I believe one of the greatest contributions a person can make is the advancement of the human race, and will put that above their own personal ambition. Some will try to push the boundaries of what is possible, while others will only do so motivated by money and power (looking at you T. A. Edison).
In some cases what you may be trying to achieve is a matter of life and death, not because the science is that important but failure may not be looked on kindly by those who are expecting miracles.
One of my own personal idols is a relatively unknown Russian, Sergei Korolyov. The reasons why he is one of my heroes is not exactly rocket science.
Well actually it is rocket science.
He launched this into space:
And put this guy in beyond the plant’s atmosphere:
As well as numerous other activities during the space race (in fact it is a bit unfair to call it a race, this implies that the Americans were able to keep up). Korolyov was an instrumental part of mankind’s push beyond our own atmosphere. He did this despite:
- Being sent to a gulag and treated as a political prisoner by the Soviet authorities
- Being undermined by colleagues
- Being given incredible deadlines by his superiors (the Sputnik program was developed in less than a month, from conception to launch)
- Fear he could be executed if he failed
- The support of only a small team of engineers
- Little funding
- Being told that the intensity he worked at was killing him
- Not being able to tell anyone
He competed and won every major space exploration challenge apart from one (the little matter of a Moon landing), and he did it without the riches and resources handed to Werner Von Braun (a German scientist who had previously worked on such famous rockets as the V1 and V2) and the Americans working at NASA. Without him space may still be empty, with none of the technology developed as part of the space race. We would be in a less technologically advanced world. Korolyov didn’t invent the modern world, but the space race he started (and for intents won) has.
In fact the first the Russian and global public the knew of Sergei Korolyov was on 16th January 1966, a few days after he died, when his obituary was in Pravda. He is buried in the Kremlin Necropolis, near Lenin’s Mausoleum along with the most famous names of the USSR.
Like all heroes he pushed the boundaries of what was possible with very little fanfare, the glory of the victory was not important it was challenging yourself to be better.
Who did you idolize as a teenager? Did you go crazy for the Beatles? Ga-ga over Duran Duran? In love with Justin Bieber? Did you think Elvis was the livin’ end?
Source: Teen Age Idol