Hundreds of singular men and women, throughout history, have had such an influential impact in shaping the world today via their actions.
These groups of people through, for example, religion, science, discovery and inventions, politics, world wars, genocides, political coups, and acts of terrorism have, for better or worse, greatly impacted the world. We owe these men and women the knowledge and lives that we lead today.
Here is our list of the 20 most influential people in history.
1) Jesus Christ:
No list of historically significant figures would be complete without mention of Jesus the Christ. Jesus of Nazareth is a spiritual leader and son of God whose influence was so substantial that history itself was cleaved in two. Our calendar is now divided into a time before Christ (BC) and the time after (AD). Christianity, the largest organized religion of the modern world, with about 2.2 practitioners, was founded on his teachings. To say that Jesus Christ has influenced the lives of millions upon millions of people would be an understatement.
Muhammad was born in the year 571 AD, and his teachings laid the foundation for the writing of the Quran and the establishment of the Muslim faith. Today there are more than 1.8 billion practitioners of Islam and Muhammad’s teachings. With over 24% of the world’s population living according to his tenets, it is easy to place The Prophet Muhammad on this list.
Siddhārtha Gautama was a sage who also practiced asceticism. He is believed to have been born 400 years before Christ. His views on Love, Compassion, Generosity, and Simplicity helped forge the Buddhist religion and now serve as the basis for the lifestyles of millions of humans around the world. Specifically, about 500 million Folks.
Socrates (Born 470 BC and Died 399 BC) is arguably the father of Western philosophy and an instrumental figure in the development of Western civilization. Intrinsic to his teachings was the principle of self-inquiry. Socrates never claimed to know the answers to the hard questions and instilled in his teachings the need for a fundamental insight into things. Epistemology, or the philosophy of knowledge, owes much to Socrates. Sad that this great mind was sentenced to death by drinking hemlock poison.
Aristotle (Born 384 BC And Died 322 BC) was a Greek philosopher, scientist, and mathematician. His teachings and extensive investigations into the world around us helped pave the foundations for much of Western scientific thought for millennia to come.
6) Johann Gutenberg:
Gutenberg, born in 1397, revolutionized the world by inventing the printing press. The introduction of mechanical movable type ushered the modern period of human history and is considered a milestone of humanity. Thanks to Gutenberg, knowledge became inexpensive and easy to access and distribute. He died at the age of 71 in 1468.
7) Martin Luther:
Martin Luther was born in 1483 and died in 1546. He, As a German monk, became the father of the Protestant Revolution. After doing prodigious work on a German translation of the Bible, Luther came to heavily criticize the Catholic Church’s reliance on appointed figures, such as the pope, and instead espoused that the Bible alone held the authority for interpreting the word of Christ.
8) Isaac Newton:
Sir Isaac Newton, born 1643 in the United Kingdom, is widely regarded as one of the most influential people of all time. Being a man of science, he developed new and revolutionary laws of mechanics, gravity, and motion. He laid the framework for the scientific revolution of the Seventeenth Century with his work Principia Mathematica. He died in 1727.
9) Charles Darwin:
One of the three great naturalists of the nineteenth century, Darwin, born in 1809 in the United Kingdom and died in1882, is the father of the theory of Evolution. Although initially controversial, by the time of his death, his theory had become increasingly accepted by the scientific and non-religious community.
10) Nicolaus Copernicus:
Polish astronomer and mathematician, Copernicus, born in 1473 and died in 1543, was the leading mind behind the idea of heliocentrism which challenged the prevailing orthodoxy that the earth was the center of the universe. His seminal “On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres” was published before his death and sparked the scientific revolution of the Renaissance period.
11) Christopher Columbus:
Remembered as the famed European discoverer of the Americas, Columbus, born in 1451 and died in 1506, laid the groundwork for European colonization. He can be attributed with putting America on the map but also for making possible the mistreatment and eventual genocide of the native peoples of the American continent through the resulting European occupation.
12) Sigmund Freud:
This Austrian neurologist, born in 1856, was instrumental in the creation of the field of psychoanalysis, the clinical method for treating psychopathology. Many consider him the most influential thinker of the 20th century despite so many of his ideas being challenged in recent decades. He died in 1939.
13) Albert Einstein:
E=mc2, perhaps the most famous mathematical formula of all is credited to this man. Einstein, born in 1879 and died in 1955, is one of the most celebrated scientists in a century chockfull of scientific discoveries. Einstein is single-handedly responsible for laying the groundwork for an entirely new branch of physics. Due to his contribution to theoretical physics, Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1921.
14) Marie Curie:
This Nobel Prize-winning, in 1903, Polish scientist did groundbreaking work in Radioactivity by enabling radioactive isotopes to be isolated for the first time in history. She developed the practical use of X-Rays and discovered two new elements, polonium, and radium. This was remarkable for the time considering the discrimination that existed against women in the fields of science. Marie Curie was born in 1867 and died in 1934.
15) Adolf Hitler:
Hitler, the charismatic political and military leader of Nazi Germany was born in 1889 and died in 1945. He is considered by many today as the personification of human evil. He led the Nazis in a mostly successful, ruthless war against Western Europe and the Soviet Union. He is primarily responsible for one of the world’s greatest tragedies, the Jewish Holocaust. The Second World War is perhaps the single most pivotal event of the last century and Adolf Hitler was one of its principal players.
16) Adam Smith:
This pioneering Scottish philosopher is best known for his work “The Wealth of Nations,” which was the basis for the free-market field of economics. He is responsible for introducing the concept of division of labor and that rational self-interest could lead to economic prosperity. He was born in 1723 and died in 1790.
17) Karl Marx:
The founder of Marxism was a highly influential political scientist. Due to his political publications, which were decidedly critical of capitalist society, Marx was forced into exile, but his influence was so significant that his name has been used as an adjective, noun and as a school of social theory to this day. Karl Marx was born in 1818 and died in 1883.
18) Orville and Wilbur Wright:
The Wright Brothers revolutionized the world with their heavier than air airplane when they managed to fly it successfully. Their first recorded flight was achieved on December 17, 1903, and over the next decade they went on to make significant contributions to the development of the modern airplane with their patent three-axis control system. A world without human flight would be utterly different. Our lives are more vibrant and more comfortable because of these two men. Orville was born in 1871 and died in 1948 while Wilbur was born in 1867 and died in 1912.
19) Henry Ford:
Henry Ford, born in 1863 and died in 1947, changed the way automobiles were manufactured in America and went on to become the epitome of American capitalism. Ford’s own Ford Motor Company popularized “Fordism” in the late 1910’s which went on to become the standard method of manufacture and production across the globe.
20) Mikhail Gorbachev:
Gorbachev, Being the first democratically elected President of the Soviet Union, played a pivotal role in undoing the grip Communist thought had all over Europe. Thanks to his ambitious aspirations for democracy, the way was open for the Cold War to end as well as the eventual demolition of the Berlin Wall. He is currently 87 years old.