If You Could Bring One Person Back From the Dead, Who Would it Be?

Welcome to Dinner Table #17 (if you don’t know what the Dinner Table is, read this). Here’s this week’s question:

If you could bring one person back from the dead, who would it be?


  • The person you bring back would be 25 and healthy upon return with, presumably, a bunch of decades to live.
  • The person would have all the memories of the life they lived.
  • If you try to bring back a person who may or may not have actually existed, you risk losing the opportunity—if they did in fact exist, they’ll be brought back; if they didn’t, you don’t get to “try again,” you’re done.
  • Two restrictions: You cannot bring back someone you knew well personally, and you cannot bring back an immediate family member (a parent, sibling, spouse, or child), even if you never knew them.


Tim’s Answer: As usual, this is a tough one. To think about it, I broke the possibilities into categories—

  • Someone who will help advance the species as a whole. Some possibilities would be a scientist like Einstein, Newton, Feynman, etc. or an inventor or innovator type like Tesla, Steve Jobs, etc. A Steve Jobs-type person is compelling because while it’s unclear how Tesla would adjust to being in 2015 or whether he’d have a change of heart about wanting to dedicate his new life to inventing things, it’s pretty likely that Jobs would be pumped to be re-alive and would pick up right where he left off, and Apple’s keynote videos would stop disappointing me.
  • Someone who will best improve the plight of today’s people. This would probably be either a great philanthropist or someone involved in medicine or life sciences. We could see what a Marie Curie or a Jonas Salk or an Alexander Fleming could do with six more decades and the benefit of everything we’ve learned since their deaths. Or, along the same “modern might be better” philosophy I mentioned above for Steve Jobs, it could make sense to pick someone like renowned AIDS researcher Joep Lange, who was killed last year on the Malaysia Airlines flight that was gunned down over rebel-held Eastern Ukraine.
  • Someone who can bring a huge amount of enjoyment to humanity. Probably someone in the arts? Mozart wouldn’t be a bad choice. He had a solid showing in his first 35-year life, so with a handful more decades and the benefit of Logic Pro and every top orchestra drooling at the prospect of playing and recording anything new he wrote, I imagine we’d be treated to some very rad music. And weird picturing him getting on stage with Kanye West at some benefit concert. I’d also really like to hear some good Mark Twain witticisms about modern times.
  • A spiritual leader whose return could potentially settle a lot of modern religious strife. Muhammad could be a good choice. But the key word is “potentially.” Entirely unclear what Muhammad would say or do when he got here, and his revival could also make things much worse.
  • Someone who could give us answers to unanswered questions. For example, most of what we know about early humanity is educated guesswork—bringing back someone who lived in 80,000 BC, teaching them language, and getting them to describe their life in detail could be as riveting as anything and help us connect a lot of dots. A more useful choice might be someone who lived during the dawn of the Agricultural Revolution or in early Mesopotamia, but the 80,000 BC guy would be more fun.
  • Someone that would make everyone ridiculously starstruck. Jesus, Genghis Khan, Shakespeare, Confucius, Caesar, Attila the Hun, King Henry VIII, Buddha, Homer, Tutankhamun, Abraham, Moses, Leonardo da Vinci, Plato, Socrates, etc. If any of those people were suddenly here, as a 25-year-old with all their memories, it would be cool. And it would redefine the word starstruck. Imagine Confucius, looking like a modern dude, being interviewed on 60 Minutes, or Genghis Khan coming out with a bestseller autobiography, or Shakespeare’s YouTube channel being the first to hit 100 million subscribers. Of course, many of these carry the “they might not be real” risk, so you’d have to take that into account.
  • Someone who deserves to see how big a difference they made. I thought about this a lot during the presidents posts. Abraham Lincoln knew he did the country a solid, but he really didn’t get to enjoy it at all. The Civil War victory had barely sunk in when he was shot. It would be really gratifying to bring him back and for him to be able to soak it all in. He’d also be immediately elected the next US president, which is intense, and he’d be automatically effective, because no one in the government would have the guts to criticize him.
  • Someone who wasn’t punished badly enough during their lifetime. Hitler, duh, but many others too. Lots of groundbreakingly bad dude tyrants and torturers and rapists and genociders throughout history who died happy and never had to suffer for what they did or feel any regret. It’s the opposite of the last bullet point. Hitler, for one, died by suicide knowing he had lost the war, yes, but accounts of his last days describe him as content, believing he would go down in history as a valiant warrior who did everything he could for his country. Kind of badly need him to know about his current worldwide reputation. I’d say the same about Christopher Columbus, except he’d be delighted to learn about his modern reputation.
  • One of your own ancestors. It’s kind of a dickish choice because it’s only good for you, not anyone else, but it would be tempting to bring back a great or great-great-grandparent, or someone way farther back, and to have a chance to get to know them and learn about where you came from. One way to do this not-selfishly is by bringing back either Mitochondrial Eve or Y-chromosomal Adam, the most recent woman and man who are common ancestors to every modern living human. This might be particularly awkward for Y-chromosomal Adam, who was probably not a fully-evolved human and would be very bad at most jobs, but who would also feel extra special because he was all of our ancestor, putting us at risk of having to deal with the ultimate over-entitled Millennial.

My choice: After going back and forth a thousand times, I’d pick Isaac Newton. He’d hit a bunch of the above bullet points. He was a genius of rare proportions in his lifetime, and it’s pretty clear that he had a truly unusual brain and wasn’t just in the right place at the right time. Brought up to speed with modern knowledge, he might be able to come up with discoveries that would both advance and help humanity in massive ways. On top of that, he carries a high starstruck factor, and it would just be incredibly interesting to see what our greatest 17th century mind could do with 21st century knowledge—I need to know what his opinion would be on string theory and dark matter and the multiverse theory and the future of humanity.

And who would you bring back?

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  • CT

    Winston Churchill. If anyone can straighten thus world out, it would be him. He is a force of nature and he wouldn’t hesitate to take corrective action. Can I choose two? FDR. They were an unstopable pair.

  • Zhenya

    John Lennon

  • Cml207

    It would have to be John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. The music of Zeppelin is a huge part of my life, but sadly, the death of John Bonham ended the band 10 years before j was even born. Seeing Zeppelin in concert would be a life changing moment.

    The only other possible option would be Elvis. Couldn’t imagine seeing the King in his prime.

  • John Grammaticus

    Newton and Tesla. Together they would figure out how it was possible for them to come back from the dead, they would reverse engineer that technology and then we could have whoever we want so those 7 vacant places won’t matter.

  • Harald

    Aristotle or Socrates. We need more questions in our lives.. Or?

  • Claudia Weiss

    Carl Sagan. But come to think of it, Tesla would be pretty rad, too.

  • Stoffer

    Aristotle!! He had such a comprehensive understanding on not just philosophy, but also medicine, biology, cosmology. His basic works (that we know of) is thousands and thousands of pages. I think he could adapt to the 21st century – and end up learning us a thing or two. In addition he knew Plato and Alexander the Great very well and would thus also indirect bring some of their legacy with him..

  • Gokhan Arslan

    No time to explain Copernicus, jump on the spaceship. We are going to visit Hubble.
    Then as we are in the space he is like, I knew it.

  • Zach

    I think that the advancement shock would massively rule out anyone born before say 1850-who knows how they would react- it could even be worse then bringing back someone who might not have existed!
    After thinking a lot, I think MLK would probably be my choice, so that he could continue to work good in the world.

  • cozaroznica

    Leonardo da Vinci, I think he might be the smartest person who has ever lived, so he’s the one we need here and now.

  • Agis Petikidis

    For me it’s an easy one because I’ve already settled my mind long ago. Richard Feynman, not only he was an absolutely brilliant scientist, but he was also a great and inspiring human character. I can’t say stress enough how much I admire this dude!

    • Tim Urban

      I considered Feynman too. Probably my favorite human.

  • Alex Mac

    It would be amazing to how Mozart would adapt to present day music bit I’ve have to go with Tesla, he seemed like someone who was born to early to give the world all he could

    • Dee

      Wasn’t there a movie that came out that implicated that Mozart’s sister actually wrote some of his best music?

  • Jack Maughan

    Jesus – bear with me here a second, this isn’t to fulfill a second coming desire on the part of world religions – it’s for a few of the reasons Tim outlined above.
    First of all, of course he would be immediately worldwide famous, although that being said there might be a few people who want to kill him, given the course of history – the implications for not only Western society but the world of reviving arguably the most world-shaping individual in history would be immense.
    Secondly, he could fit into both of the opposite categories that Tim outlined above – he deserves to see what good, what progress and what humanity he had inspired in people. On the flip side, I think he needs to see the havoc that has been wreaked in his name over the years. Not to punish him, as it was clearly not his intention – but to open his eyes to what simple beliefs can instill in people, and maybe to try to right those wrongs with his considerable influence and authority.
    Third, by all accounts Jesus could teach the world something – this time through a clear lens, not twisted and faded by the centuries of writing and rewriting, political agendas and “holy wars”. He could impart some wisdom on the world, and in an unambiguous sense to prevent squabbling over the meaning of 2000 year old scriptures. I think it would clear up a lot of questions many people have on anything from the meaning of life to love.
    Fourth – he would, as I said, have a massive amount of influence, and without being allowed to get out of control, could bring about the changes that are needed in the world. He could at least get people to listen. And while this might sound West-centric, wisdom, philosophy, influence and change are secular concepts that can be worked on by everyone to work for a better humanity in general – not necessarily a Christian or even religious one.
    Not being particularly religious, (adhering more to “Truthism” as of late!), I didn’t think that he would be my choice to bring back, but the truth is that looking at the big picture, he could truly make a difference in this world – no matter what belief system he preaches.

    • Aram McLean

      Unless of course he was just one of the many unwashed street preachers of his time, highly embellished through the course of the Bible, perhaps nothing more than just his name being true, and all you’d be left with bringing him back would be a stinky illiterate man staring at you wondering how in the hell he’s going to preach his mostly screaming message of how Israel deserves liberation from the occupying Romans now.

      • Jack Maughan

        I did make some assumptions of literacy and historical validity that could be wrong, although you make a good point!

        • Aram McLean

          On the flip side, and bear with me, if we are to go with what the Bible says about Jesus and accept it as truth, then we’re left with an entirely different dilemma. After all, despite what people like to say about the Jesus of the Bible being a great guy, the truth is that when you actually delve into it, he’s actually a highly overrated beacon of morality.

          The one comment he made about slavery, for example, was in regards to how to beat them (Luke 12:44-48). Now I’m all for having laws and repercussions. We’re social creatures and society wouldn’t work without laws. But I think it’s rather odd, considering the topic had come up and all, that Jesus didn’t also mention (being above space and time), ‘Oh, and since we’re discussing it, slavery is in fact a heinous, inhumane, horrible institution which I abhor, as does my Father in Heaven, and quite frankly, we shouldn’t own other human beings.’ Instead Jesus said nothing. And as a result we had 400 years of international slave trade (never mind all the slavery that existed before) heartily defended by Christians of the time who used the Bible in their defense of it. A simple comment from Jesus could have avoided all that. It’s not just remiss of him. It’s criminal.

          Jesus also taught that he hadn’t come to grant peace but rather division (Luke 12:51), whilst at the same time saying that we should love our enemies as ourselves (Mark 12:31). Not only are these statements highly contradictory, the simple truth is that loving your enemy as yourself is basically impossible.

          Furthermore, Jesus would likely have enjoyed handing out Chick tracts as he said, ‘I have come to cast fire on the earth’ (Luke 12:49) and promised death and suffering and wailing and gnashing of teeth to anyone who was against him (Matt 12:30; Matt 13:4-42; Luke 11:23), including fig trees (Matthew 21:18-22).

          On a lighter note, how about the fact that the Bible clearly states that disobedient children should be murdered (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), which, somewhat ironically, means that Jesus himself should have been stoned for disrespecting his parents as a kid (Luke 2:41-52). Especially when you consider that Jesus heartily declared that he hadn’t come to change the old laws but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17).

          My point being that either way you look at it, real or not, Jesus kind of sucked.

          • Jack Maughan

            I agree 100%, there was a whole lot wrong with the his teachings, and it goes for any character from the past that their views will be skewed by their own circumstance and lack of knowledge or insight. By no means is Jesus a beacon of morality, and he shouldn’t be viewed as such, but I made my comment mainly with the idea that despite his flaws, and despite the fact that his teachings would be rather backwards in some areas, he could get people to listen, to effect change in the world. The main thing is that no matter what beliefs you have, agnostic, atheist, any other religion you can choose, there is no denying that Jesus made a difference to the world, for better or for worse. While in my opinion there are a lot of flaws with organised religion (backwards scientific outlooks, being about 200 years behind on every important social issue, etc, etc), there is something to be said for its ability to make people cooperate and work together. Whether those people do good with those beliefs or bad is a product of factors other than just a belief.
            Look at it this way – so many people that have shaped the world are morally questionable or just downright wrong, and I think a cynical eye has to be cast on Jesus as well, but as for influence, that is something that is separate to his teachings entirely.

            • Aram McLean

              Yeah, I hear what you’re saying. The question for me would be if Jesus could possibly live up to all the hype. Legends, by definition, are much bigger than any one man, especially after two thousand years. The way I see it, there are as many different Jesuses today as there are people who believe in him.
              As for religions in general, they are certainly a force to be reckoned with, I’ll give you that.

            • Jack Maughan

              Good point, sure it’s hard to know what he would do or what his beliefs would be if he came back, and for all we know he could make no difference, or could cause even more schisms to form… Religion is a tricky thing to deal with as well…

    • TheMysteriousAnswerer

      The only problem with bringing Jesus back would be… well, if Jesus didn’t come back.

      Since the rules outline that the person, in case he/she didn’t exist, just wouldn’t appear at all and you would lose your chance. On the other hand, this would be a good and a bad thing.

      The good side with this would of course be that it would be a massive thing for atheists and other religions that Jesus didn’t actually exist. It would proof they are right. And this on the other hand brings us to the problem. What’s next? We have officially proven that Christianity’s mission to spread Jesus’s word would be completely useless after that point, since Jesus didn’t exist. And think about all the terror that would come with it. Billions of people who deem Jesus Christ as their savior would simply lose all faith and hope. It would be catastrophic for the society in many ways.

      • Aram McLean

        Or it would be freeing.

        • TheMysteriousAnswerer

          Depends. This once again requires some thinking about other people. What if someone has made a complete lifestyle change just to believe in Jesus being their savior? What if you have always believed in Christianity being right, and with all that it has done to you in your life, you hear that it is fake? All the elder in their death beds that believed in heaven would be mortified. Is there a life after death?

