Meet pioneers, innovators and everyday heroes across the ages


The founders of DHL were pioneers who changed the logistics industry. Here are 50 other innovators who helped make a difference to the world – in either small or significant ways.

Adrian Dalsey, Larry Hillblom and Robert Lynn may not have known it at the time but, by the late 1960s, they had become trailblazers in the world of logistics. Their idea was simple enough, even if making it a reality was somewhat harder: They wanted to establish the world’s first international door-to-door express delivery service. The trio started their new company in 1969 and named it after the first initials of their surnames: D-H-L. And with that, the international express industry was born.

The world should celebrate pioneers and innovators such as these three groundbreaking San Francisco businessmen. That’s why Delivered. has highlighted 50 people who, by themselves or as part of teams, have helped break molds and push boundaries. It includes everyone from the inventor of the internet to the round-the-world yachtswoman-turned-environmental campaigner; from the father of the modern computer to the grandmother who unknowingly became the world’s first online shopper; and from the inventor of the shipping container to the young man who created a bra that can detect signs of breast cancer. The individuals you’ll read about over the following pages come from every walk of life and all age groups. Some are currently making their mark with new or established projects, others are from centuries past. Some are well-known, others less so.

Of course, this is just a small selection of trailblazing names – not an exhaustive list. But all have, in one way or another, helped make our world a more interesting, informed and progressive place. And for that, we salute them.  

Gerardus Mercator (left), Cedric Atangana (right)

Gerardus Mercator (1512 – 1594)
Dutch cartographer, geographer and cosmographer whose world map – created in 1569 – is considered “one of the most significant advances in the history of cartography,” heralding a new era in the evolution of navigation maps. 

Cedric Atangana (1993)
Young African entrepreneur and CEO of WeCashUp, a platform that enables online companies to accept and disburse payments in 36 African countries via a single API integration.

Kristo Käärmann and Taavet Hinrikus
The duo behind financial technology firm and banking industry disruptor Transferwise, which offers cheaper foreign exchange rates than most banks. By May 2019, after a new investment round, the company was valued at $3.5 billion, making it Europe’s most valuable fintech startup.

Ernst Dickmanns (1936)
Dickmanns and his team conducted pioneering research into autonomous driving and, in 1986, developed a “Robot Car” that could drive in traffic all by itself. This was long before big names such as Google entered the field.

Elon Musk (left), Katherine Johnson (right)

Elon Musk (1971)
An engineer turned technology entrepreneur, Musk founded and co-founded numerous companies, among them PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX. He has set out to revolutionize transportation both on earth and in space.

Katherine Johnson (1918)
Johnson, an African-American mathematician, was one of the women who worked as “a human computer” at NASA, the American space agency, in the middle of the 20th century. Her calculations of orbital mechanics were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. manned spaceflights, and later helped astronauts land on the moon.

Jeff Bezos (1964)
Jeff Bezos is synonymous with the name -Amazon, which began as an online bookstore in 1994, and grew to become the world’s largest online sales provider.

Jack Ma (1964)
Chinese businessman, investor, philanthropist, co-founder and executive chairman of multinational technology conglomerate Alibaba Group – and role model for startups everywhere.

Beverley Bass (left), Dan Kohn (right)

Beverley Bass (1951)
First female captain at American Airlines, who in 1986, led the first all-female American Airlines crew in the history of commercial jet aviation on a flight from Washington D.C. to Dallas, Texas. “It was a huge deal,” she remembers. “It was one of the highlights of my career.” 

Dan Kohn (1972)
Kohn developed the first music store on the internet and, in 1994, through his NetMarket website, made the very first secure online commercial transaction, selling a CD of Sting’s Ten Summoner’s Tales to a friend in Philadelphia. The CD was bought for $12.48 plus shipping. The next day, the New York Times wrote a story about NetMarket, calling it “a new venture that is the equivalent of a shopping mall in cyberspace.”

Louis Danzas (1788-1862) 
French lieutenant in Napoleon’s army who established, freight forwarding company Danzas in 1840. After the Franco-Prussian war in 1871, the company moved its headquarters from France to Switzerland, changing its name to Danzas & Cie. Fast forward a century and, by the early 2000s, Danzas & Cie – by then a subsidiary of Deutsche Post AG – became known as DHL Danzas Air & Ocean, finally becoming DHL Global Forwarding in 2005.

Meet more trailblazers

Images: Studio Pong for DHL Delivered.