Whilst some of the names found on the list of self-educated people that made a difference on Hacker News this morning are common knowledge to many, I was stunned by some of them, which perhaps I shouldn't have been.
I have pulled some of the more notable names from the list and will shuffle them in a slightly different order to purposely skew your sense of perspective:
For contributions to literature:
- Samuel Clemens a.k.a. Mark Twain
- Leo Tolstoy
- Hans Christian Anderson
- Jane Austen
- William Blake
- Charles Dickens
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Ernest Hemingway
- Herman Melville
- J.D. Salinger
- George Bernard Shaw
- Edgar Allen Poe
World Leaders & Influencers:
- George Washington - U.S. President - I
- James Monroe - U.S. President - V
- Martin Van Buren - U.S. President - VIII
- Zachary Taylor - U.S. President - XII
- Abraham Lincoln - U.S. President - XVI
- Andrew Johnson - U.S. President - XVII
- Grover Cleveland - U.S. President - XXII & XXIV
- William McKinley - U.S. President - XXV
- Harry Truman U.S. President - XXXIII
- Karl Rove - George W. Bush's chief strategist (W's Puppet Master)
- Benjamin Franklin - One of the founding fathers of the U.S.A.
Science, electrical engineering and communications:
- Nikola Tesla - Inventor and pioneer, arguably the father of electrical engineering as we know it today. Refined the A/C power that we use today.
- Alexander Graham Bell - Inventor of the telephone.
- Thomas Edison - Inventor of the lightbulb along with 1000 other patents.
- Albert Einstein - E=mc² - 'nuff said.
- Michael Faraday - "The best experimentalist in the history of science". Carried out pioneering work with electromagnetism.
- Reginald Aubrey Fessenden - Built the first power generator at Niagara Falls.
- George Westinghouse - Founder of the Westinghouse Electric Company.
- Guglielmo Marconi - Credited as the father of radio.
For contributions to computer technology and software:
- Steve Jobs - co-founder and CEO of Apple.
- Steve Wozniak - co-founder of Apple with Steve Jobs.
- Bill Gates - co-founder and CEO of Microsoft - until he retired handing the reigns over to Steve Ballmer. The richest man in the world.
- Paul Allen - co-founder of Microsoft, owns 80% of TicketMaster.
- Lawrence Ellison - co-founder and CEO of Oracle.
- Thomas J. Watson - Founder of IBM.
For contributions to entertainment:
- Allen Konigsberg - better known as Woody Allen
- James Cameron
- Walt Disney
- David Geffen - co-founder of DreamWorks and Geffen Records
- Stanley Kubrick
- Steven Spielberg
- Quentin Tarantino
For contributions to the automotive, aerospace and travel industries:
- Henry Ford - Founder of the Ford Motor Company - learned about mechanics by repairing watches.
- Soichiro Honda - founder of the Honda car company.
- Orville Wright - co-inventor of the airplane.
- Wilbur Wright - co-inventor of the airplane.
- William Lear - the Lear Jet.
- Richard Branson - of Virgin fame.
- Richard Grasso - Chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange.
- Florence Nightingale
So if you have no formal education, and you're wondering what to try your hand at next, your most likely choices are most acclaimed writer of all time or U.S. President, and if they're not your bag, world changing scientist or founder of a megalith computer corporation.