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“Making an inspiring case for progress at this time of skepticism and historical ingratitude is no easy feat. Yet, by relentlessly outlining the extraordinary ability of individuals to shape our world for the better, Alexander Hammond does just that.”

―from the forward by Steven Pinker, Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and the author of Rationality, Enlightenment Now, and The Better Angels of Our Nature



Over the past two centuries, humanity has experienced unprecedented progress. Extreme poverty has declined, life expectancy has doubled, illiteracy has declined. While we as a species are becoming more prosperous, more educated, healthier, and more peaceful, it is useful to remind ourselves of the underlying cause of this progress: innovation. Human innovation―whether it be new ideas, inventions, or systems―is the primary way people create wealth and escape poverty.

The health and wealth of the modern world rests on the shoulders of dozens of unsung heroes whose work has saved millions, if not billions, of lives. Despite their contribution to improving humanity, few people know the names of these pioneers.

Heroes of Progress takes readers on a journey through the lives of the most important people who have ever lived. From agronomists whose hybrid crops saved billions of lives and intellectuals who changed public policy for the better, to businesspeople whose innovations helped millions rise from poverty, or scientists whose medical breakthroughs eliminated diseases and ended pandemics. If it weren't for the heroes profiled in this book, we'd all be far poorer, sicker, hungrier, ignorant, and less free―if we were fortunate enough to be alive at all. Considering their impact on humanity, perhaps it's time to learn their story?

Also check out the other book in the series, Centers of Progress.


Steven Pinker

“Making an inspiring case for progress at this time of skepticism and historical ingratitude is no easy feat. Yet, by relentlessly outlining the extraordinary ability of individuals to shape our world for the better, Alexander Hammond does just that.”

author of Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress

Matt Ridley

author of How Innovation Works: And Why It Flourishes in Freedom

“Innovation is a team sport achieved by people working together, using precious freedoms to change the world, so it’s sometimes invidious to single out one person for credit. But once an idea is ripe for plucking, the right person at the right time can seize it and save a million lives or open a million possibilities. Each of these 65 people did that, and their stories are both thrilling and beautiful.”

“This is a book that is both timely and enlightening. The stories we tell about history tend to focus excessively on political figures, including many who have made life worse for most people. The figures in this book are the overlooked and often unknown figures who have transformed the lives of ordinary people, for the better, with their contributions in science, medicine, technology, business, and ideas. They are the people we should remember and honor, and it is their accomplishments that bring about progress, the improvement of human life. This book is a correction to widespread pessimism and is both informative and inspirational.”

Dr. Stephen Davies

author of The Wealth Explosion: The Nature and Origins of Modernity

“Classical liberalism needs more than spreadsheets to justify itself. It needs its heroes too. And, thanks to Alexander Hammond, here they are. True heroes. Not men we remember for their religious fervor or their martial prowess or their imperial ambitions but men (and women) who tangibly improved the lives of those who followed them. The 65 innovators honored here made us happier, healthier, and longer-lived. Indeed, it is thanks to some of them that we are here at all. Their story is the story of how the human race acquired powers once attributed to gods and sorcerers―the story of how we overcame hunger, disease, ignorance, and squalor. I defy anyone to read this book and not feel better afterwards."

Lord Daniel Hannan

president of the Institute for Free Trade

Johan Norberg

author of Open: The Story of Human Progress

“Superman and the Avengers are all very well, of course, but the real superheroes are thinkers, scientists, and innovators of flesh and blood who saved us from a life that used to be poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Alexander Hammond tells their inspiring stories in this magnificent book that will leave you grateful to be living in the world these men and women created.”

Clay Routledge

"In Heroes of Progress, Alexander Hammond reminds us that human minds are the fundamental driver of every discovery, invention, and innovation that has improved our lives. By telling the stories of pioneering men and women who have advanced civilization, this book not only honors past heroes of progress, but also provides inspiration for the next generation to use their uniquely human imaginative and enterprising capacities to build a better future."

Vice President of Research and Director of the Human Flourishing Lab at the Archbridge Institute, and author of Past Forward: How Nostalgia Can Help you Live a More Meaningful Life

Lord Syed Kamall

“The 65 fascinating stories in Heroes of Progress are testaments to the ingenuity of humankind in delivering a richer, healthier, and hopefully freer world. Alexander C. R. Hammond provides an inspirational reminder that when individuals are free to speak, think, innovate, and engage in open markets, the heroic potential of humanity knows no bounds.”

Professor of politics and international relations, St. Mary’s University


Edward Jenner: The Pioneer of the Smallpox Vaccination | Heroes of Progress | Ep. 3
Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch: The Inventors of the Haber-Bosch Process | Heroes of Progress | Ep. 2
Norman Borlaug: The Father of the Green Revolution | Heroes of Progress | Ep. 1


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ALEXANDER C. R. HAMMOND  is the founder of the Initiative for African Trade and Prosperity, a free trade fellow at the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), and a senior fellow at African Liberty. His work focuses on the history of economic growth and innovation, African development, and global well-being. He was formerly a policy analyst at the IEA and a researcher in the Cato Institute's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. Alexander's popular publications have been translated into more than a dozen languages and appeared in major newspapers across Europe, North America, and Africa. He received a BA with combined honors in history and politics from the University of Exeter and a master's degree by research in political economy from the University of Buckingham. Alexander currently resides in Switzerland.


Teach about the remarkable historical figures who have embodied human progress and innovation throughout world history. Students will delve into the lives and achievements of influential individuals, exploring their contributions in areas such as science, art, and social reform, cultivating a deep appreciation for the transformative power of individuals in shaping our world.



Hammond says that heroic stories remind people that an individual or a small group of committed teams have the power to change the world.


In this conversation with storytelling coach Carmine Gallo, Hammond explains why heroic stories inspire innovation and progress. Carmine shares his favorite stories from the book.


Without the combined efforts of Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch, the world’s population would be much smaller than it is today. The two have truly changed the world for the better.


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