Welcome to day two of The OZY 100, our selections of the most compelling people from 2020. Below you’ll find the most interesting people shaping the world in science, tech, geopolitics and more. Turns out, there were inspiring stories to break up the dispiriting side of 2020, if you knew where to look. Check in on what you might have missed,and let us know who you would add to the list by replying to this email.
Anthony Fauci. The now-famous U.S. government immunologist explained COVID-19 to us all, offering straight talk under difficult circumstances and becoming a cultural icon — worthy of an SNL impersonation by Brad Pitt. As he prepares to stay on as part of the Biden administration, Fauci, 80, finds himself being questioned for moving the goal posts on how many Americans will need to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.
Özlem Türeci and Ugur Sahin. The German-Turkish couple pivoted in January from cancer to the coronavirus, as their firm BioNTech partnered with pharma giant Pfizer to develop a vaccine that became the first to receive approval for public use in the West.
Amadou Sall. When COVID-19 hit Africa, the continent of 1.3 billion people had only two labs capable of testing for the virus. One was at Senegal’s prestigious Pasteur Institute in Dakar, run by Sall (above left), where the virologist and his team developed a $1 test that shows results in 10 minutes. If approved, it could offer a vital lifeline to public health services across the developing world.
Sarah Gilbert. Her coffee mug says “Keep Calm and Develop Vaccines.” And that’s what she does. The auburn-haired Oxford professor, 58, nearly gave up science midway through her Ph.D. But today she’s behindthe COVID-19 vaccine her university has developed with AstraZeneca.
Salim Abdool Karim. Two decades after the South African epidemiologist was publicly branded a traitor for challenging then-President Thabo Mbeki on HIV/AIDS, Karim, 60, is leading his country’s COVID-19 response. South Africa has been hard-hit, but like his longtime friend Fauci, Karim has retained the public’s respect by steering clear of politics while never shying away from defending science.
Yakeel Quiroz. The Harvard scientist from Medellín, Colombia, is part of a global team that has created a dramatic new blood test that will allow doctors to predict Alzheimer’s disease 20 years before its onset. Her research started with a rural clan in Colombia where nearly half the population develops the brain disorder by age 45.
Kathryn Sullivan. Already a historymaker after becoming the first woman to walk in space in 1984, the 68-year-old geologist (above center) became the first woman to dive 7 miles deep into the Pacific Ocean to reach the lowest undersea point known to humankind.
Wolf Cukier. On day three of an internship, most would be fetching coffee for the boss. High school student Cukier, 17, decided to reach for the stars — and find a new planet. Cukier made headlines early this year when, soon after starting his internship at NASA, he discovered a brand-new planet 1,300 light-years away.
Each year, the Moguls in the Making business-plan pitch competition offers Historically Black College and University (HBCU) students an opportunity to learn and practice vital skills. Five students from Alabama A&M University won the second annual competition, which took place virtually in October, with their proposed solution to the lack of access to quality food and nutrition education in Detroit. The event gives 50 students — grouped into teams of five from 10 HBCUs — an opportunity to develop and present business plans aimed at solving key issues in the context of today’s economic and social climate. The competition is presented by Ally Financial Inc., the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, and entertainer and entrepreneur Big Sean’s foundation, the Sean Anderson Foundation. Winners receive scholarships and internship opportunities with Ally.
Cecilia Retegui. Given the economic unrest throughout Latin America, it’s been more important for the region’s entrepreneurial workers to be connected to opportunity — a challenge in which the Argentine-based CEO of Zolvers (above left) has been instrumental, connecting cleaners, plumbers, electricians and other domestic workers to customers through her company’s game-changing app.
Elon Musk. Musk’s stewardship of companies ranging from SpaceX and Neuralink to OpenAI and, yes, Tesla, made headlines in a year crowded with them. The 49-year-old maverick (above right) inspired some haters yet also made “millionaires out of his most loyal fans” as Tesla stock grew by 700 percent this year — making Musk the second-richest man in the world.
Jack Dorsey. He has built and co-managed two industry-revolutionizing companies in Square and Twitter, while successfully navigating the latter through a 2020 presidential election that threatened to tear apart other social media giants (read: Facebook). Dorsey, 44, marked the platform as a leader in combating digital misinformation and cynical electioneering while others dragged their heels.
Meredith Whittaker. In 2018, the artificial intelligence researcher led walkouts at Google over diversity and accountability. She’s since created a second career as an ethicist, exposing the many ways that algorithmic bias perpetuates racism. She's also helping influence potential legislation to create more accountability for “black boxes” around computational systems that make them rife for abuse.
Lyric Jain. This Cambridge and MIT-trained engineer launched a fact-checking news curator company, Logically, to tear down echo chambers and fight fake news. In August, Logically helped alert Utah officials to the fact that a supposed anti-sex-trafficking rally was actually a QAnon march in disguise, leading to its permit being revoked. Read more on OZY.
Anne Wojcicki. The former ice hockey player and molecular biology researcher (above center) is the co-founder and CEO of 23andMe, which has 12 million customers. Of those, 80 percent consented to allow their DNA results to be used in drug discovery research — a reality that proved particularly effective in the virus crisis. Given how genomics will be used to advance breakthroughs in the coming years, the 47-year-old’s database is a treasure trove.