          It is a complicated question that is very hard to think about. For some it might be very freeing. Sure. But for many it might be the most horrifying thing that has ever happened in their lives. Religion is something that is not worth underestimating.

          • Aram McLean

            I suppose you have a point. It kind of reminds me of Plato’s cave. Certainly some people would rather hold on to the shadows over reality. But the thing is, these kinds of people would continue to believe no matter what happened. So no worries there.

      • Jack Maughan

        Again, I made some historical assumptions that may or may not be accurate – as a hypothetical exercise I felt it would be reasonable to go with the idea that he was a real person. As for what would happen if it was proven that he didn’t exist, I think people would continue on believing as Aram says – faith seems to be a hard habit to break in societies.

      • Adam

        Jesus is almost undisputedly a historical figure. There is, as with any person who died more than a century or two ago, a chance that he wasn’t real, but he probably was. As for what he did in that lifetime… well, while my opinion isn’t fact, I certainly don’t think he changed water into wine or anything. Much of the Bible was undoubtedly written centuries after his death and I don’t believe much of it was anything more than making up a myth to attribute to a well-known historical figure.

        However, I’m sure he could answer lots of questions – provided he has suitable protection from assassination attempts (I can imagine there a would be a lot) – and I wouldn’t say that bringing him back would be a bad thing, no matter what he did or didn’t do.

        And if he doesn’t come back, all you’ve got to do is to convince people that you somehow had the power to bring someone back from the dead but then Jesus didn’t come back when you tried to summon him, proving he wasn’t real. Good luck with that.

        • Ádám Zovits

          Yup, I think it would be nigh-impossible to design such a resurrection to be acceptable for all groups of people in all possible outcomes.
          Just imagine: “Now, I’ll resurrect Jesus! … He did not appear, ergo he did not live at all.”

    • N00less Cluebie

      The idea of historical Jesus is NOT 100% accepted. For a two-hundred year period you see descriptions in Essene documents of “Teachers” and “Princes of Light” that describe Jesus-like people –but modern Christianity no more dependent on historical Jesus than a beautiful pearl is on the original grain of sand that was its initial impetus. This holds true of Moses for Judaism, and probably Mohamed for Islam.

      You could probably make the same point for the existence of God being somewhat irrelevant to the trappings of modern religions, though you’ll get more people up in arms….

    • Jeff Lewis

      Assuming there was a historical Jesus, I’m not sure he’d really have profound moral lessons for the modern world. Much of what is attributed to Jesus is almost surely myth and legend built up after his supposed life. If he did exist, he was probably a typical apocalyptic cult leader, and would have had ideas that would seem awfully strange to most of us.

  • Matthew B.

    My gut tells me Ben Franklin or Leonardo Da Vinci…

  • Gábor

    Jesus. I’d just ask him about his father.

    • Xuhui Shen


  • 10i

    For our countrys sake we need Nelson Mandela figure. A visionary who understands how South Africa really works. For those who dont know the South African government really sucks. Ok everyone probably feel that their government sucks, but we really have a problem. Nelson Mandelas party, who is now the leading party is entirely curropt and the country is falling to pieces. Nelson Mandela understood South Africa, with all each cultural groups and granted each group “their place in the sun”, he was also a great leader who new how to bring everyone together. He will also have the starstruck attribute, but I do think he will be shocked to see what is the current situation.

  • Jill Hoffmann

    Thomas Jefferson, to clarify a whole bunch of items in the Constitution, and what the intent of the Founders was. I would also like him to see how the country has evolved, to see if the Founders might have worded things a little more clearly and carefully if they could have foreseen 21st century life (specifically the 2nd amendment)

    • Zoraine

      Jefferson was really anti-industry though; he had the view that only a fully self-sufficient person (i.e. grows own food, makes own clothes, ect.) could be democratic. How would he react to modern technology?
      Also, and this applies to a ton of people, but what about how he owned slaves?

    • N00less Cluebie

      I’d have the same concern with Thomas Jefferson as I do for Jesus; to a very real extent it is IRRELEVANT what our Founders “intended” for the Constitution. They wrote a document for the 18th century; it would be impossible for them to foresee the 21st. Furthermore it doesn’t even matter if TJ came back and said “everyone should have a rifle” or “only militias are important” We, the people, (see what I did there 😉 need to decide for ourselves what laws make sense for US HERE TODAY, regardless of what our founders thought/would think

  • Wim K

    Mine is probably going to be kinda selfish, since although he was a world-famous personality, his impact was only really special in my country. But I’d have to say Nelson Mandela.

    Mandela brought democracy to South Africa, peacefully, after years of apartheid. I don’t know anyone else in our country’s history who has had such a huge positive impact. He built SA into a free, tolerant society, hot on the heels of institutionalised oppression. But his successors were, well, less successful.

    We’ve had a string of bad presidents after him, to the point where SA’s position as the “African power” is actually in jeopardy. I hate being negative about my country, but if I look at our current situation – crime, the economy, racial tension (again), corruption, inequality – I’m worried. Our current leaders are squandering Mandela’s legacy.

    If Mandela were to come back, as a young, healthy man, I have no doubt he’d be voted into office in a landslide victory. And I know he’d be able to steer us back on course.

    Of course, it’s not entirely selfish. Mandela also put a lot of work into building inter-African relations, and was a keen advocate of Palistinean rights (something a lot of people tend to look the other way over). I really feel like he’d make an immensely positive contribution to the world if he were to somehow be reincarnated. Also, I feel like it would be nice for him to see that even 20 years after his presidency, South Africans are still carrying on his philosophy and living together in tolerance.

    • 10i

      Couldn’t say it better myself. You can read my post as well, but yeah we actually really need him now. However, I wouldn’t say that there is very much tolerance today.

  • Gokhan Arslan

    Technology, science, culture and politics is doing okay right now. Religion, on the other hand, is a big conflict amongst the humanity and will be for a very long time. I would revive Adam.
    If there’s none, then the theory of evolution proves right. If he revives, well, I am gonna have half a century to ask questions.

    • 10i

      Whether there isnt an actuall Adam, it still doesnt proof evolution or disproof creation or intelligent design.

      • Gokhan Arslan

        The world discusses over two cases: Either evolution, or what the bible and quran says is true. There might be another completely differeny explanation as well, but we don’t get to figure it out by reviving any particular person.

    • Jeff Lewis

      I wouldn’t waste it on Adam. The evidence for evolution is so overwhelming that there’s pretty much zero chance of that happening. You might as well try to revive Hercules or the Hero Twins from Mayan religion. Y-chromosome Adam is a different story, but I don’t think many people would really be terribly interested in him.

      • Gokhan Arslan

        I am in favor of evolution, but I also want to “prove” it to the religous people around the world. Even if I could ignite a sparkle of doubt in 10% of my society alone, I’d consider myself successful.

  • František Ficek

    It’s Jesus for me as well. I would put him on stage, poke him with a stick a say “Come on, do miracles. Come on…”

    • Jerome

      Yeah, do that and it wouldn’t even be dangerous or anything!

  • Tdubs

    I’m going to put in my vote for Gandhi. Non-violent leader of the Indian Independence movement, had a wealth of knowledge and is pretty much universally revered throughout the whole world. Is probably one of the few people who could get world leaders to listen on solving long-running conflicts like the Israel/Palestine issue, The War on Terror, India/Pakistan, hell maybe even the Euro mess.

    There were other similar people (MLK Jr., Mother Theresa, etc) I considered but they either weren’t all that powerful politically (Mother Theresa) or would, sadly, probably just get assassinated very quickly again (MLK Jr.).

    • Aram McLean

      I’d say MLK is the best choice of your three. It’s a well known fact that Mother Teresa had a fetish for other people’s suffering, whereas Gandhi was a nationalistic somewhat pervy racist who arguably did more harm to India’s independence with his idiosyncrasies than not. MLK, however, though he may have been a womanizer and a bit of a plagiarizer, stood for something truly grand.

  • Ludwig


  • einstein


  • Hex-Hit

    My obvious choice is JFK, which I believe to be humanity’s greatest loss in the 20th century. With his clear vision and great human understanding he would have brought us much ahead in terms of countries working together towards the greatest good. Man like him who had the finger on the RED nuclear button and chose to talk first, using their brains to create peace, are always needed.

    His charisma was such he could move mountains of willing people to a cause. And that may be what had him killed.

    • N00less Cluebie

      Whoa whoa whoa. JFK also got us into Vietnam, fouled up the Bay of Pigs and almost caused WWIII with the Cuban Missle Crisis. It’s unclear whether the Civil Rights Acts would have passed had JFK not been assassinated. In today’s day of Twitter and TMZ, his shenanigans with sexual exploits would make Bill Clinton seem tame and he’d be impeached faster than you can say “Obama is a Muslim”

      He had his good points, but don’t let the tragedy of his death cause us to view him with rose-colored glasses.

  • joan


  • Jales Naves Júnior

    Wow. All that everyone could think about are americans ex-presidents and/ord americans/british dead scientists? Y’all could probably use some more information on non-english speaking countries. They’ve all had geniuses of theirs.

    On the music subject, for an example: check out Antônio Carlos Jobim. Probably the greatest musical genius ever to live. Even if you’d like to stick to the americans, bring back Coltrane or Miles Davis. Mozart is a kindergarten prick near those guys.

    • Dustin Odgers

      Wait so what you’re saying is. that Coltrane, and Miles Davis are more musically talented than Mozart? Can you put in context exactly what you mean?

      • Jales Naves Júnior

        Yes. And Antônio Carlos Jobim is even greater. Complexity, musical knowledge, improvisation, avoiding standards and creational prowess. Redefining musical concepts. Do you wish me to elaborate further?

        • Anthony

          Mozart (like all artists) was beholden to the musical conventions of his time, and he was unfortunately working during the most vanilla period of music history, the Classical era. He couldn’t use sophisticated 7th chords and crazy time signatures because musicians would refuse to play it and claim it wasn’t proper music. He pushed the boundaries of chromaticism as far as they had ever gone when he composed his 40th symphony. If he was alive now he would take in all the techniques of the jazz masters, 20th century modernists, and all the great pop and folk music created in the last 50 years.

          But really I’d say it’s pretty silly to try to compared Mozart to Miles Davis since they both were working in entirely different mediums (written notation versus audio recordings) and in entirely different centuries. They were both undoudabtlay on an entirely different level than almost any other living musician of their time.

          • Jales Naves Júnior

            I agree with you, Anthony. The Classical era was the most vanilla of them all. And even though people would refuse to play it (we can also use the tritone myth here), why would such a genius refrain from endearing himself on it? I understand the whole concept you’re applying.

            • Iris Stephen

              I think to call it vanilla is a bit wrong. Mozart did not just ‘apply’ the musical conventions of his time, he defined them. If you call it boring now, it’s like calling the Mona Lisa a boring work of art because your idiot nephew has a poster version of that portrait with a bong in her mouth in his dormroom. If he were alive today, I’m sure he’d riff and expand on the works of musicians that have come and gone since, and it would be something radical and new.

        • jeremy

          I LOVE Jobim, love him. Huge fan.

          But to say greatest musical genius ever to live? WTF? He wouldn’t even crack the top 50. Sure, he single handedly invented Bossa Nova…but it was extremely derivative of samba/salsa already. His finger picking style was great, but not new.

          • Jales Naves Júnior

            He wouldn’t crack the top 50? Dude, I’m sorry, but you are seriously mistaken… Bossa Nova could be simplified as Jazz + Samba, but you should really dig into his incredibly intricate melodies and harmonies. About finger picking and Bossa Nova creation, those are credited to João Gilberto, not Tom Jobim, and João is still alive. And yes, it was new. Very, very new.

  • PopJack

    Benjamin Franklin. He did everything right in his life and had respect in his own time. Women, wine, song, philosophy, diplomacy, honor, and an eye toward the future.

    He has always been my hero.

    • Kathy Kitchin

      Yes! Totally Ben Franklin. Good one.

  • Chris B

    I’d probably bring back Robert Hooke, just to piss off the Isaac Newton you brought back…

  • Grant A Cole

    Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī or GWF Hegel – I’m stuck between those two. For utilitarian reasons, I’d want al-Khwārizmī back. For purely selfish reasons (questions must be answered) – Hegel.

    Also Robert Pirsig and Daniel Quinn aren’t dead yet…

  • hepcatbflat

    probably… Marcel Marceau
    cuz i think he had something to say

    • Jerome

      Haha probably not.

  • Aram McLean

    I’d go with Giordano Bruno, just so he’d know it was worth it.

    • wobster109

      A bit of background. He was a mathematician, scientist, and pantheist who proposed that there were other stars and planets (this was back when heliocentric solar system was still a fringe idea). He spent his life getting kicked out of various cities for being a pantheist, until he was burned at the stake for being a pantheist.

  • nielmalan

    In the category of people who were not punished enough, I’d bring back Idi Amin. Luckily the death penalty is out of fashion, so I’ll just make him an anonymous awaiting-trial prisoner and send him on a tour of African prisons.

  • Grant A Cole

    What if there was another qualifier? The individual could not be a male…

    • Great Pierre

      Maybe Marie Curie then. I wanted to chose a scientist, and then this question made me realize how I don’t know many female scientists 🙁

      • Grant A Cole

        I was thinking Moderata Fonte. I’d like to know what an REALLY early feminist thinks of today’s world?

    • nielmalan

      Ah, fantastic idea!

  • Artyom Karapetov

    Definitely Einstein. There are theories he died before inventing a time machine, or that he was killed because of his invention (yes, government conspiracy theories). My dream is to go back/forward in history, so the prospect of bringing back someone to create a doorway to the past/future is truly awesome. 25 years old with all his knowledge and today’s technologies, plus all the funding he will get from Google, IBM, US/Rus governments, investors? Hell, imagine him at 80 years old and the things he would create by that time. Mind boggling.

  • I would like to bring back Margaret Brent. The first woman lawyer in America. We were the colonies then and she did things in Maryland that she could never have done in England — she had an advanced education, owned real property, served as legal counsel to Lord Calvert, and fought for fair treatment of soldiers.

    She was a true feminist. She broke real barriers. I think she would inspire us to take action against the barriers facing women today. She’d look America in the eye and make it answer for its treatment of veterans.

    I would like to meet her and talk with her. We could use her just now.

  • Brandon

    The ability to prove or, perhaps more powerful, disprove someone’s existance would be fun. Say, for example, you want to bring back a religious figure; however, if that person doesn’t show up, they never existed. Any major or minor player in religion could be at risk, and like you mentioned, that could be dangerous.

    On that same note, you could go crazy and think, “I want to bring back Han Solo. He lived a long, long time ago.” Of course, he didn’t exist and wouldn’t show up. But.. What if he did?

