Back in 1927, the People section of TIME began with the rubric "Names make news." From the beginning, Henry Luce's idea for TIME was to explain the news through the people who make it. Luce would have loved the TIME 100, our fourth annual issue in which we name the 100 most influential people on the planet. At the core of the TIME 100 is the idea that individuals--by virtue of their character, their drives and their dreams--change the world and make history. We divide our choices into five categories: Leaders & Revolutionaries, Builders & Titans, Artists & Entertainers, Scientists & Thinkers and Heroes & Pioneers.
The TIME 100 is not a hot list. It's a survey not of the most powerful or the most popular, but of the most influential. Influence is hard to measure, and what we look for is people whose ideas, whose example, whose talent, whose discoveries transform the world we live in. Influence is less about the hard power of force than the soft power of ideas and example. Yes, there are Presidents and dictators who can change the world through fiat, but we're more interested in innovators like Monty Jones, the Sierra Leone scientist who has developed a strain of rice that can save African agriculture. Or heroes like the great chess master Garry Kasparov, who is leading a lonely fight for greater democracy in Russia. Or Academy Award--winning actor George Clooney, who has leveraged his celebrity to bring attention to the tragedy in Darfur.
But the real magic of the TIME 100 is the pairings. We match author and subject so that the former can offer special insight on the latter. We have Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, writing about why Nancy Pelosi, the first woman Speaker, is a historic figure. Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest heroes of the 20th century, talks about why Oprah Winfrey is a hero to him. Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith writes about his respect for rival coach Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts, this year's Super Bowl winner. Martin Scorsese talks about why Leonardo DiCaprio is a model for young actors. In some cases, the author is far more famous than the subject, but in every case, the author has some special knowledge that helps explain the influence of our choice.
Presiding over all the pairings and juggling 100 writers is deputy managing editor Adi Ignatius. He was ably helped in this endeavor by the editors of the five sections, Jeff Kluger, Belinda Luscombe, Romesh Ratnesar, Bill Saporito and Jan Simpson. D.W. Pine designed the striking package, and our talented photo team rustled up the great pictures.
You can also see our poll on TIME.com in which 2.5 million votes put Korean R&B singer Rain on top, followed by Stephen Colbert. And for an alternative take, go online to read Joel Stein's Alt 100, a decidedly different and more humorous list of influentials. Richard Stengel, MANAGING EDITOR