Why he’s famous: He’s the inventor of the Robertson screwdriver—you know, the square-shaped one in your toolbox.
Why he deserves to win: Before Robertson’s invention in 1908, we were stuck with the slip-prone flat bladed driver and slotted-head screw, a combo notorious for causing injuries. Later, when the cross-shaped Phillips screw and driver were invented, Consumer Reports magazine declared the Robertson superior because Phillips’ screws are easily stripped and degrade with wear. As writer Witold Rybcynski put it, “no matter how old, rusty, or painted over, a Robertson screw can always be unscrewed. [It’s] the biggest little invention of the 20th century.”
Sir Frederick Banting and Charles Best
Why they’re famous: Along with Best, a medical student he’d hired, Banting isolated insulin as the hormone which regulates the body’s blood sugar levels.
Why they deserve to win: After reading a paper that suggested diabetes may be caused by a lack of a hormone secreted by islets in the back of the pancreas, he devised a way to isolate the islets by tying off most of the pancreas with ligatures. In 1921, Frederick Banting hired Charles Best and the two removed a dog’s pancreas, which caused blood sugar levels to rise (mimicking diabetics) before injecting the islets back into the dog. The animal lived for several more months, proving they had isolated the blood-sugar regulating hormone insulin. By 1922, the pair were bringing comatose diabetics in Toronto back to life. Diabetics worldwide have lived more normal lives ever since.