Imagine, if you can, what your world would be like without Frederick W. Smith. With the creation of Federal Express Corp., Smith did more than build himself a $1.2-billion company. More, too, than forge the path for what has become a $3-billion industry. When Smith launched Federal Express in Nashville in 1971, he changed the way we do business forever.

Smith, of course, is hardly alone. If there be such a thing as a new entrepreneurial age being born, it is the fruit of many individual efforts, of men and women with the curiosity, determination, and persistence to strike out on their own, to meet the challenges and take the risks that lead to growth.

A handful of individuals stand out, however. They have become the icons of the new era; a trailblazer like Fred Smith, who both inspired other would-be pioneers and energized the venture capital markets; an innovator like F. Kenneth Iverson, who recreated a smokestack industry in a new high-technology mode; or a dreamer like Steven Jobs, emerging from his Cupertino, Calif., garage and into history. But not all of them have gone on to build empires, Political activist Bill Nourse still runs the family hardware store. Thomas F. Carter, the first person to challenge American Telephone & Telegraph Co.'s monopoly rights successfully, is retired today, and never profited from the telecommunications revolution he launched.

But it is not success that makes these five stand out. Rather it is that all five were men of vision, with the imagination to foresee the coming changes and the courage to see them through.

CORRECTION-DATE: September, 1984

CORRECTION:

In "Prophets of the New Age" (April), the location Express's headquarters was incorrect. The company is in Memphis.