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Who are the most influential thinkers in world?

Identify leaders in your chosen discipline, research top professors in your area of study, and search for schools based on the luminaries who most inspire you!

Note: These rankings change dynamically as our artificial intelligence system learns new things and incorporates new publications and citations. Academics are constantly doing research and publishing new insights, with the result that our measure of influence is subject to continual adjustments. For quality assurance reasons, however, we forgo real-time changes, with most public updates happening only quarterly. In any case, don’t be surprised to see our rankings change over time.

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Gender designations here are based off data sourced from Wikidata.

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List of the most influential people for the years 1800 – 2020

Karl Marx
# 1
Karl Marx

1818 - 1883 (65 years)

#3 person's overall influence

Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary. Born in Trier, Germany, Marx studied law and philosophy at university. He married Jenny von Westphalen in 1843. Due to his political publications, Marx became stateless and lived in exile with his wife and children in London for decades, where he continued to develop his thought in collaboration with German thinker Friedrich Engels and publish his writings, researching in the reading room of the British Museum. His best-known titles are the 1848 pamphlet

Albert Einstein
# 2
Albert Einstein

1879 - 1955 (76 years)

#7 person's overall influence

Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist, widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest physicists of all time. Einstein is known for developing the theory of relativity, but he also made important contributions to the development of the theory of quantum mechanics. Relativity and quantum mechanics are together the two pillars of modern physics. His mass–energy equivalence formula , which arises from relativity theory, has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation". His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Ph

Sigmund Freud
# 3
Sigmund Freud

1856 - 1939 (83 years)

#9 person's overall influence

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst.Freud was born to Galician Jewish parents in the Moravian town of Freiberg, in the Austrian Empire. He qualified as a doctor of medicine in 1881 at the University of Vienna. Upon completing his habilitation in 1885, he was appointed a docent in neuropathology and became an affiliated professor in 1902. Freud lived and worked in Vienna, having set up his clinical practice there in 1886. In 1938, Freud left Austria to

Charles Darwin
# 4
Charles Darwin

1809 - 1882 (73 years)

#10 person's overall influence

Charles Robert Darwin was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. His proposition that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors is now widely accepted, and considered a foundational concept in science. In a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace, he introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breedin

Bertrand Russell
# 5
Bertrand Russell

1872 - 1970 (98 years)

#18 person's overall influence

Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell was a British polymath. As an academic, he worked in philosophy, mathematics, and logic. His work has had a considerable influence on mathematics, logic, set theory, linguistics, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, computer science and various areas of analytic philosophy, especially logic, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of language, epistemology and metaphysics. Russell was also a public intellectual, historian, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate.

Max Weber
# 6
Max Weber

1864 - 1920 (56 years)

#24 person's overall influence

Maximilian Karl Emil Weber was a German sociologist, historian, jurist, and political economist, who is regarded among the most important theorists on the development of modern Western society. His ideas would profoundly influence social theory and social research. Despite being recognized as one of the fathers of sociology, along with Auguste Comte and Émile Durkheim, Weber saw himself not as a sociologist, but as a historian.

Mahatma Gandhi
# 7
Mahatma Gandhi

1869 - 1948 (79 years)

#28 person's overall influence

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, and political ethicist, who employed nonviolent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India's independence from British rule, and in turn inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. The honorific Mahātmā , first applied to him in 1914 in South Africa, is now used throughout the world.

David Hilbert
# 8
David Hilbert

1862 - 1943 (81 years)

#33 person's overall influence

David Hilbert was a German mathematician and one of the most influential mathematicians of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Hilbert discovered and developed a broad range of fundamental ideas in many areas, including invariant theory, the calculus of variations, commutative algebra, algebraic number theory, the foundations of geometry, spectral theory of operators and its application to integral equations, mathematical physics, and the foundations of mathematics .

William James
# 9
William James

1842 - 1910 (68 years)

#35 person's overall influence

William James was an American philosopher, historian, and psychologist, and the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States. James is considered to be a leading thinker of the late nineteenth century, one of the most influential philosophers of the United States, and the "Father of American psychology".

