20th-century business geniuses who changed the world


It’s incredible to think how much the world has changed since the start of the 20th century – we’ve gained major inventions from cars and planes to refrigerators and the internet, while many globally-influential companies have shaped the way we live. From the inventor of the Bic pen to the woman that brought us Barbie dolls, click or scroll through to see the 20th century’s most revolutionary entrepreneurs.



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Regarded as America’s most distinguished inventor, Thomas Edison pioneered the development of everything from the motion picture camera to the light bulb. The genius innovator, who amassed 1,0963 patents in his lifetime, is also credited with creating the first industrial research lab.



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When George Eastman founded Kodak in 1888, photography was a niche pastime for the rich. His company’s development of roll film brought photography to the masses and was instrumental in the invention of motion picture film.



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Considered the “first Black woman millionaire in America”, Madam C. J. Walker created a line of haircare products for Black women after her own experiences with a scalp ailment that caused hair loss. Her line of products were part of the “Walker System” of haircare, which she sold directly to Black women and which quickly helped her gain a loyal following. The success of her business allowed her to accumulate significant wealth before her death in 1919.



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French fashion designer Coco Chanel created a number of products and silhouettes for women’s clothing which have become iconic in their own right, including her Chanel No. 5 fragrance, the Chanel suit with a collarless jacket and fitted skirt, and the little black dress. Her designs were revolutionary for their time, influenced by elements of menswear and representing a step away from the tight-fitting, corseted designs that had been popular.



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Walt Disney pioneered animated cartoons and was the creator of globally-loved characters Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and their friends. He went on to produce, write and direct movies and develop theme parks. He died a very wealthy man in 1966 aged 65. The Walt Disney Company is now one of the world’s largest media and entertainment businesses, valued at around $225 billion (£173bn) at the time of writing. It owns studios, retail outlets, hotels, theme parks and TV channels.



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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



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You’ll have heard of musical legend Elvis Presley, but may not recognise the name Tom Parker. The Dutch-born American was the singer’s manager and his success with Presley changed the idea of talent management forever. Known as ‘The Colonel’, he was involved with every facet of the superstar’s life, personal and professional, which was seen as central to the success of his career, in the early days at least.



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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article


In 1992, students Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina began developing a web browser called Mosaic, which went on to change the face of online techology forever. After releasing their first version in February 1993, the browser gained popularity due to its strong support of multimedia and quick response to user bug reports. In 1994, the company joined forces with the former CEO of Silicon Graphics, James H Clark, to form the company Netscape.



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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article



Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article


In 1998, realising that there was a need for a form of transport for journeys that were too far to walk, but not far enough to drive, Swiss-born Wim Ouboter created the first aluminium-folding scooter. After a rocky, start due to problems resulting from unforeseen copycat models, the Microscooter is now sold in eighty countries worldwide. Ouboter expanded the range for all ages and he’s now working on the Microlino mini car. His wealth is not public knowledge.



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Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article


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