Alex Karp. One business executive calls Karp a “barbarian at the gate for this generation of data privacy” as his Palantir Technologies only continues to gain influence. Karp, 53, led a successful IPO in September and struck a new $44 million deal with the FDA in December, adding to its somewhat troubling list of data deals with U.S. government agencies.
Tobi Lütke. The 40-year-old Shopify CEO has positioned his tech platform for small and medium-size businesses as a giant with soul, capitalizing on an increase in e-commerce demand without creating massive enemies the way platforms like Facebook and Amazon have.
Jack Ma. The former Alibaba CEO was set for the largest IPO in history, with investors expecting to plow $37 billion into his fintech operation, Ant Group. But after the 56-year-old made comments in October judged to be critical of the Chinese Communist Party, the offering was pulled — with new regulations seen as a clear message from President Xi Jinping.
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At the end of a turbulent 12 months, one of the most poignant and lasting impacts of this year might well be the racial awakening that followed the murder of George Floyd in May. As we continue our campaign to host the bold conversations the country needs in 2021, binge on our Reset America playlist here to dive into meaningful discussions with everyone from Ava DuVernay and Ta-Nehisi Coates to Megyn Kelly and Malcolm Gladwell.
Joe Rogan. The 53-year-old former host of Fear Factor (above right) has built an estimated $100 million empire in podcasting. The Joe Rogan Experience, launched in 2009, has made the New Jersey native a huge cultural influence, but it has also been criticized as an incubator of toxic bro culture.
Travis Scott. At 28 years old, the Houston native (above center) has been a hip-hop hit-maker, but his most innovative influence has come in branding. Whether it’s PlayStation, General Mills, McDonald’s or his own brand of spiked seltzer, Scott is running a Marketing 101 class.
Zahra Hashimee. Under the username muslimthicc on TikTok, you’ll find 21-year-old Hashimee sporting a hijab and making outrageously funny videos touching on everything from beauty and skin care to misconceptions about her faith. With 2.8 million followers, she’s earned an endorsement deal with Walmart.
Swizz Beatz and Timbaland. Verzuz, the show launched by these super-producers during the pandemic, has grown into an Instagram sensation with better ratings than linear TV. It’s an artist appreciation night where legends are given the flowers they so richly deserve.
Druski. This 26-year-old Atlanta native has brought the funny to 2020 via his Instagram bits, collaborating with Drake, Odell Beckham Jr., Chance the Rapper and more. One of his hottest bits right now is what he calls Coulda Been Records, where he invites followers on his Instagram Live to showcase their talent — and makes fun of them instead.
Dave Portnoy. He’s a polarizing figure who lashes out at critics, but his sports-turned-pop-culture media company, Barstool Sports, is the idea millions of sports fanatics and entrepreneurs wish they had thought of first. The 43-year-old’s company was purchased early this year by a gambling giant for some $450 million.
Yaa Gyasi. The Ghanaian-American best-selling novelist (above left) writes about the bridge between Western African and American history. Her latest, Transcendent Kingdom, tells the story of a Ghanaian family in Alabama struggling with a mother’s mental illness and a brother’s tragic loss.
John Legend and Chrissy Teigen. The superstar EGOT-winning singer, 42, and his supermodel wife, 35, won hearts with their at-home pandemic concert and became a force for Black Lives Matter activism. Tiegen’s miscarriage, and the couple’s openness about it, became a poignant moment for countless others who have also lost a baby. Watch Legend on The Carlos Watson Show.
Jago. Italian sculptor Jacopo Cardillo, 33, is known as Jago — or, to some, as the next Michelangelo. His strikingly lifelike works can be found in churches, but he also does earthier work, such as his sculpture of a chained, naked child in a Naples piazza, representing the pain of the pandemic. Read more on OZY.
Michaela Coel. The British-Ghanaian rising talent’s I May Destroy You on HBO may have been the show of the year. Coel, 32, the writer, co-director and star of the dramedy, turned down $1 million from Netflix to keep a percentage of the show’s rights. Smart move. Read more on OZY.
Nanaia Mahuta. New Zealand’s first female foreign minister, 50-year-old Mahuta (above left) is still adjusting to Zoom diplomacy but has learned to stand up against the country’s biggest export partner, China, over its authoritarian steps in Hong Kong. Mahuta is Maori — she proudly wears a sacred facial tattoo on her chin — and hopes to introduce Maori language classes in all New Zealand schools.
Nana Akufo-Addo. Ghana’s president (above right) acted early and decisively against COVID-19, banning travel from most of the world, ramping up testing, encouraging local businesses to manufacture personal protective equipment and ordering drones to ferry tests to remote areas. The result? Ghana has had a total of just over 50,000 cases — roughly the same as tiny Albania. Earlier this month, the 76-year-old won a second term in office. Read more on OZY.
Abubacarr Tambadou. While most of the world has avoided dramatic steps against the Myanmar government over the massacre of Rohingya Muslims there, Tambadou, who until this summer was Rwanda’s justice minister, acted. Rwanda filed a case of genocide against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice that’s still being heard. For Tambadou, 48, it was personal: He spent more than a decade prosecuting crimes committed during Rwanda’s own genocide in 1994.