John von Neumann
# 10
John von Neumann

1903 - 1957 (54 years)

#36 person's overall influence

John von Neumann was a Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, computer scientist, engineer and polymath. Von Neumann was generally regarded as the foremost mathematician of his time and said to be "the last representative of the great mathematicians". He integrated pure and applied sciences.

John Dewey
# 11
John Dewey

1859 - 1952 (93 years)

#39 person's overall influence

John Dewey was an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer whose ideas have been influential in education and social reform. He was one of the most prominent American scholars in the first half of the twentieth century.

Milton Friedman
# 12
Milton Friedman

1912 - 2006 (94 years)

#41 person's overall influence

Milton Friedman was an American economist and statistician who received the 1976 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his research on consumption analysis, monetary history and theory and the complexity of stabilization policy. With George Stigler and others, Friedman was among the intellectual leaders of the Chicago school of economics, a neoclassical school of economic thought associated with the work of the faculty at the University of Chicago that rejected Keynesianism in favor of monetarism until the mid-1970s, when it turned to new classical macroeconomics heavily based on the

Martin Heidegger
# 13
Martin Heidegger

1889 - 1976 (87 years)

#42 person's overall influence

Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher who is widely regarded as one of the most important philosophers of the 20th century. He is best known for contributions to phenomenology, hermeneutics, and existentialism.

Edgar Allan Poe
# 14
Edgar Allan Poe

1809 - 1849 (40 years)

#43 person's overall influence

Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer, poet, editor, and literary critic. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is widely regarded as a central figure of Romanticism in the United States and of American literature as a whole, and he was one of the country's earliest practitioners of the short story. He is also generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre and is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. Poe was the first well-known American writer to earn a living through...

Friedrich Engels
# 15
Friedrich Engels

1820 - 1895 (75 years)

#44 person's overall influence

Friedrich Engels , sometimes anglicised as Frederick Engels , was a German philosopher, economist, historian, political theorist and revolutionary socialist. He was also a businessman, journalist and political activist, whose father was an owner of large textile factories in Salford and Barmen, Prussia .

Carl Jung
# 16
Carl Jung

1875 - 1961 (86 years)

#45 person's overall influence

Carl Gustav Jung , was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. Jung's work has been influential in the fields of psychiatry, anthropology, archaeology, literature, philosophy, psychology and religious studies. Jung worked as a research scientist at the famous Burghölzli hospital, under Eugen Bleuler. During this time, he came to the attention of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. The two men conducted a lengthy correspondence and collaborated, for a while, on a joint vision of human psychology.

Charles Sanders Peirce
# 17
Charles Sanders Peirce

1839 - 1914 (75 years)

#46 person's overall influence

Charles Sanders Peirce was an American philosopher, logician, mathematician and scientist who is sometimes known as "the father of pragmatism". He was known as a somewhat unusual character.Educated as a chemist and employed as a scientist for thirty years, Peirce made major contributions to logic, a subject that, for him, encompassed much of what is now called epistemology and the philosophy of science. He saw logic as the formal branch of semiotics, of which he is a founder, which foreshadowed the debate among logical positivists and proponents of philosophy of language that dominated 20th-c

Jacques Derrida
# 18
Jacques Derrida

1930 - 2004 (74 years)

#54 person's overall influence

Jacques Derrida , born in Algeria, was a French philosopher best known for developing a form of semiotic analysis known as deconstruction, which he analyzed in numerous texts, and developed in the context of phenomenology. He is one of the major figures associated with post-structuralism and postmodern philosophy.

Søren Kierkegaard
# 19
Søren Kierkegaard

1813 - 1855 (42 years)

#58 person's overall influence

Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic, and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. He wrote critical texts on organized religion, Christendom, morality, ethics, psychology, and the philosophy of religion, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony, and parables. Much of his philosophical work deals with the issues of how one lives as a "single individual", giving priority to concrete human reality over abstract thinking and highlighting the importance of personal choice and commitment. He was against lite...

John Maynard Keynes
# 20
John Maynard Keynes

1883 - 1946 (63 years)

#59 person's overall influence

John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes, was an English economist, whose ideas fundamentally changed the theory and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments. Originally trained in mathematics, he built on and greatly refined earlier work on the causes of business cycles. One of the most influential economists of the 20th century, his ideas are the basis for the school of thought known as Keynesian economics, and its various offshoots.

