As the 20th century began, most people traveled by horse or train, long-distance communications were handled by telegraph or letter, and the Dow Jones industrial average stood at 68 points.
In a 100-year span that produced airplanes, the Model T, motion pictures with sound, fast food, Social Security, television, junk bonds, nuclear weapons, the Internet, gene-spliced drugs and international commerce that now takes place in the click of a computer key, just who most influenced business in the 20th century?
As part of our millennium coverage, the Times' Business staff set out to pick the 50 figures or groups of people who most influenced business this century. The criteria were simple: Those on the list not only had to have a phenomenal impact globally, but also on the lives of Southern Californians as well.
Our staffers made their top 50 nominations. Editors plowed through lists of auto makers, aviators, bankers, entertainment chieftains, labor leaders, electronic and computer wizards, scientists, politicians, economists, telecommunication giants, financiers and gave thumbs up or thumbs down. Most end-of-the-century lists tend to be heavily weighted toward recent events, so we tried to be open-minded and include key business figures or events from early this century as well. Some people who had global influence, but not much influence in the lives of Southern Californians, didn't make the final cut.
We then consulted with academics and narrowed our list again. More disagreements followed. And eventually, with considerable hand-wringing, we came up with our top 50 list.
We enjoyed putting together this list, and we hope you enjoy it as well. Let us know what you think of our selections by writing us at Influential 50, Business Section, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053 or send e-mail to email@example.com.