess Sappho, who wrote a poem chastising him for this deed. Charaxus eventually returned to Greece, while Rhodopis resumed her work as a high-class prostitute in Egypt. According to Herodotus, she became so famous and so rich that she singlehandedly financed the construction of her own pyramid. Another tale contradicts that a Pharaoh built a pyramid in her honor. Herodotus also claimed that Rhodopis donated a great number of “iron beef spits”–an impressive gift in those days–to the shrine at Delphi. In addition, Rhodopis inspired an early Egyptian story, which later became the basic of “Cinderella”, where she became the Queen of Egypt.

6. Sidney Smith spies, saves Britain


Sir Percy Blakeney, a.k.a. Scarlet Pimpernel, is the English spy who rescued the French aristocracy from the clutches of Madame Guillotine after the French Revolution. He is also entirely fictional-a literary creation on Baroness Orczy. Blakeney’s closest real-time counterpart is Sir Sidney Smith, a first cousin of Prime Minister William Pitt. Smith thwarted Napoleon’s planned invasion of Britain by burning down the entire French fleet at Toulon with eighteen small boats manned by the French royalists. Arrested, he  continued to lead his spy network from behind the bars at the Temple Prison, and later escaped to Constantinople. There, dressed in Turkish garb and enormous mustache, he scuttled Napoleon’s Egyptian fleet as well.  Years later, Napoleon commented: “That man made me miss my destiny.” In private life, arrogant and much disliked, Smith conducted an infamous affair with the Princess of Wales.

5. Stetson Kennedy recruits Superman, defeats KKK


After World War II, Ku Klux Klan experienced a huge resurgence. A young writer and activist named Stetson Kennedy decided to expose the secrets of the Ku Klux Klan and went undercover to infiltrate the group. By regularly attending meetings, he became privy to the organization’s secrets. However, when he tried to expose the organization, the local authorities themselves were intimidated by the Klan.  In his dilemma, Kennedy went to the writers of the Superman radio series which has become recently popular. With the Nazism finally defeated, the producers were also looking for a new villain. So serial “Clan of the Fiery Cross,” was conceived. The serial ultimately exposed many of the KKK’s most guarded secrets, thus stripping the Klan of its mystique. The Klan denounced the show and called for a boycott of the sponsor Kellogg’s products. In the 1950s, Kennedy wrote a bestseller which further damaged the Klan.

4. Robert Houdin magicks, saves an empire


In September 1856, the French Government asked a retired magician Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, ”the father of modern magic,” to help suppress tribal revolutions in the French Algeria. The revolts were led by local fakirs, marabouts, who used magic tricks to appear supernatural as prophets of Allah. Houdin was asked to outmagick the marabouts. On October 28, 60 tribal chiefs were invited to see Houdin, who subsequently vanished strength from one man, caught bullets, and made a wall bleed. After the show, Houbin explained his tricks and the tricks of the marabouts. Three days after the performance, the chieftains presented Houdin with an illuminated manuscript praising his art and pledging their allegiance to France. The French Algiers was saved. For a time being.

3. Doña Marina interprets, ends an empire


Doña Marina acted as an interpreter, advisor, intermediary and mistress of Hernán Cortés during the latter’s Conquest of Mexico. Ambiguously viewed either as a traitor or a victim, she played a decisive role in bringing down the Aztec Empire. History doesn’t remember her precise origins, but she was one of the slave girls presented to the Spaniards when they landed in the New World. Cortes proclaimed that he had come in peace but Aztec Emperor Montezuma ordered an attack on the invaders before they forged alliances with non-Aztec Indians. Without the help of Marina, Montezuma would have been successful; her negotiations with the native tribes rallied those tribes behind Cortes, thus dooming the tyrannical Aztec Empire. Cortes himself later wrote: “After God we owe this conquest of New Spain to Doña Marina.” After the Conquest, she introduced Christianity to the New World and attempted to end human sacrifice and cannibalism, before disappearing from history.

2. Stanislav Petrov does nothing, saves the world


In 1983, a Soviet ballistics officer Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov was duty officer at Serpukhov-15, the secret bunker outside Moscow that monitored the Soviet Union’s early-warning satellite system. One night, the alarm bells went off shortly after midnight. One of the satellites signaled Moscow that the United States had launched five ballistic missiles at Russia. The alarm coincided with the beginning of provocative NATO military exercises and it barely three weeks after the Russians shot down a South Korean airliner that had wandered into Soviet air space. However, Petrov was less sure; he realized that an American attack would come from more than five ICBMs. Therefore, he concluded correctly that it is a false alarm — thereby averting a potential nuclear holocaust. It was later found out that the malfunctioning satellite picked up the sun’s reflection off the cloud tops and interpreted that as a missile launch.

1. A Prostitute has sex with Hitler, causes the Holocaust


In Mein Kampf, volume 1, Adolf Hitler wrote extensively on syphilis and prostitution. Fourteen paged litany on what he called a “Jewish disease” caused some historians to speculate whether Hitler himself had the disease. Hitler reportedly had sex with a Jewish prostitute in Vienna in 1908. His possible discovery later that year that he had the disease may have been responsible for his demeanor; while his life course may have been influenced by his anger at being a syphilitic, as well as his belief that he had acquired the disease from undesirable societal elements which he intended to eliminate. A psychiatry team studied diary entries made by Hitler’s personal doctor, Theo Morrell, and concluded that there is “ample circumstantial evidence” for the theory. (Some, however, dispute that  Dr Morrell deliberately poisoned his patient).

Bonus: Urian bites the Pope, separates the Church and the State


In the late 1520s, Henry VIII of England wanted to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon because  she had not produced a male heir. Catherine was his late brother’s wife, and Henry tried to annul the marriage on such grounds. In 1527 Henry asked Pope Clement VII to annul the marriage. Although  Clement has good relations with Henry, the Pope feared the wrath of Catherine’s nephew, powerful Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Henry sent Cardinal Wolsey to Rome to persuade the pope. As was the custom, the cardinal bent down to kiss the pope’s toe. However, Wolsey’s greyhound, Urian, thought his master was being attacked, and it lunged forward to bite the pope’s bare foot. Enraged, the pope called off the negotiations; the Catholic Church refused to grant the annulment. Henry went on with his divorce and established the Church of England.


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