    As for me? I asked myself a while ago who would I like to keep alive forever, living or dead, and I came up with Bill Gates. Philanthropy and all that good stuff. For this question, though, I’m going with Freddie Mercury, since I need someone to love.

    • Ahmad Muhsin

      I think its good to call all majpr player in religion to prove the existence of that religion.

  • Al Holman

    Everyone has omitted the full range of great past athletes. Choose one and see how they could perform in today’s athletic environments with today’s training, fitness,
    and equipment. Since I’m a golfer, I’d like to see Sam Snead or Ben Hogan play
    in current tournaments against today’s top golfers. In other sports let’s try
    Joe DiMaggio or Wilt Chamberlain or Jim Thorpe or…what fun !!!

  • Christine

    PluThis is a bit America-centric, but i’m going to say George Washington. He’s pretty universally respected by Americans, wise, with good character, and he could tell us about the Founding Fathers’ vision for this country and interpret the Constitution for us. And he’s the one who (wisely) warned us against partisanship….maybe he could reconcile the political parties (if the state of American politics didn’t give him a heart attack first!). Plus, he would get to see how much this country has grown, and of course most Americans would be fairly starstruck by him.

  • Great Pierre

    I thought about it for a while.
    First, I decided not to bring a religious figure, because if the figure doesn’t show up, it means he/she/it doesn’t exist, or if they do show up and convince billions of religious people to do something terrible, then we’re screwed.
    I decided to bring a scientist or inventor, so that they could progress science and continue inventing, and we already have enough artists.
    So then I whittled it down to Einstein and Tesla.

    I chose Einstein, because, well, he’s freaking Einstein. Also, I want to know his last words because he said them in German to a nurse who only knew English.

    • Tim Urban


  • Kurt C. Hose

    Bob Marley, because I so want to visit a Bob Marley concert – plus he could rescue Africa 🙂

  • TedP

    Alan Turing, because he deserves to see A: that his death would not happen today and B: how what he did has made the world a better place.

    • Zoraine

      Finding out there was a movie about you where you were played by Benedict Cumberbatch would be pretty amazing too.

  • Mike G

    Leonardo da Vinci. What better person to bring back as we move from the Information Age to the ASI age….. a whole new Renaissance experience (not that I can comprehend what Superintelligence is like or will mean).

    Plus there was the whole Illuminati thing, which would be cool to talk about at dinner.

  • Adam

    Someone just commented “Alan Turing” and I can’t believe I didn’t think of him myself. Being fairly recent and involved with computers, I hope he wouldn’t be too thrown by how far technology has advanced (we still haven’t passed the Turing Test, so it’s not like he’d be astounded and unable to cope with the difference in 21st century technology). I think he could make great contributions to mathematics and technology, although it’s possible we’d be better bringing back a more direct scientist (Einstein, Newton etc.) instead of a cryptanalyst if we’re going down the “advance human knowledge” route.

    I wouldn’t like to bring someone back solely for sentimental reasons (it would be nice to bring back the father/mother of a president who died young, so they know how great their son was; but then that’s kind of a waste of a unique opportunity). However, I hope he would be glad to know that the British government has officially apologised for their treatment of him, enjoy “The Imitation Game” and be honoured to know that he is a hero in so many people’s lives.

    Oh, and also, I really don’t think bringing back someone to punish them further is a good idea. There’s only so much you can torture Hitler before you realise you would have been better off bringing back someone who would help the world, not someone who tried to hinder it. If the choice was “Do you want to bring back Uday Hussein and hurt him a lot?”, I would probably answer “Yes”, but not at the expense of bring back someone positive.

  • I’d fight Ghandi.

  • mallo

    Jesus Christ. I think it’d be worth the risk, as it could not only once and for all stop the religious debate but, if it was true, uh, something good would happen, perhaps?

    • Eddie

      Not worth the risk and here is why. If you bring him back then all it really proves is that he was a real person. Unless he starts curing the blind and turning water into wine you wont know if any of the supernatural/religious claims are true. If he doesn’t come back then Christians will just say it is because he isn’t dead. In their stories he came back to life then went to heaven with out dieing again. So him not coming back would be as good to them as him coming back and doing all the superpower stuff. He could come back and just tell everyone that he can’t do the magic stuff anymore because “god” is mad and then you are in the same boat as you started. The only way it would stop religious debate is if he came back and did everything it said he did in the bible again. If he came back and said it was all a lie Christians would just say it is a trick the devil is playing. And no matter what happened there are still plenty of other religions out there that would use what ever happened as ether proof that their religion is true or they would just deny him and say it was a trick by what ever their version of the devil is.

  • Zoraine

    Tesla would be interesting, especially if you consider the mental illness angle. Tesla fell in love with a pigeon, so suffice to say something was up. He’s also been diagnosed with OCD, which may have helped him with calculations; what if he medication for that?
    It would also be pretty sad to bring back Tesla because nobody knows who he is and his major rival, Edison, is a household name. But he would accomplish amazing things.

    Also interesting because of mental health – Emily Dickinson. Historians debate exactly what illness she had, plus her poems are the best!

    • Recaizade HaydutEkrem

      The best choice! I fear he’d be murdered as soon as he was reincarnated.

  • JohnG

    I’d add mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan to the list. So much talent and potential cut short.

  • Karen Edgerton

    Winston Churchill. So tired of namby pamby leaders who do what suits corporations or the media. We need to be shown how to stand up for what is right and what must be done.

    • Recaizade HaydutEkrem

      so he’d kill the part of the world he couldn’t at his first incarnation?

      • Karen Edgerton

        Which part is that?

    • Recaizade HaydutEkrem

      …or to fulfill his timeless mission of planting seeds of enmity among the peoples of the world? No way sir.

      • Karen Edgerton

        I’m not a sir. And again, please explain your position. I am also making the assumption that as societies have changed since the 50s, leaders who have passed have the luxury of changing their strategies with out changing their basic leadership abilities.

  • Adam

    I’ve just posted, explaining why Alan Turing might be a good choice, but to add to Tim’s president point about how weird being famous is:

    There are lots of people who are famous in their time. I can’t name many that aren’t dead, because they’re not famous any more. But some people stay in everyone’s general knowledge for a long time… Alan Turing might think it’s weird we know who he is. Shakespeare might be surprised how incredibly popular (or unpopular with some people) his works are. But Julius Caesar, however vein he was, should be shocked to know that we still remember him.

    Think of all the times someone has made a reference to “Et tu, Brute” (which we can attribute to both Julius Caesar and Shakespeare, as the former inspired the latter to come up with it). Think of all the words and phrases that Shakespeare popularised, even if he simply took many from the street and recorded them for the first time. Think of all the puns and jokes made about Einstein, whose name is synonymous for “really clever” (albeit used in a sarcastic way). This is the weird thing about being really famous – you’ll be mentioned millions of times, without your consent or even knowledge. You might not even know you were famous enough to be remembered throughout time. It’s hard for me to get around the fact that sometimes my name might come up in a conversation when I’m not there. What about Obama, or David Cameron, or anyone else whose name is being used all the time by millions and millions of people? Or, say, da Vinci, whose works have been written about extensively, viewed by millions of people and even parodied in countless children’s books, television and film.

    Anyway, to drag this vaguely back on topic, maybe being remembered centuries later is a better indicator than being someone from the recent past. Since we know fewer names the further back in time you go, it might be true that those people deserve to be remembered more, and were better people (in cases where they are famous for advancing science, bringing peace etc.). Maybe it’s better to bring back someone older, as their creations have stood the test of time. The only problem is the risk you’re taking that they won’t freak out at 21st century life, or spend 30 years studying it before they make a worthwhile contribution to anything.

  • PinkTheBush

    Jesus, for sure. Got plenty of questions for that guy.

  • Jonathan Wells

    Martin Luther King Jr. would do this sick world some good. Another category I would add is someone whose suffering in their lifetime could be alleviated now, whether by modern medicine or a more enlightened culture. Someone like Joseph Merrick, (the so-called Elephant Man) would probably really appreciate being given a chance at a life that didn’t include being a circus side-show freak and modern reconstructive plastic surgery might even give him the chance to lead a relatively normal life. Really, pretty much anyone younger than twenty-five who has died in any of the horrific conflicts around the world in the last century would have an interesting perspective on being brought back to life. It might not be that interesting for the rest of us to have a child killed by chemical weapons in Syria brought back to life, but their family would sure appreciate it. It’s a weird question. I wouldn’t bring back someone who died a peaceful natural death, even if I thought they could offer a lot to the world today. I would bring back someone who shouldn’t have died in the first place. Doesn’t really matter who, in a way.

    • marisheba

      At first I was all, “Yes, MLK! Totally!”, but then I realized I wouldn’t do that to HIM. I suspect he would be extremely disheartened to see how far we still have to go on racial equality almost 50 years later.

  • Dust

    Just gonna point out (someone probably already did) that bringing Jesus back is a fail given the resurrection.

    Let’s go for Mother Theresa. Maybe Lincoln, or one of the disciples.

    Meh, let’s go Mother Theresa, we could have a lot more innovation in the world, but without compassion we aren’t getting anywhere quick.

    • Dust

      Course if you did Jesus, and then he didn’t show up because he’s not dead, it would certainly shake up the world as we know it.

    • I am not a scientist

      Mother Theresa was not compassionate, she was obsessed, and her primary obsession was getting to heaven. In pursuit of her obsessions she made a lot of really disturbingly inhumane decisions.

      • Dust

        Maybe, maybe not. Being a very visible person the world over, she was probably portrayed as both overly good and overly bad by her supporters and critics.


    How is everyone not saying John Lennon? Come on people. He is the only one who matches ALL OF THESE THINGS.

    • Wendy!

      I just started reading. I already decided he would be my choice

  • Jiri Roznovjak


    I don’t believe it would do any good if we brought anyone who could get a great power over people. Jesus, Muhammad, Lincoln… These people would not have any understanding of the today’s world, and while they did unite people at their time, it wouldn’t end well this time. Jesus was just a normal man that we happen to worship, you could bring any other random person from that time as well. Except that the guy we bring back would suddenly have 1 billion followers willing to do anything he commands. Same with almost every other religion.

    Bringing back a great scientist/inventor is definitely tempting, but in my opinion they wouldn’t achieve much. The world today is so big, and connected, and so many people get good education, so there is many people out there as smart as or smarter than Einstein. We just don’t realize it because nowadays it is much harder to push the frontier of science.

    It seems to me that Mozart would be definitely interesting, because he could actually create something new. Music hasn’t changed that much compared to other fields. I’d choose him not because he’s a thrilling option, but because everyone else would not add any value to our world.

    • Hankun Zhong

      Einstein was not just smart…it was his intelligence, in combination with his imagination, creativity, work ethic, and ability to focus that produced his theories.

      You can also say the same thing about Mozart: The world today is so big, and connected, and so many people get good musical training and education, so there is many people out there as talented as or more talented than Mozart. We just don’t realize it because nowadays it is much harder to push the frontier of music and art.

      • Iris Stephen

        Fundamentally disagree that there would be many more talented than Mozart. It’s obviously also that he got his 10 000 hours of practice in early – a lot of his small piano pieces, his childhood work, are not original at all -but his operas are just beautiful.

  • RF42

    I’d have to go with Abraham Lincoln. I think our country could really use an effective leader, someone who is politically adept enough to cut through all of the crap that we put up with today in our government. Like Tim said, no political party would dare to criticize him, at least not for a while, so he might actually have a chance to get through the gridlock and accomplish something.

    • Innocent Bystander

      I don’t see it…feel like it would take about 2 minutes for cable “news” to start trashing him. And then all of their viewers to follow in line like they always do. Once current politicians got a sense their side was anti-Lincoln he would be like every other politician. I’m having a hard time envisioning any politician as the correct person to bring back.

      Besides, I’m already anti-Lincoln. I think he weakened the country by fighting the Civil War. He should have proclaimed the North a free and safe area for the slaves. When the South seceded, he should’ve said, “Welp, good luck without us, suckas!”

      I think in time the South would’ve come crawling back state by state. “Yeah, ummm, we kind of made a mistake.” (OK, maybe not South Carolina or Texas, but most of the rest.) And when they did I think they would’ve progressed faster than they did (do) otherwise.

      Even if they didn’t come back, I think our 2 countries would’ve been more successful and happier separated. And when there was a global crisis (like WW2), I think we could have worked together and been great allies.

      …now I want Tim to make this the next Dinner Table! ***Tweak one event from the past and create an alternate history.***

  • Anna Rodin

    I’d bring back Nicola Tesla, give him a chance to shine and see he was right about a lot of things without being overshadowed by Thomas Edison. I feel like he’d be one of the least likely to go insane if brought into the future since he was already a little kookoo (pardon the pun). I don’t think the world needs spiritual or political leaders, we need sympathisers and representatives and true democracy perhaps supplemented with an digital voting system that can’t be tampered with. We need equality and balance, not a bunch of hot shots who wrote history because they were the winners. And re-incarnating Hitler? Do you even know the definition of a bad idea? >.>

    • Iris Stephen

      Maybe I’m wrong, but I think reincarnated Hitler would be irrelevant today, a sad novelty item. He as an individual could only make it as far in the context of his time.

  • Douglas

    Elvis Presley

    Since he would know his drug habits killed him he would probably stop taking drugs and would be producing more songs for the future and live a long life as a rock star who isn’t known for a early death. Also his songs are amazing 🙂

  • Urb5

    Mr. Rogers

    • That’s like bringing your Dad back.

      • N00less Cluebie

        Reverend Fred Rogers was EVERYONE’s dad. He was what a clergy person SHOULD be, and will remain my role-model forever. Also it’s be interesting to get his take on “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood”….

  • My immediate thought after reading the initial details was Carl Sagan, and after reading a fair few comments below I still stick by that. His belief in humans, and his constant search for knowledge is an inspiration. Also, I’ve been hearing him come up a lot in Podcasts I’ve been listening to lately, so he’s top of mind.

  • wobster109

    As to “someone who wasn’t punished”, I encourage you to stand on Step 3 for a moment. “And the only possible emotion I could have for him on Step 3 is love.” You said that, and in my opinion it’s a good contender for the most beautiful thing ever said. But that really does mean everyone. That means Hitler too. And yeah, you’d totally kill him to save someone else, no question about it. But you wouldn’t hurt him just for revenge.

    • Ádám Zovits

      What about bringing back Hitler to show him the world as of now, and helping him to see his past mistaken views. And then ask him to publish another book that would eradicate neo-nazism forever.

      • wobster109

        That might be my 1000th pick. If I’ve only got one resurrection, I don’t think he’s worth it.

        • Ádám Zovits

          Of course, I wouldn’t pick him if I got to make the decision, I was just offering a nontrivial justification for this case.

