80 Most Influential Americans Over 80

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chuck-yeager
Source: Wikimedia Commons

26. Chuck Yeager, 93
> Profession: Air Force pilot

Flying more than 60 missions as a fighter pilot in World War II, Chuck Yeager’s career began with distinguished service. He is most famous, however, for his accomplishments after the war. As a test pilot, in 1947 Yeager became the first person in history to break the sound barrier, flying a Bell X-1 rocket at a speed of 700 mph. Before retiring from the U.S. Air Force, he served as the vice commander of the 17th Air Force in Germany and was later named the U.S. defense representative in Pakistan. He was also instrumental in training the earliest American astronauts and was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1973. More than a decade later, Yaeger received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

27. Mildred Dresselhaus, 86
> Profession: Physicist

Mildred Dresselhaus is one of the most accomplished scientists in the U.S. Dubbed “The Queen of Carbon Science,” her groundbreaking work studying the atomic properties of carbon advanced her field considerably and ultimately lead to major advances in consumer electronics. She became the first tenured female professor to teach in the California Institute of Techonolgy’s engineering department. In 2014, Dresselhaus was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor awarded by the government.

28. Frank Stella, 80
> Profession: Painter and printmaker

Frank Stella has been described as one of the most important living artists. Stella found success at an early age, becoming the youngest artist to ever have a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art when he was 33. By moving beyond the Abstract Expressionism of his contemporaries, Stella paved the way for the Minimalist aesthetic and the many artists who have followed him. Stella continues to evolve as an artist today, shaping American art history along the way.

jimmy-carter
Source: Wikimedia Commons

29. Jimmy Carter, 92
> Profession: 39th President of the United States

Jimmy Carter served from 1977 to 1981 as the 39th president of the United States. While he only served a single term, his time as president can be defined by his belief in peace and human rights, the same beliefs that have guided his life as ex-president. Since he left the White House, he has started a not for profit, dedicated to its mission to end human suffering and has personally built houses for the homeless, fought to eradicate diseases in Africa, and promoted democracy and world peace. In 2002, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his dedication to peace, human rights, and economic development.

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robert-duvall
Source: Wikimedia Commons

30. Robert Duvall, 85
> Profession: Actor

Few American actors, living or dead, are as highly regarded as Robert Duvall. Over his career, which spans more than half a century, he has played some of the most memorable roles in American cinema. His body of work includes Academy Award-nominated supporting roles in “The Godfather,” “Apocalypse Now,” and “A Civil Action.” He won an Oscar for his leading role in the 1983 film “Tender Mercies” and was awarded a National Medal of Arts by President George W. Bush in 2005.