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10 Time People of the Year That Weren’t Really People

As we all wait with bated breath to find out who Time’s Person of the Year will be for 2011 (we are all waiting with bated breath, right?), we thought we’d lake a look back at the times that the honoree wasn’t a person at all.

The Man of the Year tradition started in 1927, allegedly because editors hastily concocted a reason to have Charles Lindbergh on the cover after omitting his trans-Atlantic flight from the magazine. Since Chuck’s win, the title has been awarded 83 more times. Here are 10 winners you’d have a hard time getting to the podium for an acceptance speech.

1. The American Fighting-Man, 1950. Said Time: “He has been called soft and tough, resourceful and unskilled, unbelievably brave and unbelievably timid, thoroughly disciplined and scornful of discipline. One way or another, all of these generalizations are valid. He is a peculiar soldier, product of a peculiar country. His two outstanding characteristics seem to be contradictory. He is more of an individualist than soldiers of other nations, and at the same time he is far more conscious of, and dependent on, teamwork. He fights as he lives, a part of a vast, complicated machine—but a thinking, deciding part, not an inert cog.”

2. American Scientists, 1960. Unlike the totally ambiguous “American Fighting-Man,” this “Man” of the Year recipient had some names behind the blanket statement. Among those specifically mentioned in the article were chemist Linus Pauling, physicist Edward Teller, geneticist George Beadle and virologist John Enders.

“It has been said, almost 90% of all the scientists that the world has ever produced are alive today. By the very nature of that curve, 1960 was the richest of all scientific years, and the years ahead must be even more fruitful,” the magazine predicted.

3. Baby Boomers, or “The Inheritors,” 1966. Though the title was given to the generation overall, a few famous names were singled out as examples: 23-year-old chess genius Bobby Fischer, 19-year-old World Record Miler Jim Ryun, 24-year-old folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie, 20-year-old artist Jamie Wyeth, 25-year-old actress Julie Christie, among others.

4. The Middle Americans, 1969. Interestingly, Time’s idea of Middle America includes one H. Ross Perot:

“The Middle Americans tend to be grouped in the nation’s heartland more than on its coasts. But they live in Queens, N.Y., and Van Nuys, Calif., as well as in Skokie and Chillicothe. They tend toward the middle-aged and the middlebrow. They are defined as much by what they are not as by what they are. As a rule, they are not the poor or the rich. Still, many wealthy business executives are Middle Americans. H. Ross Perot, the Texas millionaire who organized a group called “United We Stand Inc.” to support the President on the war, is an example.”

5. American Women, 1975. Appropriately, this year marked the first year Time changed the title from “Man of the Year” to the more appropriate “Women of the Year.” “Person of the Year” wasn’t introduced until 1999. Women of 1975 included Betty Ford, Billie Jean King, feminist Susan Brownmiller and Carol Sutton, the first female editor of a major daily newspaper (Louisville’s The Courier-Journal).

Check out a slideshow of all of the Persons of the Year while you anxiously await this year’s selection. You can also vote on who you think the honor should be bestowed upon this year, although Time is quick to point out, “a person’s inclusion as a candidate in the poll doesn’t mean he, she or they are serious candidates to be named Person of the Year by the magazine.”


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