  • Scott

    The somerton man

  • PennyPingleton

    I think FDR would be a good choice if we’re talking jingoistically. The man stood up to the bankers and plutocracy to great effect before not to mention the great vision he had for this country. He would be the best person to tidy up the entitlements programs, for instance. We need someone with those kind of brass balls right now. Tho I’m not sure if he’d survive a decade before being able to run for the presidency.
    For the greater good of the world, I would choose a super-intelect like DaVinci. That man was so ahead of his time, it would be so cool to see him react to the 21st century.

  • marisheba

    I’m sure I’m not the first to say this, but Lincoln wouldn’t be re-elected President right away. If he was 25, he’d have to wait 10 years! But that’s all to the good. He wouldn’t be a very effective President upon landing in the 21st century. One essential ingredient to what made him so good is that he clearly knew his times and his politics and their players incredibly well. He’d need some time here in the 21st to get up to speed, and ten years seems just about right 🙂

    Honestly, if I were picking just for the good of American humanity specifically, Lincoln would totally be my choice–largely influenced by the presidents post of course. Reading about Andrew Jackson was just THE WORST, and made me want to give Lincoln another chance so badly, even if it was 150 years later.

    • “Reading about Andrew Jackson was just THE WORST”

      you mean andrew johnson?

      • marisheba

        Yes, corrected-thanks 🙂

  • Justin

    Well wasn’t there argument with Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton over who discovered what? I’m not discrediting Newton here but there is a possible chance that one may or may not be true to what they preached.

    Overall I don’t think there would be any potential benefit to bringing back anyone of these people. They were amazing in their times for very specific reasons and apart from interest factor I doubt they would contribute much beyond what they originally did. We have seven billion potential innovators where at least one resembles those geniuses of our time like Einstein, Newton, etc..

  • Jochen Kirn

    Haven’t read anything but the question, which makes me a lot more naive than reading Tim’s and others thoughts before answering.

    I would go with Muhammad, so he can give a proper explanation/interpretation of the Quran, and apoint his successor in time. Lots of the problems of our time would dissipate…

    • Sydney Brooks

      Thumbs up! This is a wise choice.

    • Bruno Braz

      Good argument, but I’m sure people would find something else to fight about.

  • Makayla

    Da Vinci hands down. I want him to come and work for my university and be my professor. I just feel like I could learn so much from him and he would always be full of little gems of wisdom like “It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen. They went out and happened to things.” He was THE polymath and meeting him wpuld be boss af.

  • Maura Green

    It might be interesting to have a chat with the Virgin Mary…or to see if she’d show…

  • Anonymous

    I would be interested to bring back someone who disappeared with the MH370 flight, or someone who disappeared over the Bermuda Triangle.. It doesnt tick any of the above boxes, but I think it would at least solve one great mystery – and hopefully lead to better airline security!

    • This is a wise choice.

    • Joel

      With the MH370 fight, might have the disqualifier of the person still being alive somewhere. Not that I think it’s likely, but can’t rule it out.

  • helios13

    probably go with einstein or feynman. but since I have been reading up on feynman a lot these days, I would vote for feynman. no doubt he was a brilliant scientist, but he was also the most liveliest person among the lot. we definitely can use some of his numerous perspectives on many issues and liveliness in the current world.

  • Sydney Brooks

    The thing to do is get every one to pick one great woman or man and then we could have the best of everyone. Pluto, Aristotle, Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Tesla, Lincoln, Roosevelt… You get my drift.
    Personally, I think going so far back to very early humans would be great. 1) debunk Christian 6000 year-old earth junk and 2) find our true roots and did we all really come from one place in Africa.

  • Wendy!

    Shouldn’t we be worrying about “die level of progress” or DPU’s

  • Guest

    Tchaikovsky. At 25 he was graduating from the St Petersburg Conservatory. He could tell us about his hopes and his inspirations and we could tell him that although he would come to doubt himself so much, his work would be everlasting, giving so much joy to so many people.

  • Luca Rafael

    If I were to choose an artist , this would JRR Tolkien, hands down. Think about how much he would write with a whole life ahead

  • Vikram

    For our current time and place, I’d say Harvey Milk. He deserves to see the progress that’s been made towards LGBT equality, but there is still much he could to further the cause.

  • 007

    I’d be torn between Newton and Socrates. Having a conversation over coffee with both of these folks would be life-changing.

    • Joel

      Newton did enough in his time I think, though it would be fun to see his reaction to quantum physics. I’d take Socrates along with Galileo if I could add an extra one. I think Socrates would be amazed how very little we’d progressed philosophically (if not regressed) while he was away.

  • Florian

    In case he wasn’t mentioned yet, Douglas Adams.

    • Lizzie

      Well crap, I didn’t know he was dead.

  • Beebles

    Abraham Lincoln. Your presidents post convinced me. Guy got a real raw deal and deserves another shot in my opinion.

    • Bruno Braz

      “another shot” is perhaps a bad choice of words.

      • N00less Cluebie

        You, sir, win 1 Internets

      • phil

        hilarious pun though

  • Edward Norman

    Robert Anton Wilson was a breath of fresh air for us whilst he was here, he only left in the last ten years but I’m sure he’d be glad to shepherd us for another 50 odd and we’d all be the wiser for it

    • Joel

      One of my all-time fave writers. Had the great fortune to see him speak once. Nothing could ever be funnier than the Illuminatus trilogy, unless it was the follow-up he did on his own, Schrodinger’s Cat.

  • Sooty Mangabey

    Nikola Tesla. Brilliant & eccentric enough to warrant a fascinating analysis. Well, and possibly also a paradigm shift.

  • Joel

    Galileo. Kim Stanley Robinson already brought the “first scientist” to the modern world and then some, eventually transporting him to the human colonies on the moons of Jupiter a thousand years or so in the future. Galileo’s Dream, great read.

  • Michael

    I don’t think any of the greatly influential minds of the past would be able to adapt to the modern technology era and continue to be effective. Look at people in their 80s on Facebook, struggling with the technology. Now imagine Charles Darwin coming to grips with the TSA on his way to fly off to revisit the Galápagos. None of these folks would fare well without a minder constantly watching after them.

    That being said, I would choose Benjamin Franklin. I didn’t choose Franklin for the good of humanity and all the wonderful contributions he could make to civilization, but just because he’s the historical figure with whom I would most enjoy having a talk over a bit of drink.

  • Albert Einstein

  • MamaSass

    Andy Kaufman.
    First off, it’d be irrefutable proof that he indeed did die and has now risen. He was a comedic trailblazer then, and it’d be fascinating to see how he’d resume that role in comedy moving forward. Are there still boundaries to push? He’d be the one to let us know.

  • Chandrasekhar Kartik

    I do have a login identity but can’t seem to place it.

    I thought long and hard about bringing ” back the Prophet Mohammed” from the dead but it’s a “comme-ci comme-ca” situation.

    The scientists (someone like Norman Borlaug,the father of the GReen Revolution) etc would be a welcome addition to that list,following up from the last article on ASI and nanobots et al.

    But my vote would go to a kid I met once.He was friends with my cousin working as a Duty Manager at a Pizza Hut providing for his alcoholic father,mother dying of cancer and a “special needs” sister.While returning home from work on a cold December night,he was run over by a truck.His insides having been mashed up,he was in coma for several days but never came out.The doctors put it as “his body refused to fight”.My cousin was very saddened for days and even though I didn’t know this young man,I too felt low.

    I don’t know if he could have made humanity any better with his inventions but he surely could have lit up a room or friends with his leery grin and that would have been a start for anyone.

    • C KARTIK

      Sorry,just found my identity.That was me posting this reply.

    • Angela Huang

      Thew, just found my account. The above comment is by me. ^w^

  • sportibus

    Alan Turing
    He’s close enough to our time to get acquainted what happened the last 60 years. Thus, hee could still help advance technology (probably shortly after he came back). He died quite young and sort of deserves a second chance after he finally got that royal pardon.

  • lldemats

    I was going to say Sylvia Plath but she’d probably just off herself immediately after coming back. No, seriously. I’d have to say Charles Darwin, so that he might be able to explain for himself to all the evolution deniers just what he meant, and prove that evolution in their cases can in fact run the other way.

  • Pseudointellectual

    Interestingly all these people have become what they are due their life experiences, I don’t see how they would be in a position to make a difference in todays time [They would be misfit in today’s time]. Even if I bring someone back now, he won’t be good enough for todays time. Imagine Genghis Khan still pursuing his ambitions on the back of the horse, a bloody american kid carrying a gun could easily kill him. I therefore don’t see the point of bringing anyone back to life. He had a purpose in life and he fulfilled it before dying, that was it, that was the reason why he existed in the first place.

  • Matt

    Dunno guys, all this matter of bring back prophets i don’t thinks would be worth it, my opinion is people belive in what they want to believe.

    You bring back Muhammad and if he is:”Guys, you scrwed up the part about Infidels” so de majority of muslims would say “We have told you, ISIS is not the real Islam, the rest of us is peaceful ad Muhammad said”. But the ISIS and all the other party throwers would answer “Muhammad can’t be summoned by a human, he is not our prophet, he is an infidel as well.

    Or if you try to bring back Jesus and:

    -Jesus don’t come back atheist, induists, radical muslims would be “AHA told you Jesus wasn’t real”, Curch instead “Nope, you could bring a PERSON back, Jesus is the word of God made flesh, see? we where right!”
    -Jesus come back and is “Lol guyz you over exaggerated the God matter and quite missed the point of my stories with a moral at the end” the outcome will be the same as the Muhammad scenario.

    (Of course there are other outcomes like bloodthirsty Muhammad or I’m God Jesus but the results would be the same with switched roles).

    Probably new branches of the religion would born following the prophet or real schisms but the people following this new path or already were in disagree with old dogmas or they had strong doubts.

    • Rodrigo Gomes

      Very good point. But it kind of invalidates the whole game. For example, if we bring back Newton, how would people in the academics believe that he is “the” Isaac Newton, and give him opportunity to join any research? Or would people care to listen to the new music of that guy who says he is Mozart?

      Maybe we should have an additional rule: whoever you bring back, automatically the whole mankind believes that he/she is the real person.

      • Matt

        Well even if is more difficult to convince a scientist we brought back newton from the dead rather a christian to belive Jesus is here again this does’t matter too much.

        Let me explain: if we have a moral leader all the succes he have depends on his credibility, his fame expecially if we have dogmatic beliefs, Christ taught us what to do and only him could correct us so he has to prove to be Christ.

        But in the research doesn’t really matter who you are but what you know, even in the case the scientific community never recognize Newton as Newton he will have little difficulty to prove his genius plus the fact we have a great mind that say he is Newton and apparently is identical to the portraits is enough to make headlines probably reciving a lot of private funding and perhaps political pressure, giving him a research position would not be a great deal and I’ll bet a ton of academies to bring visibility would give him honorary degree.

    • Jeff Lewis

      William Lane Craig has said something similar about a time machine, that even if someone went back in time and found Jesus’s corpse rotting in the tomb, it wouldn’t change his faith. While I don’t think all believers are as dogmatic as Craig, there would still be Christianity/Islam even if no Jesus or Mohammed ever existed to be summoned to the future.


      • Matt

        Exactly my point, intresting lecture. Even with a really stronger evidence than “That man is Jesus thrust me” still some would remain firm in their beliefs.
        A prophet back to life would do little more than make atheist vs believers of tath religion fight in TV shows for a while and a coming out of some believers that already had strong doubts.
        Anyway thanks for the article.

  • Carlota Bolado

    Frank Sinatra, of course.

  • achutkrishna

    There is too much change in the political and technological scene to bring back scientists or former presidents and hope that they’ll be relevant today.
    I’d say Mark Twain (Just for his wit. Imagine all the tweets.) or Stieg Larsson, so that he can finish his intended 10 part Millennium series.

  • Dan

    Alan Turing would deserve a nice glimpse of the modern world that evolved from his creation, and for which he received no credit during his life.

    And another candidate for Person Who Should Know How Much Everyone Hates Them Now would be Jimmy Saville, the British mass-pedophile who died loved by all before his dark secret life emerged.

  • Kanishk Saxena

    My choice is Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: the great Qawwali (the devotional music of the Sufis) Maestro from Pakistan. Considered as the greatest voice ever recorded, he possessed an extraordinary range of vocal abilities and could perform at a high level of intensity for several hours. Extending the 600-year old Qawwali tradition of his family, Khan is widely credited with introducing Qawwali music to international audiences. He is popularly known as “Shahenshah-e-Qawwali”, meaning “The King of Kings of Qawwali”.

    I would trade a limb to witness him live at such a concerto: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dXER8elhy0

    This article by Chris Nickson is one of the best I could find as a tribute to the legend (http://www.globalrhythm.net/WorldMusicLegends/NusratFatehAliKhan.cfm)

    There are great singers, and then there are those few voices that transcend time. The late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan could not only transcend time, but also language and religion. There was magic when he opened his mouth, a sense of holy ecstasy that was exciting and emotional. It wasn’t uncommon even for Western listeners, who didn’t understand a word he was singing or follow his Sufi traditions, to be moved to tears upon hearing him.

    Ali Khan, who died in 1997 at the age of 48, was a Qawwali, a singer of devotional music of the Sufi sect of Islam. Trained by his father, the master singer Ustad Fateh Ali Khan, he kept up a 600-year family tradition by taking over leadership of the “party” (the general term for a Qawwali group, comprising singer, harmonium and tablas) in 1971, following recurring dreams that he was singing at the Muslim shrine of Hazratja Khawaja Moid-Ud-Din Christie in Ajmer, India (which he would eventually do).

    In his improvisations, his voice would soar skyward to heaven, carrying his audience with him. While the core of his work and his life was the Sufi texts, the mystic holy poetry of the spirit, Ali Khan didn’t limit himself to that in his career. He was happy to sing the love poems known asghazals, to perform vocal exercises, and even lend his talents to Bollywood and Hollywood, to range into ambient and dance music. But none of it was at the expense of his soul.

    Throughout the ’70s and early ’80s he released literally hundreds of cassettes—trying to make order of his entire discography would be a nightmare—and his reputation grew, not only in his native Pakistan, but also internationally. The year 1985 proved to be the turning point for him, as he appeared not only at the WOMAD festival in England, but also had his performances in France recorded for an epic five-CD set that perfectly illustrated the qualities of his art. The songs stretched out, allowing Ali Khan to show his genius for extemporization, turning a sound, word or phrase over and over, examining it, flying with it, before releasing it and moving to another, using them all as enlightenment for the soul, a prayer and devotion. At his best, and his best seemed to occur often, he was like a bird, swooping and rising, his voice as free as the sky.

