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Person of the Year from the year you were born

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Tony Fischer // Flickr

Person of the Year from the year you were born

Each year, Time magazine gives one person the honor of appearing within the cover’s signature red borders as Person of the Year. Though readers typically see this as an honor or accolade, the choice doesn’t necessarily represent the person who did the most good or accomplished the biggest achievement in the past year, but rather the person who had the greatest influence on the world. Former publisher P.I. Prentice explained as much in a 1945 editorial. In other words, Time’s Person of the Year sometimes has more in common with a wanted poster than the Nobel Prize. 

Regardless of what each Person of the Year did to become famous, re-examining each year’s choice can reveal a lot about the state of the world during that year. To gain a broad overview of the award since its inception in 1927, Stacker consulted Wikipedia’s list of every Time Person of the Year. Some years have multiple winners; in 2006, the magazine began listing runners-up for the title each year. Click through the slideshow to discover which world leaders, scientists, athletes, actors, and everyday people were awarded this notable distinction over the past 90 years.

RELATED: Click here to see the cost of goods the year you were born.

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SDASM Archives // Flickr

1927: Charles Lindbergh

Lived: 1902–1974
Runners-up: N/A

When Time magazine editors first came up with the concept of the Person of the Year, the person to choose as 1927’s standout individual was obvious: Charles Lindbergh. He flew solo across the Atlantic in 33 hours and 39 minutes

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Harris & Ewing // Wikimedia Commons

1928: Walter Chrysler

Lived: 1875–1940
Runners-up: N/A

This businessman was the founder and first president of the Chrysler Corporation, which had an outstanding year in 1928. That year, Chrysler brought the Plymouth to market, acquired the Dodge Brothers Company, and added more commercial cars to his line. Walter Chrysler also announced that he would build a skyscraper in Manhattan that year, now known as the Chrysler Building.

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Ras67 // Wikimedia Commons

1929: Owen D. Young

Lived: 1874–1962
Runners-up: N/A

This American business executive boasted a long string of accomplishments—general counsel for General Electric Company, chairman of the executive committee of the Radio Company of America, and so on—but it was his work leading the committee of experts who drafted the plan for settlement of reparations after World War I that earned him this honor.

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Yann // Wikimedia Commons

1930: Mahatma Gandhi

Lived: 1869–1948
Runners-up: N/A

Twelve months after the Indian National Congress put the Indian Declaration of Independence into law, Time chose Mahatma Gandhi as the Person of the Year. At the time, he was being held in jail for protesting Britain’s salt tax.

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JLPC // Wikimedia Commons

1931: Pierre Laval

Lived: 1883–1945
Runners-up: N/A

This optimistic French politician became the Person of the Year in 1931, just after becoming the prime minister of France. He also gained notoriety for his international work promoting the Social Insurance Act through both of the National Assembly chambers. 

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White House photographer. // Wikimedia Commons

1932: Franklin D. Roosevelt

Lived: 1882–1945
Runners-up: N/A

Roosevelt became the Person of the Year for the first time in 1932—he would go on to win it twice more, in 1934 and 1941. In 1932, he was elected president for the first time after a successful run as the governor of New York. 

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Animalparty // WikimediaCommons

1933: Hugh S. Johnson

Lived: 1882–1942
Runners-up: N/A

Johnson, a businessman with plenty of corporate ties, became FDR’s leading bureaucrat as the head of the National Recovery Administration through his ties to Wall Street financier Bernard Baruch. Time said Johnson “burst like a flaming meteorite on the country” and had “almost unlimited powers.”

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Keystone Features // Getty Images

1934: Franklin D. Roosevelt

Lived: 1882–1945
Runners-up: N/A

Just two years into his presidency, FDR had already made an enormous impact on the United States. He had begun holding his trademark fireside chats, legalized the sale of beer and wine to effectively end Prohibition, signed the Banking Act to guarantee bank deposits, set up the National Labor Board, and established the Federal Housing Administration

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digboston // Flickr

1935: Haile Selassie

Lived: 1892–1975
Runners-up: N/A

Haile Selassie ruled as the emperor of Ethiopia from 1930 to 1974. He is perhaps best known for his appeal for help from the League of Nations in 1933 as Italian soldiers led by Benito Mussolini attacked his country. Selassie is credited with giving Ethiopia its first constitution and ushering Africa into the modern age.

