In an age where celebrities are treated like modern day royalty, it’s a surprise to learn that there are people that have done great things and have received little recognition and no fame for their troubles. As we shall discover in this article, there are people who have had a huge impact on the modern world, on pop culture, and on our lives, and whose names many of us haven’t heard of.
Howard Walter Florey, Ernst Chain, and Norman Heatley
Many people have heard the name of Alexander Fleming, a Nobel laureate often credited with the invention of penicillin following an accidental discovery. But while he certainly discovered it, he did not know of its uses and he didn’t turn this simple fungi into the powerful antibiotic that it would become.
That was the job of three ambitious students who worked tirelessly to research this potential medicine, to cultivate it, and then to test it. They did all of this during the Second World War, at a time when funding and supplies were low. As a result, the first time they tested it, they ended up using up half of their total supply on a single patient, a patient whose health gradually improved until they ran out of penicillin and he succumbed to an infection.
Their speedy work ensured that penicillin was developed while the war was still on. It was quickly mass produced using methods first developed by these three students, and it went on to save millions of lives. Fleming’s role in the development of penicillin is actually fairly small, and almost all of it was down to luck. If not for the role that these three men played in bringing his discovery to life, in testing it and learning what it could do, then the world would be a completely different place today.
Picture the 2012 Summer Olympic games. It was held in London and for the opening ceremony, with all of its pomp and British charm, the entire world tuned in. They saw iconic British figures such as the Queen, the Spice Girls, and even James Bond. They also saw one man in front of an old computer, tweeting a message that was spelled out in lights around him. He was arguably one of the most famous people there, as he had created something that all of us use every day, something that has played a bigger role in modern civilization than anything else. However, as the world watched, the question on the lips of many was, “Who the hell is he?”
“He” was Tim Berners-Lee, and while his name might not ring a bell, you are using his invention right now. Berners-Lee is the man behind the World Wide Web, the man credited with its very invention. You probably know who invented the telephone and the television, just as you might know the inventor of the steam engine and even the automobile and the lightbulb. However, few people can name the inventor of the World Wide Web. This might be because there are those who think it was invented by companies like AOL, those who think it was a collective moment of genius as opposed to an individual one, but whatever the reason, it is fair to say that Tim Berners-Lee doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
Max Martin is probably not a name you recognize, but if you have any sort of interest in pop music from the last couple of decades, then there’s a good chance you have sang along to one of his songs at some point.
Max Martin’s real name is Matin Karl Sandberg, a songwriter and music producer from Sweden. He has not performed any of his songs himself, but he has an impressive list of chart-topping and award-winning hits under his belt. These have included everything from “I Want it That Way”, performed by the Backstreet Boys, and “Baby One More Time”, which was Britney Spears’ breakthrough song, to “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson and “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry.
Simply put, you may have never heard of him, but there are only two songwriters who have more number one singles than Max Martin. And when you consider those two songwriters are Paul McCartney and John Lennon, you realize just how impressive this record — and his career — is.
Raymond Benson & Andrew Neiderman
These two people have the same profession and they have achieved equal levels of prestige in that profession, yet few people know who they are. If you have ever read a book by V.C Andrews or Tom Clancy, or if you have ever read a James Bond novelization, a novel based on a computer game, or any one of 100+ other top novels, then you have read the works of one of these writers.
Raymond Benson is perhaps best “known” for his work on the Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell series of books, which were credited to his pen name David Michaels. He also penned a dozen James Bond novels (including Tomorrow Never Dies), and he wrote novels based on several computer games.
Neiderman writes in a different genre, and like Benson, his best work was not created in his own name. When best-selling novelist V.C. Andrews died at 63 in the middle of what would become one of her most celebrated books, Neiderman finished it. He then took on the V.C Andrews name (with permission from her family) and has been writing under that name since the 1980s, producing a wealth of titles.
In fact, Neiderman has written and published over 100 books, including The Devil’s Advocate, which was made into a film of the same name.