Karl Popper
# 21
Karl Popper

1902 - 1994 (92 years)

#61 person's overall influence

Sir Karl Raimund Popper was an Austrian-British philosopher, academic and social commentator.One of the 20th century's most influential philosophers of science, Popper is known for his rejection of the classical inductivist views on the scientific method in favour of empirical falsification. According to Popper, a theory in the empirical sciences can never be proven, but it can be falsified, meaning that it can be scrutinised with decisive experiments. Popper was opposed to the classical justificationist account of knowledge, which he replaced with critical rationalism, namely "the first no...

Noam Chomsky
# 22
Noam Chomsky

1928 - Present (93 years)

#63 person's overall influence

Noam Chomsky currently holds joint appointments at MIT as Institute Professor Emeritus, and the University of Arizona as Laureate Professor. Chomsky completed his university studies between the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.

Gottlob Frege
# 23
Gottlob Frege

1848 - 1925 (77 years)

#67 person's overall influence

Friedrich Ludwig Gottlob Frege was a German philosopher, logician, and mathematician. He worked as a mathematics professor at the University of Jena, and is understood by many to be the father of analytic philosophy, concentrating on the philosophy of language, logic, and mathematics. Though he was largely ignored during his lifetime, Giuseppe Peano , Bertrand Russell , and, to some extent, Ludwig Wittgenstein introduced his work to later generations of philosophers. In the early 21st century, Frege was widely considered to be the greatest logician since Aristotle, and one of the most profo...

Ferdinand de Saussure
# 24
Ferdinand de Saussure

1857 - 1913 (56 years)

#68 person's overall influence

Ferdinand de Saussure was a Swiss linguist, semiotician and philosopher. His ideas laid a foundation for many significant developments in both linguistics and semiotics in the 20th century. He is widely considered one of the founders of 20th-century linguistics and one of two major founders of semiotics, or semiology, as Saussure called it.

Jürgen Habermas
# 25
Jürgen Habermas

1929 - Present (92 years)

#71 person's overall influence

Jürgen Habermas is a German philosopher mostly associated with the influential Frankurt School in Germany, part of the Institute for Social Research, at Goethe University Frankfurt, and historically an important center for research on social theory and critical philosophy. Habermas, now 90, earned his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Bonn in 1954. Habermas is a famed philosopher who has taught a number of influential philosophers, including Hans Joas at the University of Chicago.

Henry Kissinger
# 26
Henry Kissinger

1923 - Present (98 years)

#72 person's overall influence

Henry Alfred Kissinger is an American politician, diplomat, and geopolitical consultant who served as United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor under the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. A Jewish refugee who fled Nazi Germany with his family in 1938, he became National Security Advisor in 1969 and U.S. Secretary of State in 1973. For his actions negotiating a ceasefire in Vietnam, Kissinger received the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize under controversial circumstances, with two members of the committee resigning in protest.

Steve Jobs
# 27
Steve Jobs

1955 - 2011 (56 years)

#73 person's overall influence

Steven Paul Jobs was an American business magnate, industrial designer, investor, and media proprietor. He was the chairman, chief executive officer , and co-founder of Apple Inc.; the chairman and majority shareholder of Pixar; a member of The Walt Disney Company's board of directors following its acquisition of Pixar; and the founder, chairman, and CEO of NeXT. Jobs is widely recognized as a pioneer of the personal computer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s, along with his early business partner and fellow Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

Mark Twain
# 28
Mark Twain

1835 - 1910 (75 years)

#76 person's overall influence

Samuel Langhorne Clemens , known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. He was lauded as the "greatest humorist the United States has produced," and William Faulkner called him "the father of American literature". His novels include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and its sequel, the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn , the latter often called "The Great American Novel".

Leon Trotsky
# 29
Leon Trotsky

1879 - 1940 (61 years)

#77 person's overall influence

Lev Davidovich Bronstein , better known as Leon Trotsky , was a Ukrainian-Russian Marxist revolutionary, political theorist and politician. Ideologically a communist, he developed a variant of Marxism which has become known as Trotskyism.