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Sporti // Wikimedia Commons

1936: Wallis Simpson

Lived: 1896–1986
Runners-up: N/A

The love between American actress Wallis Warfield Simpson and Edward, the Prince of Wales, plunged Britain into a constitutional crisis. As Simpson was a divorcée, Edward could not marry her and also assume the throne. In 1936, Edward VIII became the only monarch in British history to voluntarily abdicate the throne.

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Captain Fred L. Eldridge, Photographer / Department of Defense // Wikimedia Commons

1937: Chiang Kai-shek

Lived: 1887–1975
Runners-up: N/A

China’s supreme leader became the Time Person of the Year in 1937. The early stages of the Sino-Japanese War and Chiang Kai-shek’s desire to create national unity throughout China triggered the nomination.

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US White staff // Wikimedia Commons

1937: Soong Mei-ling

Lived: 1898–2003
Runners-up: N/A

In a first for Time, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek actually shared the 1937 title with his wife Soong Mei-ling. Her influence over her husband likely made her the most powerful woman in China, if not the world—at least in Time’s opinion

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Heinrich Hoffmann // Wikimedia Commons

1938: Adolf Hitler

Lived: 1889–1945
Runners-up: N/A

The Munich Agreement led the staff of Time magazine to name the Fuhrer Adolf Hitler as the most influential person of 1938. The fact that three world powers—Britain, France, and Italy—allowed Hitler to annex Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland showed just how terrifyingly powerful he had become.  

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Segunda Guerra Mundial // Flickr

1939: Joseph Stalin

Lived: 1878–1953
Runners-up: N/A

Joseph Stalin was named Time’s Person of the Year for the first time in 1939, when he signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact with Adolf Hitler. This agreement paved the way for both Nazi and Soviet attacks on Poland, and the beginning of World War II.

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Evening Standard // Getty Images

1940: Winston Churchill

Lived: 1874–1965
Runners-up: N/A

Like Stalin, British prime minister Winston Churchill also became Time’s Person of the Year twice: in 1940 and 1949. His courageous leadership of the British people in wartime—including his famous “we shall fight on the beaches” and “this was their finest hour” speeches—earned him a spot in the annals of history.

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Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1941: Franklin D. Roosevelt

Lived: 1882–1945
Runners-up: N/A

By 1941, FDR’s influence had extended from the domestic sphere into international politics. As commander-in-chief, Roosevelt led the United States through several years of war, authorized American scientists to begin development of the atomic bomb, and laid the foundation for the United Nations. Time cited his work signing the Declaration of War and Lend Lease Act as the reason for naming him Person of the Year in 1941.

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Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1942: Joseph Stalin

Lived: 1878–1953
Runners-up: N/A

In 1942, the Soviet army successfully defended the city of Stalingrad against Nazi forces in what many historians consider the greatest battle of World War II. Time honored Stalin yet again for turning what could have been a resounding defeat into the moment when the Allies began to take control of the conflict. 

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Keystone // Getty Images

1943: George Marshall

Lived: 1880–1959
Runners-up: N/A

Statesman and military officer George Marshall also took the honor twice. In 1943, Time chose him as the Person of the Year for growing the U.S. Army from 200,000 to 8 million personnel.

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M. McNeill // Fox Photos/Getty Images

1944: Dwight D. Eisenhower

Lived: 1890–1969
Runners-up: N/A

Even before he was elected president, Eisenhower had an impressive track record. As a four-star general, he led the Allied Forces in World War II—a feat that earned him his first Time Person of the Year nod.

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Alfredo Molina // Wikimedia Commons

1945: Harry S. Truman

Lived: 1884–1972
Runners-up: N/A

Plain-spoken President Harry S. Truman ascended to the highest office in the United States in April 1945 after the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. During his first year in office, he also made the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan.

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U.S. Department of State // Flickr

1946: James F. Byrnes

Lived: 1879–1972
Runners-up: N/A

Truman’s Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, also played an important role in the decision to use an atomic weapon during World War II. Byrnes believed in “atomic diplomacy”—the idea that using the bomb could give the United States more leverage in post-war negotiations—and ultimately recommended its use. 

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Keystone/Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1947: George Marshall

Lived: 1880–1959
Runners-up: N/A

On June 5, 1947, Marshall—then President Harry Truman’s secretary of state—gave a speech at Harvard University in which he called for U.S. assistance to help rebuild the economy of Western Europe. His idea became the basis for the aptly named Marshall Plan, which Congress passed in 1948.

