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Whether you know him for producing electric cars or sending civilians into space, chances are good you are more than familiar with Time magazine’s person of the year. Uber-billionaire Elon Musk has been given the title for 2021.
“This is the man who aspires to save our planet and get us a new one to inhabit: clown, genius, edgelord, visionary, industrialist, showman, cad; a madcap hybrid of Thomas Edison, P.T. Barnum, Andrew Carnegie and Watchmen’s Doctor Manhattan, the brooding, blue-skinned man-god who invents electric cars and moves to Mars,” Time’s editors wrote.
He’s on the cover of the Dec. 27 edition, which Time tweeted:
— TIME (@TIME) December 13, 2021
Tesla is the predominant electric vehicle company, controlling two-thirds of the market. Earlier this year, his aerospace company SpaceX won a $2.9 billion contract to build a moon lander for NASA, beating out Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and other rocket makers.
Musk is the head of brain-chip startup Neuralink and infrastructure firm The Boring Company. He has his hands in robotics, solar, cryptocurrency and climate, as well. And with a net worth of more than $250 billion, he is the wealthiest private citizen in history.
Time started the “Person of the Year” feature as a whim in January 1928, looking for a topic during a slow news period. “The Man of the Year” tradition began with aviator Charles Lindbergh, who had soloed the Atlantic in only 33 hours and 39 minutes the year before.
Wallis Simpson — an American socialite whose marriage to the Duke of Windsor, the former King-Emperor Edward VIII, led to Edward’s abdication— became the first “Woman of the Year” in 1937. The title became the gender-neutral person of the year in 1999.
The title is not always a sign of popularity or celebration. Walter Isaacson, the former managing editor of Time, wrote in the 1998 issue that the magazine names “the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse.”
Then-President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were both named Time’s Person of the Year for 2020, the first time a vice president ever received this recognition. Others the magazine have named have included Greta Thunberg, Pope Francis and Mark Zuckerberg.