History has its own ability to select what to talk about and what to forget, leaving aside certain personalities who are nevertheless of capital importance: heroes who have saved lives, sometimes many lives. A bit like these people unfairly taken out of history books or these people who changed the world but whose names we have forgotten, we decided to talk about a few people who worked for the good of others by saving a large number of lives. while remaining in the shadows.
1. The Titanic machinists who sacrificed themselves to save hundreds of lives
We often talk about the musicians of the famous liner who continued to play during the sinking to try not to panic the passengers but we forget to talk about the machinists. Yet these workers continued to work while the boat sank to provide the electricity needed to lower the lifeboats (attached to electric winches) and to produce light so that the passengers could stay out. orientate in the middle of the night. Heroes who sank with the ship and of whom we obviously do not talk enough.
2. The man who prevented the launch of a nuclear missile in Cuba
Vasily Arkhipov was a Russian officer in a submarine based near Cuba during the infamous Missile Crisis. The submarine he was stationed on was hidden in the depths with a nuclear missile as powerful as the one unleashed on Hiroshima on board. When the Americans noticed the presence of the building they began to bombard it with “light” charges, to force it to come to the surface and identify itself, the charges being too weak to detonate it.
The submarine then began to descend even deeper to avoid the attacks and lost contact with Moscow. Inside, two of the officers decided to launch the nuclear missile to respond, except for the third officer in command: Vassili Arkhipov. He hypothesized that the charges were launched in order to force them to rise to the surface and since the three officers had to validate the launch of the nuclear warhead the maneuver did not take place. Historians today consider that Arkhipov likely avoided nuclear war thanks to his foresight and coolness.
3. Norman Borlaug, the man who fed over a billion people
Whatever you do in your life you will never have as many medals and accolades as Norman Borlaug. This American agronomist considered “the father of the Green Revolution” worked a good part of his life to find and select varieties of cereals that could grow easily in inhospitable places. By crossing varieties of wheat, for example, he brought new seeds to North Africa and the Middle East to help populations. It is estimated that in Pakistan and India alone this seed cross saved a billion people from famine in 1970, when it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
4. Gino Strada and the doctors who work for free in war zones
The name of Gino Strada may not mean anything to you, but he was a real hero: a surgeon at the base he launched the charity “Emergency USA”, which treats war patients in several countries (Cambodia, Iraq , Sudan, Afghanistan…) for 18 years and to whom more than 5 million operations have been attributed. Several hundred volunteer doctors carry out operations on patients in these areas, but Gino Strada (in addition to having launched the charity) has carried out more than 30,000 heavy operations in 25 years of service, all for free. He died in 2021 at the age of 73.
5. The English spy who saved hundreds of Jews during WWII
Frank Foley was a British spy stationed in an office issuing passports to the British Embassy in Berlin. Realizing the horrors that were happening under Hitler’s rule, Foley decided to make or modify passports so that several Jewish people could travel and exit the territory. It is estimated that he would then have saved nearly 10,000 people from death, while remaining completely unknown until the 2000s when the English government declassified his case.
6. Henrietta Lacks, the woman with “immortal” cells
Henrietta Lacks has the particularity of having saved lives without knowing it and especially after her death at the age of 31 in 1951. After being diagnosed with cancer, doctors took a sample (without her permission) and studied it. before realizing that his cells were growing endlessly. These cells have made it possible to make several advances in the medical world: on research into vaccines against certain viruses, on in vitro fertilization and on chemotherapy. Thousands of people are considered to have been saved thanks to the research enabled by Henrietta Lacks’ cells (HeLa cells) but the story is however quite controversial since she was never asked for her consent for the samples.
7. James Harrison, “the man with the golden arm”
Who can stand up here and say “I saved two million babies from death?” Not many people except James Harrison. At 14, Harrison needed multiple transfusions and decided that the least he could do to return the elevator was to donate blood too. It was there that we realized that his blood had an extremely rare characteristic: an antibody called anti-D. By giving it to pregnant women who suffered from Rhesus group disease (RH) which attacks the immune system and can cause the death of the baby, this fatality could be prevented.
When he was told this news, James Harrison decided he would donate blood as often as he could: every two weeks, for almost 60 years (1173 times to be exact). Harrison’s blood saved millions of babies and in Australia he was nicknamed the Man with the Golden Arm.
8. Tilly Smith, the little girl who saved hundreds of people from a tsunami
While vacationing in Thailand with her parents, this ten-year-old girl began to see the waves getting stronger and stronger on the beach where she was swimming. Luckily, she had studied tsunamis at school a few days before and quickly detected the warning signs before telling her parents. Well nobody believed her at first since she was 10 years old but she insisted on screaming and starting to get people’s attention on the beach. Seeing the child’s insistence and the intensity of the waves, people deserted the beach before the tragedy and more than a hundred people were saved that day (and young Tilly received a beautiful medal).
9. The American policeman who stopped hundreds of people from committing suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge
In his 22-year career on the Golden Gate Bridge, the American police officer Kevin Briggs would have prevented more than a hundred people from committing suicide. It should be noted that the bridge is the place in the United States with the most suicides and Briggs said that on average it deters two people per month. He tells them about many things, such as how he was able to recover from his cancer and that life is good. In his entire career he has only witnessed one suicide and managed to prevent all the others. They call him the Guardian of the Golden Gate.
10. James Blunt prevented WW3 (yes, that James Blunt)
Before becoming a singer and doing the song “You’re beautiful”, James Blunt was a soldier in the British army and was based in Kosovo. He was dispatched with his team to an airfield occupied by Russian soldiers and an American superior ordered them to take the place by force and therefore to really start the fight at a time when the tension between the two camps was at its maximum. And James Blunt refused.
When you refuse an order from a superior in the army, you risk court martial, and therefore a lot of shit. He traced his refusal back to his direct superior in the English army by declaring that he did not want to lead his men in there and was quickly supported by an English general who declared “I also refuse to engage in a fight which could start the third world war ”.