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AFP/AFP // Getty Images

1948: Harry S. Truman

Lived: 1884–1972
Runners-up: N/A

In 1948, Truman again became Time’s Person of the Year. This was another banner year for Truman: He asked Congress to prepare civil rights legislation to protect the nation’s minorities, ordered the desegregation of the Armed Forces, and won a second term.

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Keystone // Getty Images

1949: Winston Churchill

Lived: 1874–1965
Runners-up: N/A

Winston Churchill’s second Time magazine cover wasn’t as Person of the Year, but Man of the Half-Century. His role in leading Britain—and Western Europe—through World War II earned him the well-deserved attention.

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Madmax32 // Wikimedia Commons

1950: The American fighting-man

Lived: N/A
Runners-up: N/A

Five years after the end of World War II, Time editors chose the first group of People of the Year: the American fighting man. As the magazine noted at the time, the American soldier is special because: “He fights as he lives, a part of a vast, complicated machine—but a thinking, deciding part, not an inert cog.”

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Bellavista // Wikimedia Comons

1951: Mohammad Mossadegh

Lived: 1882–1967
Runners-up: N/A

Iranian premier Mohammad Mossadegh had just taken office in 1951. His accomplishments include nationalizing British oil holdings and nearly deposing the shah.

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AFP // Getty Images

1952: Elizabeth II

Lived: 1926–
Runners-up: N/A

Queen Elizabeth II ascended the throne on Feb. 6, 1952, after the death of her father, King George VI. Though Time editors couldn’t have known it at the time, she would go on to become Britain’s longest-reigning monarch.

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Keystone // Getty Images

1953: Konrad Adenauer

Lived: 1876–1967
Runners-up: N/A

Konrad Adenauer, the first chancellor of West Germany, was instrumental in the country’s recovery after World War II. Under Adenauer’s leadership, West Germany became an associate member of the Council of Europe and helped form the European Defense Community.

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Terry Fincher // Getty Images

1954: John Foster Dulles

Lived: 1888–1959
Runners-up: N/A

President Eisenhower appointed John Foster Dulles as secretary of state in 1953 and the pair’s close friendship helped them accomplish some extraordinary feats. Dulles is perhaps best known for his belief that peace could be maintained by containing communism.

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Keystone/Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1955: Harlow Curtice

Lived: 1893–1962
Runners-up: N/A

Harlow Curtice became the president of General Motors in 1953 and led the corporation to great success. In fact, General Motors became the first industrial corporation to make $1 billion in profits in 1955.

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Keystone // Getty Images

1956: The Hungarian freedom fighter

Lived: N/A
Runners-up: N/A

After Nikita Khrushchev gave a speech publicly criticizing Stalin, thousands of Hungarians were encouraged to rise up in protest of Soviet oppression. Though the rebels won the initial battles and Hungarian communist politician Imre Nagy attempted to establish a more democratic government, the Soviet Union eventually invaded Hungary and quashed the revolution.   

 

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Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1957: Nikita Khrushchev

Lived: 1894–1971
Runners-up: N/A

Speaking of Khrushchev, Time magazine chose the Soviet statesman as the Person of the Year in 1957. He denounced his predecessors, reorganized the country’s industry, formed an alliance with China, and even attempted to make peace with the United States.

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Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1958: Charles de Gaulle

Lived: 1890–1970
Runners-up: N/A

Years after his political and military work in World War II, Charles de Gaulle returned to public life when he was elected president of France at the end of 1958. He dedicated himself to ensuring France’s independence from other world powers and improving the economy. 

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uwdigitalcollections// Wikicommons

1959: Dwight D. Eisenhower

Lived: 1890–1969
Runners-up: N/A

Fifteen years after his first Person of the Year award, Eisenhower again received the honor. This time, he had already served as president of Columbia University, become president of the United States, and ended the Korean War.

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Douglas Grundy/Three Lions // Getty Images

1960: U.S. Scientists

Lived: N/A
Runners-up: N/A

Because science moved forward so much in 1960, Time editors felt it was only appropriate to spotlight U.S. scientists overall. As the cover story noted, “1960 was the richest of all scientific years, and the years ahead must be even more fruitful."