    • Marcus

      Bring back Khan? Captain Kirk does not approve!

  • i saw the potato

    jimmy hendrix.

    i mean, sure tesla or da vinci would help out more, caesar or alexander the great would be far more impactful and so on, but unlike all the rest jimmy handrix didn’t give all he had to give.
    he had more, more on the inside he needed to get out. newton had a good run, just like the rest of them, and had played his hand. jimmy needs more time…

    i saw the potato!

  • SRT

    Srinivasa Ramanujan. He lived just till 32 and died of malnourishment. Yet the amount he contributed to mathematics and science is monumental. All without any kind of formal training. He derived almost all of mathematics by himself. Isaac Newton would be good, but he lived a full life, contributing to many fields. If there is one person who I think died too early, it is Ramanujan. He would be a boon to mankind.

  • tomamitai

    I guess I’m just too cynical, because I can’t help thinking that even the noblest, most admired heroes of the past would eventually prove themselves to be jerks or nut jobs if given the chance. Take Newton, your candidate for re-animation. Maybe he’d look at the current state of knowledge in the field of physics and come up with some brilliant insight, or maybe he decides that he gave up too soon on his occult studies and moves to a compound in the desert to wait for doomsday in 2060, or he talks James Cameron into funding an expedition to find Atlantis. As for bringing back a musician, don’t most of them exhaust their creativity fairly quickly and spend the rest of their careers getting pissed at fans who scream out the names of their hits when they try out new material in concert? “Screw that new crap, Wolfie, we came to hear The Magic Flute!”

  • WW

    Galois because he died at age 20 in a duel, and by 20, he had already contributed so much to mathematics.

  • Jeff Lewis

    Nobody. Can you imagine the shock of waking up yourself 1000 years from now, with all your family, friends, and other loved ones dead, with no hope of ever seeing them again? It would just be too cruel to that person. And I don’t think there’s any single individual who would be so valuable to humanity that it would justify treating them that way. Even with as much of a genius as Newton was, Leibniz discovered/invented calculus right around the same time, and I can’t imagine that it would have been too much longer before other people made his other discoveries had he never been around.

    There’s also the issue that the only way to bring someone back is to create a clone (sci-fi clone, not just genetic clone). So you’re building a person with false memories, tricking them into thinking that they were this famous person, instead of letting them live their own lives and learn from their own experiences. This also goes against your vengeance bullet, since you wouldn’t really be punishing Hitler, but a clone of Hitler who didn’t actually commit any crimes.

    • N00less Cluebie

      I wouldn’t mind waking up 1000 years from now, even with no family, friends and other loved ones. For the brief chance to experience life again? A brand new opportunity in a strange new world? Sign me up.

      • Jeff Lewis

        But would you be willing to make that decision for someone else? I don’t think I’d want to do it, realizing that I’d never again see my wife or daughter. Unless someone left specific instructions (and who would ever do such a thing), I wouldn’t want to risk awakening someone who didn’t want it.

        And on top of the loss of loved ones, imagine the culture shock. I know 25 year olds are still fairly resilient and adaptable, but imagine awakening someone who just took it for granted that women were inferior to men and didn’t deserve the same rights, because that’s just how they were raised. After a few years they might come around to the modern viewpoint, but they’d be poised for a lot of ridicule along the way, and would probably have to do some serious soul searching to change their beliefs.

        • marcex

          But what if we wake up someone who we know has a curious mind, and would love to see what is the world like hundreds of years after his death? Or values the pursuit of science or art above anything else? For a person like that, the resurrection can only be a gift. Also, for example for Einstein, the culture shock wouldn’t be that devastating, except for the internet and some other surprising things, I don’t think he couldn’t take it.

          • marcex

            What I mean is, that you are obviously think very emotionally (which is not bad) and you suppose the same about other people. I care about my loved ones, but everyone has their time, from the moment I met them I know they are mortal. I wouldn’t pass a chance to continue being an artist for another sixty years for this reason, and I could bet my neck that 10/10 great artists or scientists would feel the same.

            • Jeff Lewis

              I think you’re making a big leap in thinking that 10/10 great scientists would definitely feel the same way. Take Darwin, for example, one of the greatest scientists of the past two centuries. He was hugely affected by the death of his daughter, Annie. To quote an NPR article,”Darwin was so overcome with grief that he could not go to her burial…” In fact, there’s a lot of conjecture that he waited so long to publish his theory because he feared how it would affect his very religious wife (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=100597929 ). And if he was willing to postpone publishing one of the most important scientific theories of all time out of respect for his wife’s feelings, do you really think he’d want to be awakened in a world without her? I don’t know. Maybe he would, and I’d be willing to bet that there are a fair number of people who wouldn’t mind, or would even want to be ‘resurrected’, but I’d also bet that a large number of people wouldn’t want it, and I’m not willing to risk resurrecting somebody against their wishes without them having first said that they’d want it. And going back even further to ancient geniuses, our knowledge of them is more legendary than anything else, so we really have practically no idea how they would feel.

          • Jeff Lewis

            “someone who we know has a curious mind, and would love to see what is the world like hundreds of years after his death”

            Actually, we had a similar conversation over the breakfast table the other day, but with time machines, not resurrection (my nerdiness rubs off on my family). I would love to travel back in time to answer my questions about the past, or see ancient creatures like quetzalcoatlus (just imagine watching one of them take off). But as far as traveling into the future, I’d only want to go one way. I wouldn’t want to go into the future and then come back again, because then I’d feel like I had no control at all over what was going to happen, and that the future was predestined (and if we live in a deterministic world, maybe it is, but I still like living with the illusion of control, or at least no knowing exactly what the future holds). But the only way I would travel one way into the future is if my family came along with me, because I couldn’t bear to abandon them.

            I guess the short answer is that I am one of the people that fits that first part of your description, but it doesn’t translate into the rest of your description.

        • Guest

          What I mean is, that you are obviously think very emotionally (which is not bad) and you suppose the same about other people. I care about my loved ones, but everyone has their time, from the moment I met them I know they are mortal. I wouldn’t pass a chance to continue being an artist for another sixty years for this reason, and I could bet my neck that 10/10 great artists and scientists would feel the same.

    • wobster109

      Would you be cruel to one person and make them lonely for 60 years if doing so would save millions of others? How about 100 others?

      • Jeff Lewis

        It depends very much on the exact circumstances, but in general – no, and neither would most modern people, because we value individual freedom too highly. If we didn’t, we could justify, for example, human medical experimentation, because the suffering of those few people would benefit humanity as a whole. Sure, there are certain costs to living in society (taxes, jury duty), but not intentional cruelty or suffering.

        In this exact circumstance, I definitely don’t see it as justifiable, because it’s so hard to separate out the genius of people vs. the circumstances of them being in the right place at the right time. As others have pointed out in other comments, there’s no guarantee that bringing back Newton would guarantee progress in physics. He might decide this time around to focus on the occult.

        Add in how much bigger the population is now, and it hardly seems worth ‘resurrecting’ people to bring back past geniuses. Part of the reason Newton stood out as such a genius (apart from his actual genius), is that there were less people around at the time to compare him to. In 1700, the world population was around 600,000,000 people. Even if you round up and say Newton was 1 in 1,000,000,000, there’s probably at least 1 Newton alive right now in China, another in India, another in Africa, and another somewhere in Europe or North America. Why potentially cause suffering to Newton when several of his intellectual equivalents are probably alive right now?

        • Adam

          You are perfectly entitled to your own opinion, and I’m not going to argue with that, but as for “we don’t experiment on humans”, well… we experiment on lots of organisms, to varying extents.

          Before a new drug (treatment for absolutely anything) is prescribed to everyone, it goes through a series of trials. They will be tested on cells – I’m sure most people are fine with this. Living cells don’t feel pain, do they? But then they’re tested on non-human animals. Okay, fair enough. Less consciousness = less pain, and it’s for a good reason, right? Then we test on humans.

          This is all fair enough. You can’t prescribe something potentially very dangerous to masses without having tested it on individual humans first. “For the greater good” can often be seen as an evil concept, but it’s not always like that, is it?

          I would say screw Newton’s quality of life. If he can do some good to the world, that outweighs any potential risks. You disagreeing is fair enough. But to some extent, you have to bear in mind that hurting one person could help another, or even many more.

          • Jeff Lewis

            Yeah, ethics and morality are messy, with lots of gradients without clear boundaries. Animal testing is one I struggle with a lot. Fortunately, ethical oversight is a lot better than it used to be, so even in studies where animals are going to be harmed, researchers have to at least minimize the pain.

            Human testing is voluntary. Anybody who wants to participate in a scientific study, whether it’s a drug trial or a psychological study or even the phone interview I got called for last week, has to give informed consent. And that’s pretty much my problem with ‘resurrecting’ a historical figure – there is no informed consent.

            Resurrecting a figure like Newton, without consent, to me seems as extreme as dictating people’s profession based on aptitude testing. You want to be a musician? Tough shit, your’re good at math and would be much more valuable to society as an engineer. You already lived a full life and were prepared for eternal slumber? Tough shit, we’re bringing you back so that you can work to solve all our modern day problems. People do have responsibilities and obligations to their communities, but go too far and you’re in a totalitarian society.

  • Sampietri

    I would be selfish, I would bring back my eternal platonic love Ava Gardner, take her to a beatiful uninhabited caribbean island and share with her the lost esoteric art of procreate beautiful children. Oh, that would be nice!

  • M.B.

    I’d go for a genius like Nicola Tesla or Einstein. Tesla was far ahead of his time.. imagine what a great mind like that could accomplish in modern time over 5-6 decades? And einstein, working along the greatest minds of the current day?

    They would by far be able to contribute the most to the progression of mankind.. assumably I wouldn’t choose a musician or artist – not saying forms of arts are not important for the progression of mankind, but imo just not AS important. Besides.. some ancient musicians have a legendary status because they are dead, or died too young. Not sure if bringing back an Elvis Presley or Sinatra would be that great..

  • Jacob Nestle

    Benjamin Franklin. He was such a cool guy and way ahead of his time; it would be lovely to see his reaction to the current state of politics.
    He’s also my role model.

    There’s my mildly selfish choice.

  • newseries864962

    Samuel Clemens

  • Anthony Churko

    Choosing Jesus would be stupid. It would settle absolutely nothing, because no matter what, he wouldn’t come back.

    If the atheists are right, then Jesus wouldn’t come back because he didn’t exist.

    If the Christians are right, then Jesus wouldn’t come back because he already came back at the Resurrection. So in either case, Jesus wouldn’t come back, and both sides would just bicker about why.

    There is a third possibility which is that Jesus existed, but all the stuff about miracles and his rising from the dead were made up later on. After all, Buddha had miracles attributed to him centuries after his death. Except that unlike Buddha, the stories about Jesus’ divinity are as old as any of the other stories about him. In fact, it’s because of his divinity that the New Testament writers felt compelled to write about him in the first place. So if they were made up, then Jesus is largely fictional. The character of Jesus may have been loosely based on an actual guy who in reality was nothing like the Jesus in the Bible (and his name wasn’t actually Jesus), but every fictional character is loosely based on someone. That would make Jesus no more real than Hercules or Sherlock Holmes. So even then, he probably wouldn’t come back.

    • Anthony Churko

      I’ll give an example to illustrate my point.

      Let’s say that I wanted to bring Hamlet back from the dead. You could object and say that nothing would happen, because Hamlet is a fictional character.

      But what if Shakespeare based the character Hamlet off of someone who he personally knew? Let’s say that Shakespeare had a friend named Spamlet. Spamlet may or may not have been a prince, but he had the same sort of emo attitude and said that same sorts of things that the character Hamlet said. So when Shakespeare wrote the play, he imagined what Spamlet might say or do in a given situation and created the character accordingly. Spamlet probably said some of the actual things that were attributed to Hamlet in the play.

      Would Spamlet appear if I asked to bring back Hamlet?

      If so, then what would happen if I chose a composite character who was loosely based on several different people. And if not, then why would some regular dude named Yeshua appear if I wanted to bring back Jesus?

      • Jeff Lewis

        Just to add a couple more examples – if you asked for King Arthur, would you get the guy mentioned in the Artognou stone (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artognou_stone), some small time king before Cnut united England, or nobody at all? Or what about Robin Hood – would you get the Earl of Huntington, Robert Loxley, Robert Hood of Wakefield, somebody else, or nobody again?

        • Anthony Churko

          Or all of them?

          Good examples.

    • hm, even though i’m myself an atheist i always thought of jesus as being a real person without all the miracle stuff. that’s probably just me – i know VERY little about religion.

  • Kingfisher12

    Sir Isaac Newton is a good choice. Benjamin Franklin would be another great one. Or perhaps an artist like Leonardo Da Vinci, J.S. Bach, or W.A. Mozart. In addition to Abraham Lincoln, some other assassinated leaders of surviving movements would be nice, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Siyyid ‘Ali Muhammad Shirazi, or Joseph Smith.

    • lancealot

      da vinci! as steve martin said, leonardo did everything. probably the greatest polymath of all.

  • Jordan TheJust

    It’s a selfish choice, but I’d pick Freddie Mercury. He died before his time, and was the ultimate entertainer.

    • Iris Stephen

      I was about to go for him (for equally selfish reasons) or Frank Zappa. I missed out on a chance to see either of them perform.

  • Randy Fuss

    Terrence McKenna. He wouldn’t miss a beat (died in 2000) and perhaps we could actually LISTEN to him this time around if we want a viable shot at long-term continuation of the human enterprise.

  • noneofyourbuisness


  • Anne

    I have yet to see Democritus. Considering what his world believed at the time I am awed by his conclusion that the world must be comprised of very small units he called ‘atoms’. I do not think he would take seriously the time we waste arguing about our ‘beliefs’ in our present world but I don’t think he could be stopped in terms of learning what we know through our tools and I would love to find out what kind of conclusions he might arrive at. Despite the fact that he had a mentor in his time I believe he was an original thinker. And anybody who mentioned Aristotle should know that the writings of Democritus did not survive and we only know of his existence through the writings of Aristotle who thought Democritus was wrong. So much for logic. The ultimate would be put Democritus in the same place with another totally original thinker, Alan Turing. What would we get when we combine the building blocks of the Universe with the building blocks of virtual technology? I might faint.

  • Kate

    Vincent Van Gogh (because I just rewatched that episode of Doctor Who). I would do whatever it took to make him better and stay alive longer so that he could enjoy more life and paint more beauty. I would want him to realize how important he was and how loved his art is–that he actually succeeded.

  • RickyRob

    Ben Franklin. I think he would adapt to modern times very quickly, and be a voice of reason that this world so desperately needs.

    • Bill Warren

      I believe he would REALLY like the Philly sports scene too!

