For many young entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs, the answer would be Steve Jobs. A good piece in the New York Times by Christopher Bonanos on The Man Who Inspired Jobs:
IN the memorials toSteven P. Jobsthis week,Apple’s co-founder was compared with the world’s great inventor-entrepreneurs: Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell. Yet virtually none of the obituaries mentioned the man Jobs himself considered hishero, the person on whose career he explicitly modeled his own: Edwin H. Land, the genius domus of Polaroid Corporation and inventor of instant photography.
Land, in his time, was nearly as visible as Jobs was in his. In 1972, he made the covers of bothTimeandLifemagazines, probably the only chemist ever to do so. (Instant photography was a genuine phenomenon back then, and Land had created the entire medium, once joking that he’d worked out the whole idea in a few hours, then spent nearly 30 years getting those last few details down.) And the more you learn about Land, the more you realize how closely Jobs echoed him.