James Clerk Maxwell
# 30
James Clerk Maxwell

1831 - 1879 (48 years)

#80 person's overall influence

James Clerk Maxwell was a Scottish scientist in the field of mathematical physics. His most notable achievement was to formulate the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, bringing together for the first time electricity, magnetism, and light as different manifestations of the same phenomenon. Maxwell's equations for electromagnetism have been called the "second great unification in physics" where the first one had been realised by Isaac Newton.

Herbert A. Simon
# 31
Herbert A. Simon

1916 - 2001 (85 years)

#82 person's overall influence

Herbert Alexander Simon was an American economist, political scientist and cognitive psychologist, whose primary research interest was decision-making within organizations and is best known for the theories of "bounded rationality" and "satisficing". He received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1978 and the Turing Award in 1975. His research was noted for its interdisciplinary nature and spanned across the fields of cognitive science, computer science, public administration, management, and political science. He was at Carnegie Mellon University for most of his career, from 1949 to 2001.

Richard Feynman
# 32
Richard Feynman

1918 - 1988 (70 years)

#86 person's overall influence

Richard Phillips Feynman was an American theoretical physicist, known for his work in the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics, the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as his work in particle physics for which he proposed the parton model. For contributions to the development of quantum electrodynamics, Feynman received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 jointly with Julian Schwinger and Shin'ichirō Tomonaga.

Norbert Wiener
# 33
Norbert Wiener

1894 - 1964 (70 years)

#87 person's overall influence

Norbert Wiener was an American mathematician and philosopher. He was a professor of mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology . A child prodigy, Wiener later became an early researcher in stochastic and mathematical noise processes, contributing work relevant to electronic engineering, electronic communication, and control systems.

Thomas Edison
# 34
Thomas Edison

1847 - 1931 (84 years)

#89 person's overall influence

Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman who has been described as America's greatest inventor. He developed many devices in fields such as electric power generation, mass communication, sound recording, and motion pictures. These inventions, which include the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and early versions of the electric light bulb, have had a widespread impact on the modern industrialized world. He was one of the first inventors to apply the principles of organized science and teamwork to the process of invention, working with many researchers and employees. He...

Frank Lloyd Wright
# 35
Frank Lloyd Wright

1867 - 1959 (92 years)

#91 person's overall influence

Frank Lloyd Wright was an American architect, designer, writer, and educator. He designed more than 1,000 structures over a creative period of 70 years. Wright believed in designing in harmony with humanity and the environment, a philosophy he called organic architecture. This philosophy was exemplified in Fallingwater , which has been called "the best all-time work of American architecture". Wright played a key role in the architectural movements of the twentieth century, influencing architects worldwide through his works and hundreds of apprentices in his Taliesin Fellowship.

Henri Poincaré
# 36
Henri Poincaré

1854 - 1912 (58 years)

#92 person's overall influence

Jules Henri Poincaré was a French mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer, and philosopher of science. He is often described as a polymath, and in mathematics as "The Last Universalist", since he excelled in all fields of the discipline as it existed during his lifetime.

Isaac Asimov
# 37
Isaac Asimov

1920 - 1992 (72 years)

#93 person's overall influence

Isaac Asimov was an American writer and professor of biochemistry at Boston University. He was known for his works of science fiction and popular science. Asimov was a prolific writer, and wrote or edited more than 500 books. He also wrote an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards.

Jacques Lacan
# 38
Jacques Lacan

1901 - 1981 (80 years)

#95 person's overall influence

Jacques Marie Émile Lacan was a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who has been called "the most controversial psycho-analyst since Freud". Giving yearly seminars in Paris from 1953 to 1981, Lacan’s work has marked the French and international intellectual landscape, having made a significant impact on continental philosophy and cultural theory in areas such as post-structuralism, critical theory, feminist theory and film theory as well as on psychoanalysis itself.

T. S. Eliot
# 39
T. S. Eliot

1888 - 1965 (77 years)

#98 person's overall influence

Thomas Stearns Eliot was a poet, essayist, publisher, playwright, literary critic and editor. Considered one of the 20th century's major poets, he is a central figure in English-language Modernist poetry.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
# 40
Ralph Waldo Emerson

1803 - 1882 (79 years)

#99 person's overall influence

Ralph Waldo Emerson , who went by his middle name Waldo, was an American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, abolitionist and poet who led the transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was seen as a champion of individualism and a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society, and he disseminated his thoughts through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States.