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U.S. Embassy New Delhi // Flickr

1961: John F. Kennedy

Lived: 1917–1963
Runners-up: N/A

Though President John. F Kennedy was inaugurated on Jan. 20, 1961, his huge influence on American politics was already obvious by the end of the year. In his first year in office, Kennedy led the country through the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, pledged his support of the space program, and created the Temporary Peace Corps.

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Keystone // Getty Images

1962: Pope John XXIII

Lived: 1881–1963
Runners-up: N/A

In 1962, Pope John XXIII convened a gathering of church leaders known as Vatican II to discuss the differences between the Roman Catholic Church and the modern world. This attempt to bring his religion into the 20th century led to Time naming him Person of the Year.

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National Park Service // Flickr

1963: Martin Luther King Jr.

Lived: 1929–1968
Runners-up: N/A

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. became the first African American Person of the Year in 1963—though he had already been featured on a 1957 Time cover about the Montgomery bus boycott. His meeting with President Lyndon B. Johnson, arrest in Birmingham, Ala., and other notable moments in his career were all highlighted in the feature.

 

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Cecil W. Stoughton // Wikimedia Commons

1964: Lyndon B. Johnson

Lived: 1908–1973
Runners-up: N/A

After Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson fulfilled his constitutional responsibility and assumed the presidency. He wasted no time, quickly announcing the Great Society program that used federal money to fund a myriad of social welfare programs.

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manhhai // Flickr

1965: William Westmoreland

Lived: 1914–2005
Runners-up: N/A

Gen. William Westmoreland commanded U.S. forces in Vietnam. His decision to wage a war of attrition led to an increasing number of American as well as Vietnamese casualties—a fact that began to turn the tide of public opinion against the war.

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Keystone Features/Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1966: The Inheritor

Lived: N/A
Runners-up: N/A

Time chose an entire generation as its Person of the Year in 1966: “the inheritor,” or Baby Boomers. The editorial predicted that the country’s unprecedented economic stability would lead the Boomers to be more outspoken than previous generations.

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Yoichi Okamoto // Wikimedia Commons

1967: Lyndon B. Johnson

Lived: 1908–1973
Runners-up: N/A

Four years into his presidency, Johnson again became Time’s Person of the Year in 1967. Though his decision to increase military involvement in Vietnam and his less-than-charming personality didn’t earn him very many fans, he undoubtedly left his mark on the country.

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File Upload Bot // Wikimedia Commons

1968: The Apollo 8 astronauts

Lived: N/A
Runners-up: N/A

Capt. James A. Lovell, Jr., Air Force Maj. William A. Anders, and Col. Frank Borman became the first to complete a lunar flight in 1968—a feat that qualified them for Time’s annual honor.

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Dave Winer // Flickr

1969: The Middle Americans

Lived: N/A
Runners-up: N/A

In 1969, Time once again chose a group as the Person of the year. “The Middle Americans” refers to the “middle-aged and middle-brow” people who make quietly respectable choices, like continuing to pray in schools despite the Supreme Court ruling against it

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Anefo // Wikimedia Commons

1970: Willy Brandt

Lived: 1913–1992
Runners-up: N/A

German Chancellor Willy Brandt had only just been elected in 1969, but was already gaining notoriety for his attempts to bring East and West Germany together. He eventually won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.

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Official White House photo, PD // Wikimedia Commons

1971: Richard Nixon

Lived: 1913–1994
Runners-up: N/A

In a first for Time, President Richard Nixon was named the Person of the Year twice in back-to-back years. His decision to end the Vietnam War motivated Time to choose him the first time.

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Central Intelligence Agency // Flickr

1972: Henry Kissinger

Lived: 1923–
Runners-up: N/A

National security advisor Henry Kissinger also played a crucial role in Nixon’s foreign policy, leading Time to name him one of 1972’s most influential people. He took a secret trip to Beijing to pave the way for the president, negotiated the Paris peace deal that ended U.S. military involvement in Vietnam, and engineered the detente with the Soviet Union.

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U.S. Department of Agriculture

1972: Richard Nixon

Lived: 1913–1994
Runners-up: N/A

A year later, Nixon was still on the mind of Time editors. In 1972, he not only became the first U.S. president to visit communist China, but also signed a historic agreement with Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev to limit each nation’s strategic arms.

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Indutiomarus // Wikimedia Commons

1973: John Sirica

Lived: 1904–1992
Runners-up: N/A

In 1973, U.S. District Judge John Sirica ordered taped White House conversations about the Watergate break-in be released to prosecutors. Without those tapes, the American people would have never known the truth of the Watergate scandal and Richard Nixon never would have resigned.