Margrethe Vestager. The 52-year-old Danish politician is Europe’s antitrust commissioner and a thorn in the flesh of Big Tech. She previously leveled billion-dollar fines against Google and Apple and this summer announced a probe into Google's acquisition of Fitbit. She also issued tough new EU rules as part of her drive to reduce Europe’s dependence on American and Chinese tech. Read more on OZY.
Martin Guzman. When the 38-year-old Brown University Ph.D. took over as Argentina’s finance minister, he was looking at an economy in tatters — and that was before the pandemic. Yet he’s managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat, sealing a deal with global creditors that seemed impossible and ending the country’s ninth sovereign debt default. Now he’s using cash transfers for the poor and financial aid to small businesses to fight the recession.
Anon Nampa. It isn’t easy to faze a government led by a former army general. But Harry Potter and rubber ducks can help. Nampa, 36, a human rights activist, has emerged as the face of powerful youth protests that have rocked Thailand since August. To make it harder for government agencies to identify and target them, the protesters have worn outfits based on characters from J.K. Rowling’s popular series and used giant inflatable ducks as shields.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. She could become the World Trade Organization’s first African chief. The daughter of professors, Nigeria’s former finance minister was a Biafran War refugee. Those experiences hardened the 66-year-old for fights that aren’t for the fainthearted. Her candidacy for the top job at the WTO was approved by all other members but blocked by the Trump administration. Now the incoming Biden administration will decide America’s position on Okonjo-Iweala.
Anders Tegnell. Is he a hero or a villain? A trained medical professional who’s now a bureaucrat, Tegnell is behind Sweden’s controversial response to the coronavirus: calculated herd immunity. When the world was locking down, Tegnell, 64, kept Sweden largely open. Within Sweden, his approach has inspired both devoted fans and harsh critics. Now, as the country witnesses a surge in cases, Tegnell’spopularity is taking a hit. But will he change his approach?
Glenn Cantave. The 27-year-old co-founder ofMovers & Shakers, a New York City–based educational advocacy group, is working to introduce more diverse representation and narratives in school curricula, at a time when problematic statues are hotly debated in the public square. The twist? He’s doing it withaugmented reality technology, allowing students to visualize their new history. Read more on OZY.
Gabriele Delmonaco. Delmonaco is president and executive of A Chance in Life, a financial literacy program that targets children who may be orphans or in neglectful home situations. A Chance in Life has captured the attention of big-name donors, including companies like Morgan Stanley and Oracle and even baseball franchises like the San Francisco Giants. Read more on OZY.
Meenakshi Umesh. At Puvidham, a school founded by Umesh in a drought-hit district of the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India, children are trained to grow their own food and regenerate neighboring forest land. The curriculum, which teaches students not just about climate change but also how to live through possible future droughts, is a global model. Read more on OZY.
MacKenzie Scott. Scott (above center), 50, the ex-wife of Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, has grabbed headlines this year for giving away more than $4 billion in four months. A prime beneficiary of Scott’s philanthropy has been underfunded working-class colleges like Alcorn State University and Santa Fe College, where most students come from lower-income backgrounds.
Sam Chaudhary. Chaudhary (above right) is co-founder of the education technology provider ClassDojo, which enables students, teachers and parents to share content, schedules and feedback — a critical need as education abruptly shifted to remote this year. ClassDojo has been one of the surprisingly few ed-tech firms to grow significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more on OZY.
Ciprian Ardelean. A Mexican archaeologist, Ardelean is rewriting the history of the Americas: He has just set the clock back on when humans first reached the region. In July, Ardelean’s team published its latest discoveries from excavations in Mexican caves in Nature, showing that humans might have reached the Americas 33,000 years ago — 15,000 years earlier than previously thought.
David McCullough. This 26-year-old educational entrepreneur founded the American Exchange Project, a program that enables high school students to live in parts of the U.S. that are different from their own. McCullough says the idea is to get students outside of their geographic and ideological bubbles. Read more on OZY.
Steven Wolfe Pereira. Pereira is CEO and co-founder of Encantos (above left), an ed-tech company that offers both physical and online bilingual (English and Spanish) education products for elementary-age children. The company’s combination of at-home learning tech and cultural education addresses both the pandemic-challenged learning environment and racial justice protests. Read more on OZY.
Stacy Johnson. Johnson knew, from bearing witness in the classroom for decades, how Black schoolchildren are disproportionately tracked into lower-level coursework compared to their white peers. Now the 54-year-old Pittsburgh native has dedicated herself to teaching teachers how to better serve minority students — work that is all the more urgent and relevant in the wake of national racial justice protests. Read more on OZY.
Miguel Cardona. After years in the classroom and a decade as principal, he ascended to run Connecticut schools — where this year he had to balance in-person and online instruction during the pandemic. Cardona’s work earned the notice of President-elect Biden, who tapped him to be the next secretary of education, surprising many with a pick that passed over contenders with strong labor union ties. Cardona, 45, is of Puerto Rican descent.