A time traveller wants to create a parallel world, and they want it to be as different as possible, but have certain restrictions imposed on them.

  • They must do this by killing a person, without making any other changes to the timeline, (using handwavium, a chemical that deteriorates in 5 minutes into water, and before this time is the most lethal substance known to man, leaving no symptoms)

  • Their target must be aged 15, and they have to have been aged 15 at some point within the last 150 years.

  • They can be killed at any time between their 14th and 16th Birthday, and can be killed in full view of others for dramatic effect.

  • Answers must be backed up with evidence, of their importance, as well as reasons why another prominent figure could/wouldn't have fulfilled their role for them.

  • $\begingroup$ The other conditions I can believe, but is it really necessary for the story that they be a certain age, or 2–year range of ages? $\endgroup$ – can-ned_food Feb 25 '17 at 15:36
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think anyone on this site can know objectively what exact changes would have been brought about by the death of a person, no matter how apparently important they might seem in history. For example, if you murdered Gandhi (a very prominent political leader of India, during British colonial times) at age 15, can you be certain that all that he did for Indian people would not have been done? Who can say another person would not have been born with the same caliber and mindset who would impact the political scenario insimilar ways? Your last condition cannot be objectively fulfilled. $\endgroup$ – Youstay Igo Feb 25 '17 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ Einstein, Hitler, Tesla, that fellow who shot Archduke Ferdinand, Stalin, Churchill, in that order: any one could have changed history by their absence. Post-WWII, the difference is more localised, mostly regional. However, one can't simply say that no one else would have stepped up in their place, just that the decisions they made shaped our world today; someone else making a different decision at those points would have ended up creating a different world. $\endgroup$ – nzaman Feb 25 '17 at 16:05
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    $\begingroup$ I guarantee the word would be completely different if you weren't in it. You may not have done anything you think of as special, but how do you know you did not influence someone? I had a student tell me 20 years later that he was a millionaire because of something (something I have no memory of ever saying) I said that influenced him. So I would not worry about who -- worry about the thing that you think could make the difference you need in your story. $\endgroup$ – WRX Feb 25 '17 at 16:25
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    $\begingroup$ Currently this question looks like it might get closed as opinion-based to me. Maybe you could try to make it less opinion-based by focusing on one aspect. For example "Which death would influence science the most?". And replace your last requirement with something like "For this story we imagine that no one would have taken their place.". This would mean focussing on one aspect and then looking at in this case the technology that wouldn't have been invented by this person. I think this way the question would be a good fit for the site. $\endgroup$ – Secespitus Feb 25 '17 at 16:59

Henry Bessemer


It is the Bessemer process that makes modern society possible. Without a way to make large quantities of high quality steel quickly most things many of the things that are critical in our civilization would not be possible or at least not possible on such scales.

There is some debate in whether or not some came up with close to the same time, but there is little evidence of this. It could be that had Bessemer not invented his process the entire world would be different.

The Wright Brothers

This is another option as without real planes it would limit the scope of war from the last century... For example, another name who's a possibility may not have mattered without the plane.

Albert Einstein

Without him our view on the universe would be significantly different. And like the Wright brothers, even though many people were working on something similar, if it weren't for it being developed at that moment the world would be different and there is no telling when, if ever such advances were made. The idea of the atom has been around for 3000 years after all. It is the fact that it could be utilized when it was that may have saved the human race from a later catastrophe.

There are others that could possibly have huge impacts that we're just not as certain about. Bessemer is only really amazing in retrospect. Richard Feynman is probably someone who is very important, Alcubierre might be, Donald Trump might be, but we can't tell as of yet, positive or negative. All presidents from the last 30 or so years will only be marked as important if something really Earth shattering happens that can be tracked to their idiocy. Any positive outcome will bare out that they weren't important at all. There are plenty of people I can't tell whether they are incredibly important due to lack of knowledge. Kim Jong-il and Putin may be very important.

There is a temptation to say Hitler, Stalin, JFK, Truman, etc were important, but many of them when you know about their positions, where they come from, and the general situation of the time, they are not that important at all.

Lincoln died 2 years too early for this but he might have qualified, not because really anything he did, but because what happened due to him existing. Kill him at 15 and no Civil War and possibly a more socially cohesive US with no need for the Civil Rights movement... and tons of people would be alive. Franz Ferdinand is another one that his existence is more the linchpin than anything he did, had you killed him earlier it is possible that WWI and WWII would not have happened, or at least not at that time. Though, really with the malarkey that were all the alliances and treaties that was bound to happen eventually.

All that being said I place my bets on Bessemer, The Wright Brothers, or Einstein being the most important humans in the last 150 years to have existed that we currently can quantify.

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    $\begingroup$ It's highly possible that Hitler is valid in spite of circumstances. His ability to speak in public was what got him to that position. It's entirely probable that nobody else could have done it. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Feb 25 '17 at 17:37
  • $\begingroup$ Say you prevented WWI, and he never got into that mindset? Say you killed a rival artist, wouldn't him being taken out of the equation make less of a difference than creating an entirely new path for his life? $\endgroup$ – Piomicron Feb 25 '17 at 17:43
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    $\begingroup$ @Separatrix Actually it is surprisingly easy to create such behavior in people, especially when they already agree to some degree. Take a look at this experiment. It shows that people are pretty easily turned into those who would act in the same manner as the Nazis. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Wave_(experiment) $\endgroup$ – Durakken Feb 25 '17 at 17:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Durakken, there's always more to it than that: businessinsider.com/… $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Feb 25 '17 at 17:49
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    $\begingroup$ Also, you could, in theory, create a value diagram for every person that has ever existed. It would need to be pretty complex due to shear number of connections but all you'd do is weight based oldest, number of connections, number of lives impacted by them, and remember a parent will always be more important than a child due to without the parent the child can't exist and because of this, the most important person will always be someone who is the ancestor of the considered most important... $\endgroup$ – Durakken Feb 25 '17 at 17:49

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