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Davepape // Wikimedia Commons

1974: King Faisal

Lived: 1906–1975
Runners-up: N/A

Saudi Arabia’s King Faisal received his nod as Person of the Year for his role in rising oil prices. Saudi Arabia and other Arab oil-producing states imposed an oil embargo on countries supporting Israel in the October War, causing oil and gasoline prices to skyrocket and turning the Middle East’s most valuable asset into a weapon.

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Karl Schumacher // Wikimedia Commons

1975: American women

Lived: N/A
Runners-up: N/A

Time chose to spotlight the changing roles of American women in 1975. Profiles of Betty Ford, Billie Jean King, influential feminist Susan Brownmiller, and other notable women were featured in the issue.

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Hulton Archive // Getty Images

1976: Jimmy Carter

Lived: 1924–
Runners-up: N/A

President Jimmy Carter’s ambitious domestic political agenda motivated Time to choose him as the Person of the Year in 1976. He created the Department of Energy, pardoned Vietnam War draft-dodgers, streamlined federal government, and lowered federal income taxes.

 

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Dual Freq // Wikimedia Commons

1977: Anwar Sadat

Lived: 1918–1981
Runners-up: N/A

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat did something unprecedented in 1977: He visited Israel. No other Arab leader had ever traveled to the country. Sadat’s controversial move opened the door for peace talks between the two nations that eventually resulted in the Camp David Accords. 

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pingnews.com // Flickr

1978: Deng Xiaoping

Lived: 1904–1997
Runners-up: N/A

Just a year after Chinese communist leader Deng Xiaoping rose to power in 1977, his mark on the country’s economy and culture was already evident. His reforms—including the “household-responsibility system” that gave farmers ownership of their crops—transformed China into an economic powerhouse. 

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Shkuru Afshar // Wikimedia Commons

1979: Ruhollah Khomeini

Lived: 1902–1989
Runners-up: N/A

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini led the revolution that overthrew Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1979, turning Iran into a theocracy that required a strict adherence to Islamic law from its citizens. His supporters seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1989 and took 52 Americans hostage. The 444-day saga would become known as the Iranian hostage crisis.  

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Smithsonian Institution // Flickr

1980: Ronald Reagan

Lived: 1911–2004
Runners-up: N/A

After a successful acting career and stint as the governor of California, Ronald Reagan became president in 1980. His desire to “reassert America's prominence in the world” through economic policies led Time to name him Person of the Year for the first time. 

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Anthony Baratier // Wikimedia Commons

1981: Lech Wałęsa

Lived: 1943–
Runners-up: N/A

Polish labour leader Lech Wałęsa rose to prominence during the Polish revolution in 1981. In spite of his working class background and lack of education, Wałęsa got Poland’s first deputy premier Mieczysław Jagielski to concede that workers had the right to organize. Later, Wałęsa would become president of Poland.

 

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Zarex //Wikimedia Commons

1982: The Computer

Lived: N/A
Runners-up: N/A

When Time editors named the computer the Person of the Year in 1982, little did they know just how influential that technology would become. The article described the wonders that '80s-era machines could achieve, from 3-D modeling a sketch of an airplane to answering phone calls.

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Sir Richardson // Wikimedia Commons

1983: Ronald Reagan

Lived: 1911–2004
Runners-up: N/A

Reagan again became the Person of the Year in 1983, though this time he shared the title with Soviet leader Yuri Andropov. His arms reduction negotiations with Soviet leaders earned him the honor.

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Commons:RIA Novosti // Wikimedia Commons

1983: Yuri Andropov

Lived: 1914–1984
Runners-up: N/A

During one of the most tense periods of the Cold War, Leonid Brezhnev’s successor Yuri Andropov spent months in negotiations over arms reductions with Reagan. The world watched the back and forth with bated breath.

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U.S. Air Force // Wikimedia Commons

1984: Peter Ueberroth

Lived: 1937–
Runners-up: N/A

As the organizer of the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, Peter Ueberroth was directly responsible for the games’ success or failure. And what a success it was—the Los Angeles Times called that year’s Olympics an “unprecedented financial, athletic and aesthetic success.”

