5 controversial choices for Time's Person of the Year

This image courtesy of Time shows the cover of the issue for the Person of the Year in 2014, featuring those fighting the Ebola virus. -- PHOTO: AFP
This image courtesy of Time shows the cover of the issue for the Person of the Year in 2014, featuring those fighting the Ebola virus. -- PHOTO: AFP

Time magazine on Wednesday named those fighting Ebola its 2014 Person of the Year in a tribute to the medical relief teams, doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and burial teams working in western Africa, where an outbreak of the virus has killed more than 6,000 people.

"The rest of the world can sleep at night because a group of men and women are willing to stand and fight," wrote Time editor Nancy Gibbs, announcing the prestigious annual title.

"For tireless acts of courage and mercy, for buying the world time to boost its defences, for risking, for persisting, for sacrificing and saving, the Ebola fighters are Time's 2014 Person of the Year."

Time's annual ritual of picking the personality who, for better or worse, made the most impact during the year started way back in 1927. It generated much interest - and sometimes controversy - because of its choices.

Here's a look at five other unconventional choices Time made in past years.

1. Adolf Hitler - 1938

Dw time hitler 141211

On its own website, Time says this has probably been the most controversial of its choices since 1927. Its citation then read: "Hitler became in 1938 the greatest threatening force that the democratic, freedom-loving world faces today."

The Nazi leader, vilified for his killing of millions of Jews and his role in starting World War II, was no doubt an influential person during that era, but many were sickened that the magazine put him on the same pedestal as luminaries such as Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

2. Ayatollah Khomeini - 1979

Dw time khomeini 141211

When the Shah of Iran was deposed in 1979, his arch rival Ayatollah Khomeini triumphantly returned from exile to lead the country. He established strict Islamic law: women were told to cover themselves from head to toe and punishments were meted out according to a strict interpretation of the Quran.

"Rarely has so improbable a leader shaken the world," said Time in its 1979 citation.

However, the public backlash in the United States for this unpopular choice reportedly resulted in Time's reluctance to pick people controversial to Americans for fear of losing subscribers.

3. The Computer - 1982

Dw time computer 141211

In 1982, a year after the first IBM PC first went on the market at the princely price of US$2,880 (monitor not included), Time named the computer as Man of the Year, which the award was then called.

That year, 800,000 PCs were sold in the US, Mitch Kapor designed the Lotus 1-2-3 database, and Apple's US$10,000 Lisa computer was introduced.

It was the dawn of a new computer age, and looking back at how technology has progressed since then, Time's bold choice seems strangely prophetic.

4. You - 2006

Dw time you 141211

If you were on the World Wide Web in 2006, then you were responsible for the explosive growth and influence of user-generated content such as blogs, videos and social networks.

In line with that year's unorthodox choice, the magazine put a mirror on the cover of issue, "because it literally reflects the idea that you, not us, are transforming the information age", said its then-editor Richard Stengel.

Critics, however, called the choice gimmicky, as there were other important candidates that year, including Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, China's President Hu Jintao and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

5. The Protester - 2011

Dw time protester 141211

In 2011, another collective was named Person of the Year, this time the "protesters" around the world, who sought political change with wave after wave of street demonstrations, from Arab nations to the streets of New York. The cover featured a photo of a female Arab protester.

"There's this contagion of protest," then-editor Richard Stengel said. "These are folks who are changing history already and they will change history in the future."

SOURCES: TIME.COM, THE STRAITS TIMES, THE BUSINESS TIMES, THE NEW PAPER