The Influentials: Ideas

Brian Greene
Physics professor, Columbia University
The new Stephen Hawking. In the quest for the elusive Theory of Everything, Greene is the missing link between the eggheads and the rest of us. Through his imaginative best sellers, The Elegant Universe and The Fabric of the Cosmos, Greene has a nation of armchair superstring theorists contemplating the cosmos in 26 dimensions, and riffing on arcane notions like supersymmetry and the space-time continuum.

Jeffrey Sachs
Chairman, the Earth Institute, Columbia University
Sachs is first macroeconomist to put a dollar figure ($160 billion a year) on the cost of eradicating poverty—and now he’s browbeating governments and private donors to come up with the money. His writings, including last year’s relentlessly quoted best seller The End of Poverty, are the reason every U2 concert is now a debt-relief textathon; along with Bono, Sachs’s disciples range from Kofi Annan and Bill Clinton to Angelina Jolie. His harangues on the West’s insufficient aid to fight HIV/aids and poverty have raised $33 billion—and counting.

Rev. Richard John Neuhaus
Founder, Institute on Religion and Public Life
Often called the most influential clergyman in America, but not because he heads a dynamic parish or crafts telegenic sermons. Neuhaus runs the country’s foremost theocon religion-and-policy journal, First Things, which argues for the reintroduction of Judeo-Christian values into the public arena. Forty years ago, Neuhaus was a Lutheran minister who co-founded Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam and acted as Martin Luther King Jr.’s liaison in New York City. Now a stridently conservative Catholic priest, he has the ear of President Bush, who turns to “Father Richard” for advice on messy ethical issues from abortion to cloning.

Saul Kripke
Philosophy professor, CUNY
Kripke cuts a modest figure for someone revered by some as the most ingenious thinker since Wittgenstein. Perhaps he grew inured to accolades as a teen prodigy, when his work on modal logic earned him an unsolicited letter from Harvard—to apply for a job with the math faculty. Now at the cuny grad center after four decades at Princeton, Kripke is a Schock Prize winner (it’s the Nobel of philosophy), and is credited for making metaphysics respectable again for disciples including Paul Boghossian, the chair of NYU’s blockbuster philosophy department—and the field’s rising star.

Noah Feldman
Law professor, NYU
The next big public intellectual. Feldman, who speaks five languages including Arabic, is uniquely well suited for the current geopolitical moment: His Times Magazine essays and books (three in three years) tackle Iraq, the Muslim world, and U.S. church-and-state. Ridiculously young (35) to be such an accomplished legal brain, Feldman’s a global presence who consulted on drafting the Iraqi constitution, but is always back in time to teach his wildly popular classes at NYU. Next: The Influentials in Philanthropy

The Influentials: Ideas