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WikiPedant // Wikimedia Commons

1985: Deng Xiaoping

Lived: 1904–1997
Runners-up: N/A

Deng Xiaoping became Time’s Person of the Year once again in 1985 for his "sweeping economic reforms that have challenged Marxist orthodoxies." By 1985, the leader had implemented the famousor infamousone-child policy to control China’s exploding population. 

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WayKurat // Wikimedia Commons

1986: Corazon Aquino

Lived: 1933–2009
Runners-up: N/A

In 1986, Corazon Aquino became the first female president of the Philippines. She triumphed over government intimidation, election fraud, and inherent sexism to assume the post. Years after her time in office, Aquino is still a popular figure in the Philippines.

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The Official CTBTO Photostream // Flickr

1987: Mikhail Gorbachev

Lived: 1931–
Runners-up: N/A

Even before he became the president of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev still exerted a huge influence over the country and the world. In particular, his policy of glasnost, or openness, gave the rest of the world hope for a more democratic and less-threatening Soviet Union.

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DonkeyHotey // Flickr

1988: The Endangered Earth

Lived: N/A
Runners-up: N/A

Yet another non-human subject comes in 1988, when Time named Earth the Planet of the Year. The message conveyed: Mankind better clean up its collective act before carelessness destroys the planet.

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Veni // Flickr

1989: Mikhail Gorbachev

Lived: 1931–
Runners-up: N/A

In 1989, Time named Gorbachev the Man of the Decade. By now, his impact on the Soviet Union was even clearer. As the magazine editors wrote in 1990, “he has been breaking up an old bloc to make way for a new Europe, altering the relationship of the Soviet empire with the rest of the world and changing the nature of the empire itself.”

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AJ Guel // Wikimedia Commons

1990: George H.W. Bush

Lived: 1924–
Runners-up: N/A

Just one year into his first term as president, George H.W. Bush became Time’s Person of the Year. He had already dealt with the fallout from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, responded to the Tiananmen Square massacre, and signed an arms reduction agreement with Gorbachev that effectively ended the Cold War.

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Alan Light // Flickr

1991: Ted Turner

Lived: 1938–
Runners-up: N/A

When media mogul and entrepreneur Ted Turner created CNN, the first 24-hour news channel, he changed the nature of broadcasting and the news cycle forever. Time’s editors recognized the impact of CNN on media coverage around the world by naming Turner 1991’s Person of the Year.

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ConnectMeetings // Flickr

1992: Bill Clinton

Lived: 1946–
Runners-up: N/A

Former Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992, defeating President George H.W. Bush and independent Ross Perot. As Time wrote in the cover story, his “buoyancy, optimism and readiness to act” made him a promising leader.

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Matanya // Wikimedia Commons

1993: The Peacemakers

Lived: N/A
Runners-up: N/A

“The Peacemakers” refers to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, State President of South Africa F.W. de Klerk, President of the African National CongressNelson Mandela, and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, four world leaders who worked together to create a more peaceful world. Arafat and Rabin shook hands at the White House, a gesture that had immense symbolic meaning. Mandela and de Klerk won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work in South Africa.   

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Levan Ramishvili // Flickr

1994: Pope John Paul II

Lived: 1920–2005
Runners-up: N/A

The first non-Italian pope in 455 years, Pope John Paul II modernized the papacy and attempted to reach a greater number of Catholics internationally. 

 

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Gage Skidmore // Flickr

1995: Newt Gingrich

Lived: 1943–
Runners-up: N/A

When Newt Gingrich became the speaker of the house in 1994, he ended 40 years of domination by the Democratic Party in that chamber. Though he butted heads with President Bill Clinton, Gingrich was able to pass many of the priorities from his “Contract with America” into law.

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Noca2plus // Wikimedia Commons

1996: David Ho

Lived: 1952–
Runners-up: N/A

Dr. David Ho became Time’s Person of the Year in 1996 for his incredible contributions to AIDS research, changing both the understanding and treatment of the disease immensely, and saving countless lives. 

 

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Intel Free Press // Flickr

1997: Andrew Grove

Lived: 1936–2016
Runners-up: N/A

The microchip won Andrew Grove, chairman and CEO of Intel, the title of Time’s Person of the Year in 1997. The magazine called him “the person most responsible for the amazing growth in the power and innovative potential” of this game-changing technology in its cover story.  