  • DrSuess

    (I was initially going to go with Newton, but curse you Tim for getting him first!!)

    Nicolaus deserves to come back and see that not only was he right, he was REALLY right… the church retracted and EVERYONE knows unfairly he was treated.

    I want to put him in front of all of the Hubble images and let him see what is out there.

    Also… in terms of having future relevance, he was quite a bit of a polymath and would definitely have something to contribute once he got acclimated to our time and technology.
    Obviously, as a guy not afraid to stand up to the powers that be… he might, once again, shake the status quo.

    Plus… hair styling technology has come a looooong way since 1525. The man deserves a decent trim and style. A little product wouldn’t hurt, either!

  • Hankun Zhong

    Very interesting that there hasn’t been many (if any) mentions of Einstein in the comments. I would love to see if he can come up with a unified theory of physics that reconciles quantum mechanics and relativity. While he was alive, he actively rejected quantum theory (you remember his famous quote: God does not play with dice). With the general consensus acceptance of the validity of quantum mechanics, I wonder how he would react to that. Einstein spent the latter half of his life trying to answer this question, and was still trying even on his deathbed, so a second chance for one of the most brilliant minds to have ever existed seem appropriate.

  • Elias Kawas

    My somewhat selfish pick: Carl Sagan.
    He would be extremely well equipped to adapt to the technological advancements of modern society.
    His ability to make science relatable and fascinating to the public interest would be an incredible asset in the future advancement of mankind.
    And selfishly, I just want to hear his unique voice explain even more of the myriad wonders of the universe.

  • itsmgc

    I would bring back Mahatma Gandhi and see what he makes of the violent terrorists. His non-violent methods were effective against the cultured English. How would he deal with terrorists who are inhumane and worst than animals to say the least.

    • Scott Pedersen

      I don’t know how Gandhi would react to ISIS. We do know, however, how he reacted to Nazi Germany, and copies of his letter to Hitler are available online.

  • Probably Not

    1. Jesus. 2. Darwin. 3. Gandhi.

  • Jim Mooney

    Ronald Reagan – so I could correct Hinckley’s error and use a bigger bullet.
    My fave Reagan joke: Name the three best things about Ronald Reagan – He’s dead. He’s dead. He’s dead.

    Or maybe Jesus to tell him I have the answer to his stumper, “What is truth?” – Truth is what is left when all the lies are taken away.

    Newton could tell us all about Astrology, Prophecy, and Magick, in which he had a great interest ;’)

    • Anthony Churko

      You should read books before you quote them. “What is truth?” was asked rhetorically by Pontius Pilate to dismiss Jesus.

    • jasvisp

      Wow, just wow,….and not in a good way!

  • Al White

    Arthur C Clarke. He is one of the most inspirational minds I know.

  • Peter Gaber

    Rembrandt. I couldn’t wait to see how and what he would paint today.

  • lancealot

    c’mon! da vinci. leonardo was the singular, rockstar, do it all, super creative, everything.

  • bunnyparsnips

    André the Giant

  • Bill Warren

    Bob Marley

  • Doug Baker

    Jerry garcia

  • penguin

    OK so I am econ guy, (Austrian).. I think Milton Friedman was one of the most dynamic and charismatic speakers in the field of econ. He was extremely sharp even into his 90’s.. Yes, he died only 9 years ago, but he was making contributions till the end. He is known for ending things like the US draft, and overhauling Estonia’s and Chile’s respective economies.


  • M69att

    I’m going for Nelson Mandela. He was a true statesman and was instrumental in great changes in the 20th century. His work included the Truth and Reconciliation commission and I think he had huge compassion and a great heart. Also, because he died relatively recently, he would still understand what’s going on and still command respect from the international political elite. I think a young healthy Mandela with 60 years ahead of him, a reputation that is hard to dismiss and the accumulated wisdom of the life he lived could be a powerful force for positive global change.

  • Gabi

    Most definitely not a man. Maybe Benazir Bhutto. Or Rosalind Franklin. Marie Curie. Rosa Parks. Jeanne d’Arc.

  • Scott Pedersen

    The problem with bringing back a lot of the obvious choices of famous people is that you have no idea whether or not they’d continue their previous greatness. Maybe Mozart would spend his second go at life composing mediocre Norwegian black metal. Maybe Newton would spend all his time writing long diatribes about the supposed perfidy of Leibniz. You don’t have to look far to find examples of how bringing back beloved things from the past could go wrong (see Hollywood resurrecting 80’s cartoons).

    If your criteria is benefit to humanity, I’d go with Norman Borlaug. A track record of saving over a billion people from starvation can’t be beat. If your criteria is pure unadulterated awesome, I’d go with Joshua Abraham Norton, by the grace of God, Emperor of these United States and Protector of Mexico.

    For my final answer, I think I’d go with Hegelochus. He was the lead actor in Euripides’ play Orestes. He flubbed one of his lines. Instead of saying “after the storm I see again a calm sea” he said “after the storm I see again a weasel” which is apparently an easy mispronunciation to make in ancient Greek. He was mocked for this mercilessly. In fact, this mockery is the only reason we know he even existed 2,423 years ago. To be remembered thousands of years after your death, but to only be remembered for that one stupid little slip of the tongue that made up the most embarrassing moment in your entire life… Well, I just feel someone like that deserves another chance.

  • Bradley

    My choice, who I believe scores high on many counts outside of stardom, would be John Von Neumann. An incredible mind that was considered one of the greatest in its day.

    This choice is motivated by a few major factors including the fact that he died relatively recently and that he worked in three fields (mathematics, applied mathematics, physics) that have been completely revolutionized by the advent of computers and the increase in computing power. These two factors combined indicate that his hypothetical findings in his new life could have dramatic and immediate effects on the world as we know it. (Also note that since he was one of the greats of computing in its early days he would be in a unique position to fully utilize the computing power of the present.)

    Not to mention that, from what I know about him, he was grossly prolific life and incredibly enthusiastic in his working which could mean he’d be likely to continue with his incredible discoveries in his next life.

    • Von Neumann gets my vote, too. He only lived to be 53, and in that short life he put quantum mechanics on a solid mathematical foundation, tackled hydrodynamics and fluid mechanics problems that had others screaming in terror, made fundamental contributions to a host of mathematical disciplines, invented game theory, and helped to create the stored program computer architecture.

      Von Neumann thrived on complexity, and we certainly have enough of that to go around these days. I suspect that a mind that loved to make ambiguous concepts rigorous would have quite a bit to contribute today.

      Runner-up: Leonhard Euler.

  • Nitin Rathod

    I would bring back one of the rishi’s from India’s rich and cultural Vedic period! They possessed great knowledge about almost everything and their philosophy was mind blowing!
    Would love to know what inspired such knowledge at a relatively primitive stage of human evolution and they are also known to posses the secret of all existence!

  • Jill

    I’d be completely selfish and say Walt Disney. Why? Because I’m an animator and story artist and I’d want him to teach me. 😛 He might Ignore me all together though and head back to Disney the company who by now pretty much own the world of entertainment. (for those who didn’t know Disney own Pixar, the Muppets, Star Wars and Marvel just to name a few)
    Then again I might pick Freddy Moore instead since the man himself wasn’t all that much of an animator himself rather than a brilliant talent scout and business man.

    • caboose56

      another great animator is Monty Oum

  • The Great Snapovski

    After reading about this subject for quite a bit, I have become convinced that the single biggest challenge and threat in our lifetime is the changing climate (you know, global warming and such). For that, but for many other reasons as well, I think it would be a huge waste of the opportunity to pick an entertainer (as much as I’d love to hear Jimi Hendrix play live).

    To solve this ominous, really quite scary and imminent planetary catastrophe (no, I actually don’t think I am exaggerating), we would need to bring someone back who has the power and charisma to unify all (industrial) nations and, importantly, be able to withstand the huge backlash from the neo-liberal, free-trade, global capitalism-loving cronies (and rulers of the world), to create a sustainable, fair and free global society – while s/he’s at it…

    Maybe Jesus could do it? Or the Buddha? To be honest, I am not so sure. I am sure that this is what we need, and not Mozart or Abe Lincoln (I think it’s so US-centric to think that non-USAmericans would care about him being back). If anyone has better suggestions, I would love to hear them!

  • Andrew B.

    I think Andy Gibb is the obvious choice.

  • Matt

    My plan would require some genealogic researches but I probably would bring back a person like Carl V or Philip II of Spain, they had both a lot of territories under their command, like Philip who seems (with a rapid look to wikipedia) the rightful ruler of England, Netherlands, Spain and other countries.

    Region that now declared republic i think delegitimated monarchy but reigns like the 3 above would have a tough job to find out the rightful ruler if i bring back the old king.

    Mah, perhaps with a good lawyer…

    • caboose56

      Quick question is Carl V the same person as Charles V just under a different name? (Charles V being Phillips dad and had more land than Phillip because he gave the HRE to his brother Ferdinand.)

      • Matt

        Huh yes. I messed up with translations. And I even bothered to check on Wikipedia but then forgot to correct while searching for random facts.

        Anyway I don’t know if Charles V would be a good pick as he abdicated. Didn’t realized Philip was his son even if not so often England and Spain were under the same crown, good to know, still my first choice for now.
        Thanks for the correction.

  • Jerome

    I would bring back whoever I was in my last incarnation. I’m sure we would have lots of talk about.

    Now I don’t want to violate the rules and I’m fairly certain that I didn’t. I never knew this person personally and this person is not a parent, sibling, child or spouse. 🙂

    • tomatotomato

      he might not exist tho

      • Jerome

        Yes, he might not exist but at least I would know that.

  • sabs546

    Well lets see
    Jesus would answer loads of questions
    Muhammed (pbuh) would answer loads of
    Any prophet would but those are a sort of alpha

    And the scientific side of things
    Albert Einstein whilst he did pretty much contribute a ludicrous amount to modern science and physics, I think he’s been enough of a science fiction killjoy already but it would be cool to know his last
    Don’t know enough about Newton to say anything

    in terms of technology
    No question about it Steve Jobs
    He’s innovated so much
    Technologies innovators in general are based in a time when technology was primitive so they wouldn’t be of much use now

    A caveman would be epic and would teach historians, geologists, paleontologists and other people in that area about the world back then which would be cool but wouldn’t exactly advance civilisation
    and bringing back a president only helps America so rule that out

    I would go with Steve Jobs
    Save apple
    Innovate technology
    Move humanity forward in terms of revolutionising technology as he goes
    Try not to take all the credit this time… Etc,he’s just really useful
    Alongside any prophet since… You know their miracles and all will answer the big question of if god exists and if religion is the right way to go about this

    Wouldn’t be right to bring back a holy figure thoughthough
    Its like cheating and it’s also most likely not what good wants
    So yeah Jobs for me

  • Jeff Lewis

    Someone from the Paleolithic period, before the agricultural revolution and before human brains shrank to their modern size. Even if they’d have too much culture shock to be productive, their kids would be geniuses. (not really, though – see my comments below)

  • Jessica Rene Gonzalez

    I really like the idea of bringing back Carl Sagan. I think he was a dream of a human being and would be able to continue doing so much for our world.
    That being said, I wish I could think of more awesome women to bring back. It’s really disappointing to me that I can’t think of any (from ignorance, not from not knowing one worthy enough) and apparently not many others can either (since I see mostly men listed). I am now going to take this opportunity to educate myself on bad ass women in history.

    • Jessica Rene Gonzalez

      Oh, and Alan Turing is a great idea too. I wonder if there are so many suggestions for him currently because of The Imitation Game.

      • Sampietri

        Of course, before that a lot of people not even knew of his existence.

    • I was going to suggest Sagan as well. Everytime there’s a big discovery or event (like the 67P comet landing) I can’t help but think to my self, “Man, Carl Sagan would have loved this.” On the other hand, I think he would be really disappointed by the current state of US space exploration (lack of funding, no manned program, etc) and by the general lack of vision and great ignorance in the general public. What would he say if he saw creationists still at large?

  • Sampietri

    On second thought: it would be Lazarus, he deserves one more chance.

    • Jerome

      He really would be the best choice ethically. He’s the only one with experience.

  • tavo

    Christopher Hitchens. We lost a big contratian when he died. And no one is as articulate and witty when dealing with subjects like Islam, the rise of feminism, secularism and many, many others.

  • goat


    • I was supposed to see him in concert right around the time he died. I would love to see that show.

  • N00less Cluebie

    Finally made my choice:

    Isaac Asimov. In his 72 years of life he wrote or edited over 500 books. Not just SciFi but also at least one book in every major category of the Dewey Decimal system. Unlike some other choices, I’m fairly confident he’d be happy to be brought back.

    Either that or wait for Terry Prattchett to pass on and then bring him back without any of that early onset Alzheimer’s….

  • Jimmy Cooper

    Tesla. After a one week diversity training he would be ready to work with Musk to take us to the future.

  • Ohjay

    Tempted to say Jesus on the off 1% chance he really was divine. Curing sick people and turning water to alcohol would be nice. More realistically I’d pick a genius like Tesla or Einstein.

    • Cristian Guerra

      If you try to bring back a person who may or may not have actually existed, you risk losing the opportunity.


      • Ohjay

        Jesus existed that isn’t a question.

        • Cristian Guerra

          There are some who disagree. They could be right, or they could be wrong, the same as you. Be opened to all the possibilities 🙂

          • Adam

            “There are some who disagree” – You can say this about just about anything. The Earth is over 6,000 years old. Gravity is real. WBW is amazing. I can say with almost unwavering confidence that all of these are true, but there are still those who might disagree.

            However, you can argue that two things matter about people disagreeing: (1) the number of people and (2) the overall consensus with experts in the subject. I think it’s safe to say that (a) most people in the world and (b) most relevant historians agree that Jesus existed.

            • Jeff Lewis

              While I’d normally agree that expert consensus is a good rule of thumb for figuring out what’s true, I think in this case there’s a lot of bias and inertia that make it a little tougher to call. Since so much of the study around Jesus, especially in the past, has been done by Christians, it was just taken as a given by most of them that Jesus existed, and this assumption has carried over to the present. Personally, I’m agnostic on there being a historical Jesus, but reading some of the things from Richard Carrier certainly make the mythical hypothesis seem plausible.


            • Also, muslims believe Jesus to be a muslim messenger of God.

            • Joseph Smeall

              lol yes

            • I agree, but there is no such thing as fact.

            • Joseph Smeall

              Lol yes

  • Marybeth

    MLK, Jr is my top pick.
    George Plimpton is a close 2nd.

  • Tianna Kelly

    Definitely Dr. King, to help get this country on the right track.

