David S. Bernstein Picks His Best Bostonians of All Time

The editor of the '100 Best Bostonians of All Time' weighs in. (This whole thing was his idea, after all.)

Over the last few months, our contributing editor David S. Bernstein has asked our readers and a panel of experts to cast their vote for the “100 Best Bostonians of All Time.” Now he weighs in with his own top five picks.


Louis Brandeis

Boston’s greatest have always been about the active pursuit of community justice, and the Kentucky-bred Brandeis exemplified this—against considerable odds, as a Jew.

Josiah Quincy III

Boston’s Great Mayor laid the groundwork for the city to become not only highly functional, but tight-knit and intermingling. That has been the basis for much of what has emerged from the city since.

Lewis Hayden

If you believe, as I do, that William Lloyd Garrison is a no-brainer Top 10, then what about the black abolitionists who risked far more and received far less recognition? Hayden—another Kentuckian by birth who thrived in Boston—stands out to me as the greatest of a remarkable generation of reformers.

Elizabeth Peabody

Advances in education have been among Boston’s greatest contributions to the world—and also one of the foremost reasons that the city has produced so much greatness. With all due respect to her mentor Horace Mann and so many others, Peabody shines brightest of Boston’s education pioneers.

James Otis

Of all the revolutionaries, Otis stands out both for the esteem in which he was held by his contemporaries in the movement, and how impressive his beliefs and actions look from our 21st century vantage point. (He declared the inalienable rights of blacks in 1764.) His sanity, unfortunately, did not last to the actual revolution, but it might never have happened without him.


David S. Bernstein
David S. Bernstein David S. Bernstein, Contributing Editor, Boston Magazine david@davidsbernstein.com