Let us praise our lamest men (and token woman)

Enough with the overachievers. Who was the least influential person of the millennium?

Published December 22, 1999 5:00PM (EST)

One millennium, 10 unremarkable people. Salon has profiled those individuals who least influenced the past 1000 years -- despite pathetic efforts to the contrary.

Weston H. Sheffield
Believed himself able to refute the laws of gravity through rhetorical argument. In an attempt to prove his claim, with no preliminary experimentation, Sheffield flung himself from one of southern England's Dover cliffs, and then attempted to halt his descent with verbal contradiction. His last words were, "I am not falling. I am not falling. I am not fa ..."

Lesley of Nazareth
Founder of the very short-lived Church of Jesus Christ, female impersonator. Though born and raised nowhere near Nazareth, Lesley adopted the handle after a Barcelona prostitute with a mustache elaborated the true, cross-dressing nature of Jesus to him through a dream. Following his wildly ignored "Sermon in the Bathhouse," Lesley succeeded in attracting one follower, who mistook him for Eleanor of Aquitaine. He was later martyred by his corset.

Caldwell "Beeftips" Harrigan
The grandfather of modern bankruptcy. He went bust after an ill-conceived attempt to corner the aftershave market.

Dr. Osby Cromer, OB-GYN, aka Billy Faulky
Borrowing much from William Faulkner and little from true literary inspiration, Cromer pioneered the southern gynecological genre with novels such as "Requiem for a Maidenhead," "As I Labia Dying" and "Speculum, Speculum!" Cromer's self-proclaimed masterpiece, "The Ultrasound and the Fury," was an experimental work based on his malpractice insurance premiums, and was uniformly regarded as "interminable" by the four people who read it.

Aristotle Culottas
In response to the growing menace of the electric light bulb, Culottas developed and perfected the "dark" bulb, which, when "illumed" inside a room, rendered all ambient and direct light as dark as pitch. Sadly, Culottas died when, during his first entirely successful experiment with the dark bulb, he was unable to find the door out of his lab. He soon starved to death, and was found one month later, shortly after Commonwealth Edison shut off his electricity for non-payment.

Kiliaen van Van der Recht-Ulm
Son of a successful Amsterdam dung merchant, van Van der Recht-Ulm attempted to develop a synthetic fertilizer from the speeches of the Dutch monarchy. Though obsessed by this idea his entire adult life, van Van der Recht-Ulm achieved only limited results, developing a product that worked exclusively on natural emetics, poisons and soporifics. Yet, as such effects were often produced directly by the monarchy itself, van Van der Recht-Ulm saw little future in his discovery.

Rainer Schein
Widely unknown Utopian philosopher who, using his mother's sauerkraut recipe, developed a complex system of social, economic and political relationships based entirely on the cabbage.

Helen of Troy, N.Y.
Early innovator in workplace clichis, Helen was best known for her baffling, stillborn "It's a no lung-er," and other snappy alternatives to "yes." Also attributed to her, "I've got too many ducks on my plate" and "It's old pair-a-knickers."

Silvestri di Fondo Fango
Tuscan explorer convinced that an overland route to Japan could be found with a dousing rod. After washing up in Fukuoka harbor, di Fondo Fango became enamoured with the national cuisine. Soon after returning to Florence, eager to recreate the Japanese delicacy using only local ingredients, di Fondo Fango died while testing his recipe for Chicken Maki.

P.J. O'Hooligan
Master of ineffectual promotions. Killarney innkeeper and publican, O'Hooligan is credited by some (his parents) for the concept of "people's night" and the "all-you-can-eat boiled potato buffet." Though extremely popular while supplies lasted (see potato famine), O'Hooligan soon found himself embroiled in a byzantine legal battle over use of these and other concepts with neighboring pub owner J.P. Shenanigan. Both were eventually put out of business by Jonas Q. Shickritter, inventor of the cabbage popper.

By Carina Chocano

Carina Chocano writes about TV for Salon. She is the author of "Do You Love Me or Am I Just Paranoid?" (Villard).

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By Christopher Washburn

Christopher Washburn lives on Paul Bunyan Rd.

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