  • DeeDee Massey

    I’d exploit some loopholes in the rules. Who wants to collude with me to resurrect each others’ loved ones? Or better yet, what’s my choice worth to ya? 🙂

    Imagine if you were a person chosen for resurrection and found out why you were brought back. You would probably want it to be for a really good reason, and not just because mankind was too bored/stupid/vindictive/curious/lost to figure things out on its own and produce adequate leaders/artists/thinkers. I mean, most of us react to being bothered during dinner or awakened from a nap with “This better be friggin’ important.”

    Then suppose that they brought you back because they thought you were awesome at something but in reality you don’t live up to your legend. Maybe you had been given credit for someone else’s work, or it was a fluke, or it was simply something that anyone with comparable aptitude and circumstances would have been able to accomplish. In any case, you eventually realize that they didn’t bring you back because of their love or value for you, but out of the selfish need to compensate their own perceived failings that they had the power to change all along.

    The biggest thing they could learn from you is “What is The Afterlife like.” And you could just answer, “You’ll just have to wait and find out yourself.”

    OK, but if I HAD to pick someone: Amelia Earhart. I think she would continue to be not only an inspiring woman in general, but also a huge icon in aviation and perhaps some mysteries could be solved.

  • thebx2


  • Unai Arabaolaza Fernández

    I´ll just say this: If you could bring Évariste Galois to life at the age of 25, he would still have missed 5 whole years of his life, since he died aged 20 (Considering that he BLASTED his time´s -and modern- maths in his 15-20 period, that 5 year gap would be too much of a loss). He was a genius good-looking atheist, anti-monarchic rebel french badass motherfucker, wich makes him a solid pick because he would probably adapt to our time. Also he died in a duel… pretty rad, ain´t it?

    • Shaltiel Quack

      After I read your answer I knew I couldn’t come up with someone better. Galois has the potential to deliver on so many aspects…

  • Moses Skoda

    Taking into account the Flynn effect, I’m worried Isaac Newton would be a literal imbecile by today’s standards.

    Bringing back Jesus would probably cause a surge in religiosity and we can’t get rid of that mind-plague soon enough.

    Tesla or Einstein might be willing to disclose the discoveries and inventions they took to the grave. That’d be sweet. If I remember correctly (might be a hoax), Einstein destroyed some of his notes before his death, saying that humanity is not ready for his discoveries.

    Apart from those two, a good choice could be someone who was extremely talented but died very young by no fault of their own. Mozart, Buddy Holly… Must’ve been more of those.

    But I’d go with Tesla. (Scientific progress is more important than arts.)

    Also, Tim, I’m surprised that a person who recognizes Christopher Columbus for the dick he was despite the universal public idolization thinks Abe Lincoln “did the country a solid.” A man who sacrificed 500,000 American lives so that he could trample over the states’ constitutional right to secede.

    • James

      If you tried to bring back Jesus, but he didn’t appear, it would mean he didn’t exist and thus prove Christianity false once in for all. On the other hand, if he comes back alive and is anything close to the Jesus described in the Bible, it would prove you’re wrong and Christianity isn’t a simple “mind-plague”. Giving you no choice but to believe in him, as he’s in front of your very eyes. Interesting to think about

      • Jeff Lewis

        There’s a lot of discussion about this below, and I’ll echo something I already said. When theologians like William Lane Craig say that even going back in a time machine and finding Jesus’s body in the tomb (i.e. not resurrected) wouldn’t shake their faith, I don’t think Jesus not appearing because of some human invention would shake many people’s faith. They’d probably chalk it up to not being able to control God. The interesting thing would be if there really was a historical figure that Jesus is based on, and we got to see what that person was like (though I doubt even that would completely do away with Christianity).

    • B Mackenzie

      The states have no constitutional right to secede as decided by the Supreme Court in Texas v. White (1869). “The Union of the States never was a purely artificial and arbitrary relation. It began among the Colonies, and grew out of common origin, mutual sympathies, kindred principles, similar interests, and geographical relations. It was confirmed and strengthened by the necessities of war, and received definite form and character and sanction from the Articles of Confederation. By these, the Union was solemnly declared to ‘be perpetual.’ And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained ‘to form a more perfect Union.’ It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not?”

  • Horemheb

    Obviously we should bring back Pierre de Fermat and his stupid proof that was too large to fit in the stupid margin.

    • Chiel Wieringa

      You know it’s been proven right? But still, I agree 🙂 Would have loved to hear his reaction about the fact it took “humanity” (mathematicians after him) 357 years to reproduce his proof (if he had it). And would absolutely love it if his proof was only about 5 pages or something which turned out correct. (we now have a >100 page proof)

  • Mike

    I’m surprised the person who brought about so many innovations in more categories is hardly mentioned….Michaelangelo. Science and the arts.

    But my choice would be Jesus. That would profoundly settle many issues and knowledge gaps in the world affecting billions of people.

    • I iz a person.

      It would also bring about the end of the world if the Bible is to be believed.

      • Jeff Lewis

        That’s a pretty big if.

    • Oh, yes, yes. That is something I haven’t thought of. I would definitely pick Jesus. That would greatly effect the two major world religions: Christianity and Islam. One would for sure dissolve into the other. Why I’m saying this is because in Islam, Muslims believe that Jesus was a muslim messenger of God. In christianity they believe that He is the god/son of God.

      • Joseph Smeall

        Lol yes

  • Frank Hf

    Christopher Eric Hitchens. His death was a great loss to mankind. A 25 year old Hitch would be an unstoppable force for atheism. Even ignoring that, he was a brilliant mind, an prolific writer and a man of epic convictions. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go watch some stuff on Youtube.

    I hate that I can’t write any kind of inspiring text. But I will quote Dawkins:

    “I hadn’t met Hitchens before, but I got an idea of what to expect when Grayling emailed me to discuss tactics. After proposing a couple of lines for himself and me, he concluded, “. . . and Hitch will spray AK47 ammo at the enemy in characteristic style”.

    And to answer all those who want technical minds back: I am an engineer. I usually “hate” the humanities. But someone who can change the mentality of a lot of people and make them use their mental faculties would benefit a lot more in the long run.

    “The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.”
    ― Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian

    • hoolearn

      Why bring back an atheist over a doctor, scientist, or artist? I used to be an atheist and then one day I realized how stuck up my own a$$ I was. This is not to say I believe in God, nor am I part of any formal religion. Atheists are some of the most narrow minded people on this planet. The answer is not necessarily God or No God. There is an endless spectrum, things that we cannot even imagine that are probably relevant. I for one believe myself to be like an ant. I am capable of only knowing so much, but the things that ‘exist’ if I could comprehend them would blow my mind.

      • chet_von_wilson

        Well, no matter who was brought back, we would know instantly whether or not there is an afterlife.

      • Jeff Lewis

        I agree that I wouldn’t bring Hitchens back over someone a little more useful (in fact, I don’t think I’d bring anyone back for reasons discussed in other comments below), but your comment strikes me a little bit like this XKCD comic: http://xkcd.com/774/

        Of course there are things beyond our comprehension, even ‘simple’ facts like trying to understand the shear scale of the universe. But, we do our best to understand things and try to come to some tentative conclusions about the universe. If one of those conclusions is that this human concept of gods seems to be no more than mythology, why does that make you close minded? I don’t believe in fairies, either, but I’ve only rarely been called close minded for that lack of belief. What makes this one mythological belief in gods so special out of all the myriad beliefs people have come up with?

        BTW, I responded to another of your comments further up. I’m not saying there aren’t things in the universe we’d have a hard time understanding, or even that there couldn’t be beings with vast powers (a la Star Trek V). I’m just saying that the traditional concept of a god seems very unlikely to be true.

  • Fred JB Gomes

    Of course I’ll wait for George RR Martin. Man, I want to finish those books. If I can’t wait, I would bring Jack “The King” Kirby.

    • Iris Stephen

      Good thinking.

  • Jen in VT

    I find it odd and disturbing that about 0 of the suggestions so far are female. Really? Have women added nothing to the species? Hmmm. Mary Magdalene, Marie Curie, Ada Lovelace, Joan of Arc, Sappho. Just starting the list with a short rant…

    • Christine O’Donnell

      Funny you should say that. I was right about to write Virginia Woolf. She was a radical thinker, self educated at a time when women weren’t expected to dabble in academia. And she wrote a wonderful critique of the first wave of feminism. In Ireland anyway, with the marriage referendum coming up and our constitution stating that an unborn child has the same constitutional protection as the mother, I would imagine that she’d be an inspiring leader on those issues. That’s selfish, I know, but she could write more amazing books in a contemporary context which would be a gift to the world as well

    • Muffinmurdurer

      Marie Curie was in the second thing goddangit.

      • Jen in VT

        Thanks. I must have missed that one

        • SaraNoH

          Still. That was one one out of 30 named historical figures…

  • Bob

    Maurice Hilleman – he developed 30+ vaccines including several that are still used today. He saved more lives than any other medical researcher in the last century.

  • Strawman

    My goodness there are so many. Right off the top of my head I would like for John Lennon to continue his peace mission. It seems he was just getting started and we could use a little peace right about now. Along those lines, JFK was on the right track also. Geat question!

    • Holographic universe

      John lennon? He dumped his children for a woman who was high on LSD, he was selfish, arrogant and his protest were no more than a publicity stunt for his and his girlfriends egos. He is the most overrated peace protestors of all time…not exactly hardship lying in bed in an apartment that costs more to buy than most will earn in a lifetime….celebrities would now actually take action…not lie in some sweaty pit with the ugliest woman I have ever seen.
      I would pick Leonardo da Vinci, his mind was bursting with ideas. In the world we live in now he could achieve so much more. He was drawing things then that we have only just invented over the last 50 years…that’s forward thinking, that’s what we need in a dead celebrity!

  • nielmalan

    Patrice Lumumba. Not only because he was a great leader, but because he (and the Congo) was f**ked over so badly by the West that I think he deserves a second chance.

  • Christina Guntert

    Out of totally selfish curiosity : Robert Johnson. I would really love to know just what REALLY happened at those crossroads.

  • Sue Wang

    Nope. Don’t bring back Mozart. That guy honestly…he was a genius, yes, but he overspent, got drunk on almost like a daily basis, womanized, did drugs etc. Off the top of my head I was just like “CHOPIN” because I’m just that obsessed with his music…okay excuse me while I blast Etude Op.10 No.12 at max volume REVOLUTION
    -The Classical Music Geek

    • James

      Mozart sounds like a cool dude, no different from any modern day rock star

      • Sue Wang


    • Sue Wang

      Being geeky and selfish lol

    • Wow, I’m just like Mozart! Except… you know… without the genius.

    • Iris Stephen

      He would do a lot for US weekly or Gawker. I would NOT have liked him, but it’s nearly worth it just to hear the music and see the fallout.

  • Sultan Andre

    Isaac? no he spent like 50% of his time on science and the rest on like theology. Id pick (without a lot of consideration but still) Nils Bohr,he could do so much more of the great things he did

  • chase

    So you’re comparing a top aids researcher to Steve fucking jobs, get your priorities straight.

    • Linda Rusty Russ

      That is very rude.

    • Apple is a sole entertainment company that didn’t lift as much as a finger to make Earth a better place. I’m not saying Steve Jobs was a worse person but please think clearly and CALMLY.

      • Joseph Smeall

        lol yes

  • While how he might react to 2400 years of change might be problematic (though who he is he’d probably take it in stride and with equanimity) I would bring back Gautama Buddha. Besides the starstruck aspect mentioned above, his “advancement of the species as a whole” potential is huge, which would “aid in the plight of people” and would “bring a lot of enjoyment,” since when you’re living with greater peace of mind you end up with much more enjoyment since you’re not mired in mental muck.

  • hoolearn

    I love this question. I think if I could bring anyone back it would be Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton. The thing I love about Einstein as opposed to many other physicists is his views on the God question. Dawkins, Hawking, etc. don’t realize how narrow minded they are. Why do some many people think it’s either yes there’s God, or no there is no God, i.e [the universe exploded into existence, it’s all physics]. God/No God are not the only two answers, they’re just one of an infinite number of possibilities. Very few people want to believe this, but I think we’re very much like an ant. We’re only capable of knowing so much. The ant cannot learn String Theory, and we’re probably unaware and unable to learn _____ . But we couldn’t even fill in the blank because it’s outside our realm of abilities. Einstein never said God or no God. He just had a deep appreciation for the beautiful construction of our existence and left it at that. This is not to say we shouldn’t stop seeking answers, IMHO I think we’re very much like an ant in the big picture, and that some higher order of thought/reality beyond what we could imagine ‘exists.’

    • Jeff Lewis

      “Why do some many people think it’s either yes there’s God, or no there is no God…”

      Because that’s the nature of the question, assuming you’ve settled on a definition of ‘God’. Things either exist or they don’t. Being able to answer the question may be difficult, or even beyond our ability, but it doesn’t mean that there isn’t a definitive answer. Now, if you’re having a tough time defining a god, then I suppose the possibilities do open up more. Must a god have existed before the universe, or outside the universe? Could a god be a product of the universe but just much more powerful than humans? Would the being from Star Trek V be counted as a god? But again, our inability to determine the existence of these beings doesn’t change reality – they still either exist or they don’t.

      And it’s certainly not true that Einstein’s never said anything about God one way or the other. Here are two quotes from him.

      “It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I feel also not able to imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere. My views are near those of Spinoza: admiration for the beauty of and belief in the logical simplicity of the order which we can grasp humbly and only imperfectly. I believe that we have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem—the most important of all human problems”

      “It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it.”

      Admittedly, that only rules out the type of personal god that theists believe in, and not deistic gods, but it’s certainly narrowing down the range of possibilities.

  • JJ

    Mandela really deserves a mention here.

    Incredible brilliance and respect, modern so he’d be able to have immediate impact, and he barely had a chance to work on his major causes, about which he is exceedingly insightful (poverty, immigration) outside of South Africa. He could have a major worldwide impact on development.

    • I have to agree with that one.

      • Joseph Smeall

        Lol yes

  • andy

    My big homie MLK, or Malcom X

  • Jim

    Tim expressed that Lincoln might be a good choice and that he would immediately be elected President but according to Tim’s rules he wouldn’t be eligible to be President for another 10 years after coming back. Just think of the security detail he would have to be extended to keep him safe.

    As for me, I’d like to have Newton back to see what he could do to further human knowledge by collaborating with scientists of today.

  • schroedingerspersona

    Denis Diderot.

  • Girly Gamer

    Hands down, Ghaandi. He was an amazing leader and he could take care of many peace problems we have in the middle east, and it would be very benefical to many countries.

    • Though, Ghaandhi did have a lot of blood on his hands.