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Gage Skidmore // Flickr

1998: Bill Clinton

Lived: 1946–
Runners-up: N/A

By 1998, Clinton was no longer the starry-eyed first-term president Time heralded as the Person of the Year in 1992. Paula Jones filed a civil suit alleging that Clinton had made sexual advances during his governorship, which eventually led to the discovery of a sexual relationship between Clinton and White House intern Monica Lewinsky. By the end of the year, the House of Representatives voted to impeach Clinton, though the Senate did not agree. 

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LUKE FRAZZA/AFP // Getty Images

1998: Ken Starr

Lived: 1946–
Runners-up: N/A

Clinton shared the 1998 title with Ken Starr, the independent counsel who led the investigation into the president’s alleged misdeeds and released the juicy Starr Report.

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JD Lasica // Flickr

1999: Jeff Bezos

Lived: 1964–
Runners-up: N/A

If Time thought Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was influential in 1999, what must it think of him now? Bezos’ vision for an online bookstore paved the way for the explosion of e-commerce, and changed the shopping landscape forever. 

 

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The U.S. National Archives // Flickr

2000: George W. Bush

Lived: 1946–
Runners-up: N/A

George W. Bush won the presidency in a close election fraught with controversy; hello, hanging chads and eventual recount. Even before he began his presidency, Time said the fact that Bush ran on a traditionally democratic platform was extremely notable. 

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Gage Skidmore // Flickr

2001: Rudy Giuliani

Lived: 1944–
Runners-up: N/A

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was named Time’s Person of the Year in 2001, not for any political maneuvering or citywide initiatives, but for shepherding New York City through the trauma of the September 11 terrorist attacks. His courage, compassion, and strength in the face of pure evil was said to be extraordinary.

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frederic.jacob // Flickr

2002: The Whistleblowers

Lived: N/A
Runners-up: N/A

Three women who pointed out wrongdoing—Sherron Watkins at Enron, Coleen Rowley at the FBI, and Cynthia Cooper at WorldCom—became the Persons of the Year in 2002. By choosing them, Time reinforced the importance of speaking up.

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The U.S. Army // Wikimedia Commons

2003: The American soldier

Lived: N/A
Runners-up: N/A

In 2003, there was no doubt that the Iraq war was the most important story in the news. Instead of choosing President Bush again or opting for Saddam Hussein, Time decided to recognize the United States forces who were on the ground, fighting the war.

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The U.S. National Archive // Flickr

2004: George W. Bush

Lived: 1946–
Runners-up: N/A

President Bush became the Time Person of the Year a second time in 2004, just after he won his second term. In the first four years of his presidency, Bush sent U.S. troops to invade Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks, signed the Patriot Act, and withdrew America from the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.  

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Kjetil Ree // Wikimedia Commons

2005: The Good Samaritans

Lived: N/A
Runners-up: N/A

Time gave Bono, and Bill and Melinda Gates a new nickname for its 2005 Person of the Year issue: the good Samaritans. The cover story noted that if these rock stars and billionaires with nothing to lose can use huge chunks of their fortune to do some good in the world, “no one really has a good excuse anymore for just staying on the sidelines and watching.” 

 

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Josh Hallett // Flickr

2006: You

Lived: N/A
Runners-up: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hu Jintao, Kim Jong-il, James Baker

Cheesy as the concept might sound, naming “you” the Time Person of the Year wasn’t a cop-out. The magazine intended to honor the new phenomenon of user-generated content on sites like MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube, but readers ultimately panned the idea.

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Global Panorama // Flickr

2007: Vladimir Putin

Lived: 1952–
Runners-up: Al Gore, J.K. Rowling, Hu Jintao, David Petraeus

Russian President Vladimir Putin became the Time Person of the Year in 2007, stating that he had brought his country back to “the table of world power.” Whether or not the former KGB official had achieved this remarkable feat through honorable actions is another matter. 

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Obama White House // Flickr

2008: Barack Obama

Lived: 1961–
Runners-up: Henry Paulson, Nicolas Sarkozy, Sarah Palin, Zhang Yimou

Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, becoming the first African American president of the United States. It was a historic and hard-fought election—Obama had to overcome racial prejudice, his lack of experience, and fierce competition from more established candidates to reach the White House.

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Medill DC // Flickr

2009: Ben Bernanke

Lived: 1953–
Runners-up: Stanley McChrystal, The Chinese Worker, Nancy Pelosi, Usain Bolt

Though the 2008 economic crisis was one of the most severe in recent American history, it could have been much worse—something that Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke knows firsthand. Bernanke instituted seemingly extreme financial measures to avert a worldwide economic catastrophe.

