I admire George Will's courage in pinpointing five people whose lives have changed the history of the millennium {op-ed, Dec. 16}. I was surprised, however, that Johann Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press, was absent from his list. Without this invention, many of the millennium's most influential philosophies, religions, theories and discoveries would not have been disseminated and might not have survived.

Because of the printed word, we are able to pass along knowledge and experiences to future generations to build on and, I hope, improve. A contribution such as this should not be overlooked in the search for great influences of the past 1,000 years. -- Andrea M. Contreras

George F. Will named Niccolo Macchiavelli and Martin Luther as two of five finalists for his "Person of the Millennium," citing their role in the development of individualism and the primacy of "conscience." He credited them with making unsurpassed contributions to "the two great developments of this millenium": 1) the nation state and 2) political freedom, which involves limiting the state.

As an ex-president of the Thomas More Society of America, to which Will once belonged, I wonder why Will overlooked More's contribution to political freedom. By following his "informed" conscience, More lost his job as chancellor (and his head) by refusing to okay Henry VIII's Act of Supremacy, by which the king hijacked the church, killed off any opposition and made himself omnipotent. Thus did Henry make England a nation state.

In resisting Henry, Thomas More followed the tradition of political freedom laid down by Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas is sometimes referred to as the "first Whig," because Aquinas promulgated the idea of the sovereignty of the people, from whom rulers obtain their authority -- an authority that can be withdrawn if greatly abused.

Following Aquinas was Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), who was so fair in stating the attacks of Lutherans and others against the Catholic Church that he was criticized for "giving space to the enemy." Bellarmine delineated the principle, promulgated by Pope Gelasius I in 494 A.D., of separation of church and state.

These great men deserve far more than Macchiavelli and Luther to be finalists among Will's picks. After all, Macchiavelli believed that men are inherently selfish and that the only way to make them behave was by force and deceit. And Luther's version of conscience led to disintegration rather than development -- after Luther, some 28,000 Protestant denominations arose, which seems like freedom of conscience run amok.

Because of men such as Aquinas, More and Bellarmine "government of the people, by the people and for the people" became possible. They should not be ignored because they happen to be saints.

-- Joseph D. Crumlish

With all respect to my ABC colleague George Will, trying to name the "person of the millennium" may be fun but is ultimately impossible; in addition, Will's selection process was seriously flawed.

First, the millennium has nine years to go. If Will had been picking the person of the half-millennium in 1490, Christopher Columbus wouldn't have gotten honorable mention.

Second, Will's selection process oozed chauvinism. How can we take his judgment to heart when three of his five finalists were American presidents, two from Virginia?

But most of all, Will displayed a bias for political figures to the detriment of scientists and artists. Does he really think Thomas Jefferson's contributions exceeded those of Isaac Newton, who showed that the universe was vastly larger than previously conceived and yet connected by natural forces that man can divine? Did Jefferson change man's self-image more than Charles Darwin? And how about some credit to Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch, who greatly reduced death by disease.

Finally, shouldn't Will have considered a tip of the millennial hat to at least one artist? How about Shakespeare, the most quoted man in the English language and a dramatist whose insights into the human condition have yet to be bettered?

Quantum physicist Werner Karl Heisenberg proved, to the extent science can, that human beings cannot know some things. Among them, I submit, is the "person of the millennium." Jefferson was as good a choice as any, but not the definitive one.

-- Steve Shepard

George Will's offhand assertion that "this century belongs to Einstein or Churchill" omitted the century's principal leader, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The greatest challenges faced by the nation and the world in this century were the Great Depression and World War II. Thanks in no small part to FDR's superlative leadership, the world survived, and our nation thrived. Granted, both Einstein and Churchill left lasting legacies, but their legacies would have hardly been noticeable were it not for Roosevelt's unparalleled stewardship of mankind in general and Americans in particular.

-- Patrick J. Devlin