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Elon Musk is Time's Person of the Year for 2021

Time recognizes the Tesla and SpaceX CEO alongside gymnast Simone Biles and vaccine scientists.

Elon Musk on the cover of Time magazine.
Mark Mahaney for TIME

Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk has been named Time's 2021 Person of the Year. The magazine also honors vaccine scientists who tackled COVID-19 as their heroes of the year, and Olympic and world champion gymnast Simone Biles was named athlete of the year.

Time said it gave Musk the award for his "dreams of Mars as he bestrides Earth, square-jawed and indomitable." 

"The richest man in the world does not own a house and has recently been selling off his fortune," Time writes in tribute. "He tosses satellites into orbit and harnesses the sun; he drives a car he created that uses no gas and barely needs a driver. With a flick of his finger, the stock market soars or swoons."

Born in South Africa in 1971 to a family that made its money in mining, Musk moved to the US and was a key player in PayPal's rise. In 2002 he founded SpaceX and a few years later was an early investor in electric car company Tesla, which he now runs.

Time's profile notes Musk's "madcap" social media presence, but argues he's a genuinely larger-than-life figure whose part in various emerging technologies, coupled with a year of wins for Tesla and SpaceX, make him worthy of the award.

But in 2021, Tesla and Musk also faced criticism. Earlier this year, the National Labor Relations Board found that Tesla violated labor laws by threatening workers for attempting to unionize and firing an employee leading the cause. In October, the electric car maker lost a racial discrimination lawsuit. It's also facing a suit filed in November by a former worker who alleges she was subjected to sexual harassment at the company's Fremont, California, factory. 

Musk's other projects include Neuralink, the Boring Company and SolarCity. He's also known for his, shall we say, provocative tweets on everything from cryptocurrency to his relationship with pop singer Grimes. "But you know, not all jokes land," Musk admits to Time.

Musk and Person of the Year were trending topics on Twitter on Monday. While many on the social network congratulated him, some questioned the decision or used it as an opportunity to call out Musk. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has been critical of Musk in the past, said in a tweet that it's time to "change the rigged tax code so The Person of the Year will actually pay taxes and stop freeloading off everyone else."

Last year saw Joe Biden and Kamala Harris jointly named Person of the Year. Others who have made the cover as Person of the Year include Charles Lindbergh, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Adolph Hitler, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, the American soldier, Queen Elizabeth II, Mark Zuckerberg and Greta Thunberg.

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