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JD Lasica // Flickr

2010: Mark Zuckerberg

Lived: 1984–
Runners-up: The Tea Party, Hamid Karzai, Julian Assange, The Chilean Miners

It seems appropriate that Mark Zuckerberg became Time’s Person of the Year in the same year that Facebook attracted its 550-millionth member. It’s hard to overstate the impact of Facebook on the entire world. Just take this statistic, for instance: 1 in every 12 people on Earth had a Facebook account in 2010. 

 

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syriana2011 // Flickr

2011: The Protester

Lived: N/A
Runners-up: William McRaven, Ai Weiwei, Paul Ryan, Kate Middleton

Time couldn’t choose just one person in 2011. Instead, the magazine named the entire group of protestors who sparked the Arab Spring and reclaimed their power as dissenting citizens. 

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Nick Knupffer // Flickr

2012: Barack Obama

Lived: 1961–
Runners-up: Marissa Mayer, Mohamed Morsi, Undocumented Americans, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Malala Yousafzai, Tim Cook, The Higgs boson, Fabiola Gianotti

Four years later, President Barack Obama was re-elected by the American people and chosen again by Time as its Person of the Year. Though many critics thought he might not be able to tie up 2012 as easily as he did 2008, Obama proved them all wrong and cemented his place in the history books.

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Benhur Arcayan // Wikimedia Commons

2013: Pope Francis

Lived: 1936–
Runners-up: Bashar Assad, Jeff Bezos, Ted Cruz, Miley Cyrus, Barack Obama, Hassan Rouhani, Kathleen Sebelius, Edward Snowden, Edith Windsor

Pope Francis, or “the people’s pope,” took the title in 2013 for his radical approach to leading the Roman Catholic church. The Argentina-born pope came from humble beginnings—past jobs included a janitor, literature teacher, and nightclub bouncer—and harnesses his understanding of the average person to connect with his flock. Unlike some of his predecessors, Francis cares more about handing out alms, correcting injustices, and responding to those who write to him than participating in Vatican bureaucracy.

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CDC Global // Flickr

2014: Ebola fighters

Lived: N/A
Runners-up: The Ferguson protesters, Vladimir Putin, Taylor Swift, Jack Ma, Tim Cook, Masoud Barzani, Roger Goodell

In 2014, the Ebola outbreak became an epidemic, spreading from rural African towns to crowded slums to international borders. With no cure in sight, Ebola poses a huge risk for the doctors, nurses, and medical professionals who treat its victims—and still, the Ebola fighters treated them. Time honored these extraordinary men and women as its 2014 Persons of the Year.

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Philipp // Flickr

2015: Angela Merkel

Lived: 1954–
Runners-up: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Black Lives Matter activists, Caitlyn Jenner, Travis Kalanick, Vladimir Putin, Hassan Rouhani, Donald Trump

As the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel is not just the leader of the German people, but also the de facto leader of the European Union. In 2015—Merkel’s 10th year as chancellor—she steered the region through a currency crisis and opened Germany’s borders to millions of asylum-seekers. A banner year, indeed.

 

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Gage Skidmore // Wikimedia Commons

2016: Donald Trump

Lived: 1946–
Runners-up: Simone Biles, Hillary Clinton, CRISPR scientists, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Nigel Farage, The Flint Whistleblowers, Beyoncé Knowles, Narendra Modi, Vladimir Putin, Mark Zuckerberg

Whether you love him or hate him, one can’t deny the impact that Donald Trump had on the United Statesand indeed, the worldin 2016. Few expected he would go all the way and win the presidency, so his victory came like a thunderclap on Election Night. Despite his unconventional campaign, he still managed to win the presidency.

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Wolfmann // Wikimedia Commons

2017: The Silence Breakers

Lived: N/A
Runners-up: Donald Trump, Xi Jinping, Robert Mueller, Kim Jong-un, Colin Kaepernick, Patty Jenkins

What would come to be known as the #MeToo movement began in 2017. Ashley Judd went on the record in a New York Times article about alleged sexual harassment by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, and suddenly, more and more women were coming forward to share their stories. And not just about Weinstein—though there were many sordid tales about his allegedly heinous behavior—but also about their bosses, colleagues, friends, and plenty of other famous men. Time recognized their bravery by naming “the silence breakers” the Persons of the Year in 2017. 

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