When Java started out, one of the big features that it offered was JDBC, providing a database independent way for Java developers to use relational databases. We've moved on a lot since then with the Java Persistence API (JPA), Hibernate and embedded databases.
As with any technological movement, the success of data persistence in Java is down to a number of people.
For a start there's James Gosling, as the father figure of Java. Getting more specific into persistance Gavin King, founder of the Hibernate project gave developers an even easier way to deal with databases. Related to Hibernate, Rod Johnson's work around Spring helped achieve more simplicity in how enterprise applications are developed. More recently, I think the work done around EclipseLink by Mike Keith from Oracle has been great.
I'd like to know who you think are the most important contributors to Java Data Persistence. So, if you nominate who you think the most important person is with a few sentences stating why in the comment section, you'll be eligable to win some free stuff. If we like what you have to say we will send you a free DZone tshirt along with a printed copy of a Java Data Persistence poster we are creating here at DZone.