John Rawls
# 41
John Rawls

1921 - 2002 (81 years)

#100 person's overall influence

John Bordley Rawls was an American moral and political philosopher in the liberal tradition. Rawls received both the Schock Prize for Logic and Philosophy and the National Humanities Medal in 1999, the latter presented by President Bill Clinton, in recognition of how Rawls's work "helped a whole generation of learned Americans revive their faith in democracy itself."

Kurt Gödel
# 42
Kurt Gödel

1906 - 1978 (72 years)

#101 person's overall influence

Kurt Friedrich Gödel was a logician, mathematician, and philosopher. Considered along with Aristotle and Gottlob Frege to be one of the most significant logicians in history, Gödel had an immense effect upon scientific and philosophical thinking in the 20th century, a time when others such as Bertrand Russell, Alfred North Whitehead, and David Hilbert were using logic and set theory to investigate the foundations of mathematics, building on earlier work by the likes of Richard Dedekind, Georg Cantor and Gottlob Frege.

Edmund Husserl
# 43
Edmund Husserl

1859 - 1938 (79 years)

#102 person's overall influence

Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl was a German philosopher of Jewish origin, who established the school of phenomenology.In his early work, he elaborated critiques of historicism and of psychologism in logic based on analyses of intentionality. In his mature work, he sought to develop a systematic foundational science based on the so-called phenomenological reduction. Arguing that transcendental consciousness sets the limits of all possible knowledge, Husserl redefined phenomenology as a transcendental-idealist philosophy. Husserl's thought profoundly influenced 20th-century philosophy, and he r...

Charles Dickens
# 44
Charles Dickens

1812 - 1870 (58 years)

#103 person's overall influence

Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime and, by the 20th century, critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories are widely read today.

Friedrich Hayek
# 45
Friedrich Hayek

1899 - 1992 (93 years)

#104 person's overall influence

Friedrich August von Hayek , often referred to by his initials F. A. Hayek, was an Austrian-British economist and philosopher who is best known for his defence of classical liberalism. Hayek shared the 1974 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Gunnar Myrdal for his work on economics. His account of how changing prices communicate information that helps individuals coordinate their plans is widely regarded as an important achievement in economics, leading to his Nobel Prize.

Bernhard Riemann
# 46
Bernhard Riemann

1826 - 1866 (40 years)

#106 person's overall influence

Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann was a German mathematician who made contributions to analysis, number theory, and differential geometry. In the field of real analysis, he is mostly known for the first rigorous formulation of the integral, the Riemann integral, and his work on Fourier series. His contributions to complex analysis include most notably the introduction of Riemann surfaces, breaking new ground in a natural, geometric treatment of complex analysis. His famous 1859 paper on the prime-counting function, containing the original statement of the Riemann hypothesis, is regarded as one

C. S. Lewis
# 47
C. S. Lewis

1898 - 1963 (65 years)

#107 person's overall influence

Clive Staples Lewis was a British writer and lay theologian. He held academic positions in English literature at both Oxford University and Cambridge University . He is best known for his works of fiction, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.

Queen Victoria
# 48
Queen Victoria

1819 - 1901 (82 years)

#108 person's overall influence

Victoria was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death in 1901. Known as the Victorian era, her reign of 63 years and seven months was longer than any previous British monarch. It was a period of industrial, political, scientific, and military change within the United Kingdom, and was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire. In 1876, Parliament voted to grant her the additional title of Empress of India.

Henry David Thoreau
# 49
Henry David Thoreau

1817 - 1862 (45 years)

#109 person's overall influence

Henry David Thoreau was an American naturalist, essayist, poet, and philosopher. A leading transcendentalist, he is best known for his book Walden, a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings, and his essay "Civil Disobedience" , an argument for disobedience to an unjust state.

George Bernard Shaw
# 50
George Bernard Shaw

1856 - 1950 (94 years)

#112 person's overall influence

George Bernard Shaw , known at his insistence simply as Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist. His influence on Western theatre, culture and politics extended from the 1880s to his death and beyond. He wrote more than sixty plays, including major works such as Man and Superman , Pygmalion and Saint Joan . With a range incorporating both contemporary satire and historical allegory, Shaw became the leading dramatist of his generation, and in 1925 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

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