      • Joseph Smeall

        lol yes

  • ljoire

    I’d pick Carl Sagan. He was brilliant, empathetic, and very positive. I’d get a kick out of watching him learn what we have discovered about space and the cosmos since his passing, and then he could begin contributing again and collaborating with today’s experts. Even if he didn’t make a new TV series, I’d love to begin following his eventual blog or youtube channel or even just read his scholarly papers.

  • Onairda

    Well, that’s a tricky one. my first thought was Tesla, but since it looks like he like he went a bit crazy in his last years and that he was planning to build a death ray, it might not be the best choice, especially if he succeeded in that project…

    then i thought to Leonardo da Vinci, who was another genius, but not only in a subject, he was a genius in EVERYTHING. he did geometry, math, anatomy, engineering, art, and studied flight to the point that an engine was everything he missed in order to build a working plane in the 1500’s.

    Then i realized there was a missing category from Tim’s list: someone with a secret. there are a lot of persons who brought secrets with them in the grave, and knowing those secrets might be interesting, especially if they ended up in another category, meaning we wouldn’t just ask them and then go “Ok, now we don’t need you anymore, do whatever you want”. like some authors which left their books incomplete or Jack the Ripper (finding out who he was), or maybe someone like Fermat: even if it would have made more sense a few years before, when his last theorem hadn’t been proved yet, i still want to know HIS proof, since the one we have requires math that wasn’t invented yet, and some people doubt he even could have one. plus, we gain a great mathematician, which is kinda nice.

    Then i realized no one talked about mathematician. everyone went with engineers and scientist, like Tesla, Einstein and Newton, but no one (as far as i saw) talked about Euler, which is (as far as i know)one of the greatest mathematician of all times, and has a couple tens of mathematical objects and methods named after him, because he discovered them, or Fermat as i told earlier, or Galois,or others mathematicians.

    I was also surprised by the lack of ancient Greeks. no one wants to talk with Socrates? Plato? Archimedes (who was another great inventor by the way)? Pythagoras? maybe they’re not you final choice, but at least a rapid thought about it…

    maybe someone able to decipher linear A?

    and, if it applies to your ancestor, how back you can go? do you have to pick a human, or you can go back to chimps? is Lucy allowed? if it is limited to humans, do we have to pick homo sapiens or can we have an Australopithecus? if it isn’t limited to humans, can we have a T-Rex?trilobites?the first living cell (maybe making clear how life formed in the first place)? can we have aliens (determining if they are out there or not)?

    now, enough with pushing the rules to their limits. i think i would go with a great mathematician, like Euler (i would study well math history before, checking who is the best choice), because i think solving great math problems may lead to the solution to hard physical and engineering problems, and maybe because i am becoming a mathematician by myself.

    little side-note: i think bring back someone to punish them is not worth it. with all the opportunities you have, i just think that gratifying your sense of justice isn’t the case. one of your ancestors would be a better choice at this point, since it would at least be a testimony from another age.

  • I may have lost my post when I tried to Log In using Facebook. Fortunately, I copied my post to a Pages file, so paste back in here:

    I can not say I read all the posts, I just went back ten days. I saw a couple in that time mention Lincoln, but none that mentioned Washington. By effect more than design or intent, Lincoln did “free the slaves” with the “Emancipation Proclamation” that only applied to the states “in rebellion”, and not under Union control. Yet slavery in some forms still exists in America and the world today. Washington wrote to John Frances Mercer, Maryland Delegate to the Constitution Convention (but not a signer), “There is not a man living who more desires the abolition of slavery, but it must be done in gradual peaceful means through legislation.” Washington was true to his word, for Article I, Section 9 banned the Migration and Importation of “such persons” (slaves) in 1808. In addition, in his will, in 1799, Washington freed his slaves. Virginia legislators changed the law in 1806 that made it cost prohibitive to free slaves, even if one wanted to do so.

    Some have said, and I have adopted that opinion that George Washington is the “Man for the Millenniums”, the most important man in the past 1000 years. Why? For many reasons, yet let’s look at a few. First, he was the first military leader in over 2000 years, since before the birth of Jesus Christ, to peacefully give up power. His adversary King George III, when he heard Washington had resigned his Commission to Congress, and returned to his farm at Mount Vernon is reported to have said, “he is the greatest man of his age, or any age.” Essentially, Washington created a new Republic in the world dedicated to the cause of Liberty.

    In 1828, America’s Educator, and creator of America’s Dictionary, Noah Webster, who once applied, but was not chosen for a job at Mount Vernon as tutor of Martha Washington’s grandchildren, wrote the best-ever, three sentence “definition” of Washington:

    “Literary power and statesmanship were combined in George Washington, the greatest political leader of his time and also the greatest intellectual and moral force of the Revolutionary period.

    “Everybody knows Washington as a quiet member of the Virginia Assembly, of the two Continental Congresses, and of the Constitutional Convention.

    “Few people realize that he was also the most voluminous American writer of his period, and that his principles of government have had more influence on the development of the American commonwealth than those of any other man.”

    A physical measure of the statement “the most voluminous American writer of his period, back in 2001, I was at Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia Alderman Library, in the George Washington Papers Project offices. They had three volumes, each an INDEX of the writing of Washington, Jefferson and Madison. The Washington Index was about 1 and 1/2 inches thick. The Jefferson Index was about 1/2 inch thick, and the Madison Index was about 3/8 inch thick. Washington wrote over 40,000 letters in his 67 years, whereas Jefferson wrote about 21,000 in his 83 years.

    Second, George Washington was absolutely KEY to the creation of this Constitution for the United States of America, arguably the greatest document of statesmanship in the History of Man, largely due to the fact that Washington, Madison, and with help of Jefferson in France sending books on various governments, studied many of the Confederacies of Europe to try to learn the best aspects of other nations governmental systems.

    Third, George Washington had the ability to manage men of incredible intelligence and capability, such as Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, yet with conflicting opinions, to work together somewhat in his administration as President. Then, like Washington did when as General he resigned to the Continental Congress, Washington refused to serve more than two terms as President, or be “President for Life” as both Jefferson and Hamilton suggested, forcefully saying “How would that be different than being a king?”

    Washington was a Citizen – Soldier, and a Servant – Leader, unique in that he was a statesman unlike a politician obsessed with the acquisition and continued control of power. That attitude is unique in all the History of Man, and makes Washington most worthy to return to our lives, at least in our hearts and minds.

    • sam

      Not to mention that his admonitions against partisan politics would be especially welcome nowadays . . .

  • N00less Cluebie

    Sigh. Any chance on making this one real? I miss Sir Terry already

  • name

    The only problem I see with bringing sir Newton back is that, yeah, he had a pretty big genius, but he also was kind of a big D*CK

  • Anon2015

    Martin Luther King

  • Michael Grey

    Oscar WIlde. We could use the social satire, Also after his life, I think it would be wonderful for him to see how far things have changed.

  • As Tim said, I would pick Muhhamud (PBUH) He would seem to have a peaceful and fair solution to everything, which would focus the world more on technology and growing/evolving as a species.

    • Joseph Smeall

      Lol yes

      • Never mind that Jesus, it’s explained in another comment on this page.

        • Joseph Smeall

          Thnx lol

      • Thnx lol

  • Never mind that, I would definitely pick Jesus. That would greatly effect the two major world religions: Christianity and Islam. One would for sure dissolve into the other. Why I’m saying this is because in Islam, Muslims believe that Jesus was a muslim messenger of God. In christianity they believe that He is the god/son of God. About Muhammad, he was also believed in Islam to be a messenger of God, But Jesus would definitely settle the problem better.

    • Joseph Smeall

      lol yes

    • Anam

      Sadly, this would certainly not dissolve any religion. The people of the religion refuted by Jesus would simply refuse to accept him as the real Jesus, no matter the amount of proof they’re given.

      Humans are a more stubborn bunch than we like to let on.

    • Paul Starr

      Your wish is granted. Jesus IS coming back, but he won’t be coming to settle differences.

    • Iris Stephen

      Team Jesus as well. Who could be more interesting? But obviously, he might be extremely disappointing in person. Or his views on _everything_ might seem completely out of place 2015 and he’d ruffle even more feathers than during his own time on earth. What if he is a huge embarrassment to a lot of Christians? Still, he is so clearly the most interesting option I would take him out of the game to hear some more creative answers.

  • Guest

    I really wanned to bring back Cory Monteith!! but based on your described categories I would say Avicenna.

  • Ben

    I just want to say that the first person I thought of was Isaac Newton. However — good chance he’s on the autism spectrum or something. So might be disappointing, unless you are in to trying to communicate with difficult people.

  • Nancy Ki

    Leonardo DaVinci – he covered all bases! Benjamin Franklin would be really cool to meet, too.

  • Oliver Hillenkamp

    Buddha, for sure.

  • galarant

    I would bring back Carl Friedrich Gauss. Not as well knows as Newton/Einstein/etc but nobody in history has contributed as much to as many fields. #teamgauss 4lyfe

  • Ken

    I’ve always thought – and maybe even dreamed about: Albert Einstein. I would love to have him come back – and just sit there on the PC with him for like a day – showing him everything that has happened since his death. teaching him how to use the mouse, how to web surf… “Albert – you have to click twice on that.” “No, Albert – do NOT click on the X” Einstein: “hmm… vat iz this? Congratulations, I am a WINNER?! hmmm, just click here”. No, Albert, no! – – I wonder what he would really be blown away by? Imax Movies, The ISS, The Hadron collider, Hubble, 9/11, smart phones, The Ramones?? it’s just fun to think about…

  • MiyuEinzbern

    Myself. Why not? it would mean I get to live longer and post more meaningless comments like this one. I don’t think I know myself personally enough so I consider this a plausible choice.

    A Spock-like rebirth in the movies would be preferable, except without the Klingon-kills-son-of-my-space-captain-friend drama.

  • Jalaj Soni

    Friedrich Nietzsche would be kinda fun, don’t you think?

  • Dave W

    I think I would go with Leonardo da Vinci. Brilliant artist, engineer, inventor, and pretty much anything else that you could think of. Considering how far ahead of his time he was over 500 years ago, think about what he could bring to the table in 2015.

    • Reuben Hopper

      Exactly what I was thinking. Surprised when I saw someone else thought so.

  • Chiel Wieringa

    Quite funny that the person you can bring back from the dead doesn’t actually have to be dead according to the rules. So I would say Elon Musk, so he would have a younger clone helping him 😀

    (or maybe even Tim so waitbutwhy would become butwhy, but I consider this as being selfish)

  • Keenan

    I know I am very late to the show (just got addicted to WaitbutWhy two days ago) but I gave this post a ton of thought.
    Newton, Einstein, Curie, Da Vinci, and any other brilliant scientist would be interesting to see what they could do with 21st Century knowledge. But that isn’t the way I would go.
    The idea about showing what difference they made had me thinking about artists and in particular Vincent Van Gogh (that Doctor Who episode still gets me). But still not who I would go for.
    Being an American and forward thinking, I hate our political system and how utterly dumb our politicians are. Our forefathers were very smart so I thought about George Washington and how his farewell address warned us about what our nation ended up turning into. So with his foresight and stardom, we may be able to fix our political system.
    BUT WAIT I spent a long time on this and decided it shouldn’t be Washington. I would bring back …
    Alexander Hamilton!
    He fits most categories you thought about. He could fix our political and monetary systems in the US. Answer some questions about the American Revolution and other events of that time. He would be living in stardom. And finally, he could see the difference he made. He would see what America is like now. Just imagine how much better off we would be if Burr hadn’t shot him. Our entire financial system may be completely different.
    He had such an interesting story that abruptly ended too soon. He is my choice.

  • darkfuji

    I would choose fermat, my textbooks have huge margins.

  • Berynn Schwerdt

    I have day-dreamed about having a time machine in the near-future and, with a set of cutting-edge medical techs and a brief from whatever power to select and re-futurate important people of the past, going back to the moment of their deaths, swapping them out for a clone under the noses of their familiars, and bringing them forward to the (future) present. Like Tim, Isaac Newton has always been my first choice, although Beethoven is a close second, the cutting-edge medical team restoring his hearing as reward for his service to music.

    The fantasy only starts with the time travel and the switcheroo. The more interesting part of the whimsy is how to acclimatize the historic figure to the present. We place Newton in a room just like the one he was in when he died, and slowly lead him out through the ages, being other rooms that become more and more anachronistic to his time as we unravel what he have done for him. Or we structure a monologue/conversation that comforts most and disturbs least, perhaps at some point asking him what looks primitive to him, explaining that what looks primitive to ‘us’ is different but of the same specie (thanks, Star Trek etc). Or we let him awake in ‘heaven,’ a simple white room, and play God by showing him how his works impacted the future of the world. Maybe as ‘God’ we give him the choice to live in this age (the ethics of this are an interesting side-story).

    Sometimes Newton begs me to to take him back, either because the modern world is too much, or too Godless, or because he is in mortal fear for his immortal soul. I take him to a church sometimes. But this doesn’t always work. So we take him back, regretfully, and let him die. Sometimes we return to the first room in short order, the one just like ‘home’, and he slowly becomes brave enough to venture further out and met the future. And sometimes he is as engaged and curious as one could hope, exhilarating in much we mostly take for granted, amazed by things we see little in, indifferent to other stuff we are inspired by, but overwhelmingly and astonished and delighted to see technological advances. We show him books that laud him, modern and past, and reveal his place in the pantheon of science.

    If his curiosity is unflagging and his temperament robust after a few weeks, we eventually divulge what we’ve hinted at previously (to cushion the impact): the technological advances of war machines, and the awful decimation they have wrought. Alternatively we do all that in the first 2 hours of bringing him back, while the shock of discovering all blunts the pointy fact of more efficient mass-killing (thank you science). We worry that he will perceive he had a hand in this horror. If things go wrong, it’s ok. We can go back in time and prevent ourselves from interfering. Or we can leave notes to our recent past to aid Newtons’ acclimatization. We may make many attempts, our arrival at Newton’s deathbed a minute earlier than previous, our previous selves taking home a clone, and realizing that we’ve not succeeded yet. (Play THAT loop out to hurt your head)

    Don’t know if you’ve done it, or if such a psycho-sociological hypothetical would fit here, but figuring out a fool-proof method to establish a historic personage in the modern world without busting their psyche – and trying to reckon all the things that could go wrong – is a hell of an interesting inquiry. Well, it is for me.

  • ruidoblanco

    I’ll wait to Stephen Hawking to die, and then bring him back..

  • Carlos Ruiz-Vargas

    This is the first time (in my relatively short time reading WBW) I have to fully disagree with your answer, Tim. Isaac Netwon was a huge asshole! A plagiarizing asshole. Check this out, for example: http://jqtil.blogspot.ch/2012/03/isaac-newton-was-jerk.html

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