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#12—STUDS TERKEL. For more photos, launch the gallery »
Chicagoans have been a foresighted folk as far back as 1673. That’s when Louis Jolliet, traveling through these parts with Père Jacques Marquette, encountered a marshy wasteland and instantly understood how a canal carved here would link the Atlantic Ocean with the Gulf of Mexico via the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. Such ingenuity would remain an integral part of our character for the next 400-plus years—think George Pullman raising the city from the mud or the post-Fire architects lifting steel towers toward the sky. That trend continues, as this list of Chicago’s top visionaries from 1970 to 2010 attests. Don’t see eye to eye with our choices? Show us the error of our ways in the comments section below.
40. Richard J. Daley (1902–1976)
Though in decline, the Boss in his final years continued to shape the vibrant metropolis we recognize today, as most clearly evidenced by the Standard Oil Building (today’s Aon Center), the John Hancock, and the Sears (a.k.a. Willis) Tower. Read our 2008 story comparing Richard J. and his son, the current mayor »
39. Michael Kutza (b. 1940)
In 1964, Kutza founded the Chicago International Film Festival, the oldest competitive film fest in North America—which, in its 2010 season, screened more than 50 movies from 150 countries—and 46 years later, he continues to serve as its artistic director.
38. Andrew Mason (b. 1980)
The founder and chief executive of Groupon Inc. parlayed his concept of an online hub for collective daily deals into a $1.35 billion company serving 15 countries, which finally put Chicago on the Internet map. Read our August 2010 profile of Mason »
37. Joe Mansueto (b. 1956)
A bona fide innovator, Mansueto founded the mutual funds rating service Morningstar out of his Lincoln Park home in 1984 and made it a go-to source for investment data—making him a billionaire in the process.
36. Joan Weinstein (1935–2009)
Ultimo, Weinstein’s influential Oak Street boutique that began in 1969 as an offshoot of the men’s clothing store owned by her husband, Jerry, introduced Chicago women to chic international fashion from the likes of Giorgio Armani, Sonia Rykiel, and others.
35. Ping Tom (1935–1995)
Beginning in 1983, the businessman and civic leader—he was a founder of the Asian American Coalition of Chicago—spurred development of the 32-acre Chinatown Square, a residential and commercial development erected on reclaimed railroad land; pretty Ping Tom Memorial Park, at 19th Street and the Chicago River’s South Branch, celebrates the achievement he never lived to see reach fruition.
34. Jerry Adelmann (b. 1949) As a young man, he took the Illinois & Michigan Canal, the decaying manifestation of Jolliet’s 1673 vision, and reinvented it as an engaging 120-mile-long history lesson; today, as the president and CEO of Openlands, Adelmann and his cohorts fight to conserve urban green space, such as the new Openlands Lakeshore Preserve, a 77-acre treasure chest of woodlands, bluffs, and ravines on the North Shore. Read more about Adelmann, a recipient of Chicago’s 2010 Green Awards »
33. Paul Sereno (b. 1957)
Focusing his gaze on prehistory, the University of Chicago paleontologist identified more than two dozen new species of dinosaurs on five different continents.
32. Steven Levitt (b. 1967)
In his 2005 book Freakonomics (written with Stephen J. Dubner), Levitt, a University of Chicago professor and self-described “rogue economist,” upended conventional wisdom and the dispassionate world of statistical analysis by using data to solve the riddle of human behavior.
31. Dr. Quentin Young (b. 1923)
Chairman of medicine at Cook County Hospital from 1972 to 1981 and a political activist, Young worked as a fervent advocate for civil rights and health-care reform. Retired from private practice, he serves as the national coordinator of Physicians for a National Health Program.
Photograph: Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune