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Who are the most influential people 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 dynamically change as our AI learns new things and new publications and citations are made. Academics are actively researching and publishing new insights, leaving our measure of more recent influence subject to continual adjustments. While we delay real-time changes for quality assurance reasons, be not surprised as you 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

Charles Darwin
# 1
Charles Darwin

1809 - 1882 (73 years)

#2 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...

Albert Einstein
# 2
Albert Einstein

1879 - 1955 (76 years)

#4 person's overall influence

Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics . His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He is best known to the general public for his mass–energy equivalence formula , which has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation". He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect", a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory.

Karl Marx
# 3
Karl Marx

1818 - 1883 (65 years)

#5 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,...

Sigmund Freud
# 4
Sigmund Freud

1856 - 1939 (83 years)

#8 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.

Charles Dickens
# 5
Charles Dickens

1812 - 1870 (58 years)

#12 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 still widely read today.

Abraham Lincoln
# 6
Abraham Lincoln

1809 - 1865 (56 years)

#14 person's overall influence

Abraham Lincoln was an American statesman and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States . Lincoln led the nation through its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis in the American Civil War. He preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the U.S. economy.

James Joyce
# 7
James Joyce

1882 - 1941 (59 years)

#15 person's overall influence

James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist, short story writer, poet, teacher, and literary critic. He contributed to the modernist avant-garde and is regarded as one of the most influential and important authors of the 20th century. Joyce is best known for Ulysses , a landmark work in which the episodes of Homer's Odyssey are paralleled in a variety of literary styles, most famously stream of consciousness. Other well-known works are the short-story collection Dubliners , and the novels A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and Finnegans Wake . His other writings include three b...

Richard Dawkins
# 8
Richard Dawkins

1941 - Present (79 years)

#16 person's overall influence

Richard Dawkins is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford and former University of Oxford’s Professor for Public Understanding of Science, but he is best known for his work in evolutionary biology. He studied zoology at Balliol College, Oxford, earning a bachelor’s degree, M.A., and Ph.D.

H. G. Wells
# 9
H. G. Wells

1866 - 1946 (80 years)

#22 person's overall influence

Herbert George Wells was an English writer. Prolific in many genres, he wrote dozens of novels, short stories, and works of social commentary, history, satire, biography and autobiography. His work also included two books on recreational war games. Wells is now best remembered for his science fiction novels and is often called the "father of science fiction", along with Jules Verne and the publisher Hugo Gernsback.

William James
# 10
William James

1842 - 1910 (68 years)

#23 person's overall influence

William James was an American philosopher 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".

Michel Foucault
# 11
Michel Foucault

1926 - 1984 (58 years)

#24 person's overall influence

Paul-Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, social theorist, and literary critic.

Friedrich Nietzsche
# 12
Friedrich Nietzsche

1844 - 1900 (56 years)

#28 person's overall influence

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a German philosopher, cultural critic, composer, poet, and philologist whose work has exerted a profound influence on modern intellectual history. He began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy. He became the youngest ever to hold the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel in 1869 at the age of 24. Nietzsche resigned in 1879 due to health problems that plagued him most of his life; he completed much of his core writing in the following decade. In 1889, at age 44, he suffered a collapse and afterward a complete loss ...

Émile Durkheim
# 13
Émile Durkheim

1858 - 1917 (59 years)

#27 person's overall influence

David Émile Durkheim was a French sociologist. He formally established the academic discipline of sociology and—with Karl Marx and Max Weber —is commonly cited as the principal architect of modern social science.

John Stuart Mill
# 14
John Stuart Mill

1806 - 1873 (67 years)

#35 person's overall influence

John Stuart Mill , usually cited as J. S. Mill, was a British philosopher, political economist, and civil servant. One of the most influential thinkers in the history of classical liberalism, he contributed widely to social theory, political theory, and political economy. Dubbed "the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century", His conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state and social control.

Mark Twain
# 15
Mark Twain

1835 - 1910 (75 years)

#39 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".

Edgar Allan Poe
# 16
Edgar Allan Poe

1809 - 1849 (40 years)

#40 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...

Noam Chomsky
# 17
Noam Chomsky

1928 - Present (92 years)

#45 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.

Francis Crick
# 18
Francis Crick

1916 - 2004 (88 years)

#46 person's overall influence

Francis Harry Compton Crick was a British molecular biologist, biophysicist, and neuroscientist. In 1953, he co-authored with James Watson the academic paper proposing the double helix structure of the DNA molecule. Together with Watson and Maurice Wilkins, he was jointly awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material". The results were based partly on fundamental studies done by Rosalind Franklin, Raymond Gosling and Wilkins.

Queen Victoria
# 19
Queen Victoria

1819 - 1901 (82 years)

#44 person's overall influence

Victoria was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. She adopted the additional title of Empress of India on 1 May 1876. Known as the Victorian era, her reign of 63 years and seven months was longer than that of any of her predecessors. It was a period of industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military change within the United Kingdom, and was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire.

James Clerk Maxwell
# 20
James Clerk Maxwell

1831 - 1879 (48 years)

#41 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" after the first one realised by Isaac Newton.

Milton Friedman
# 21
Milton Friedman

1912 - 2006 (94 years)

#47 person's overall influence

Milton Friedman was an American economist 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 concept of ration...

T. S. Eliot
# 22
T. S. Eliot

1888 - 1965 (77 years)

#49 person's overall influence

Thomas Stearns Eliot was an American-British poet, essayist, publisher, playwright, literary critic and editor. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, to a prominent Boston Brahmin family, he moved to England in 1914 at the age of 25 and went on to settle, work and marry there. He became a British subject in 1927 at the age of 39, subsequently renouncing his American citizenship.

Leo Tolstoy
# 23
Leo Tolstoy

1828 - 1910 (82 years)

#55 person's overall influence

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy , usually referred to in English as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. He received multiple nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature every year from 1902 to 1906 and nominations for Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, 1902 and 1910 and the fact that he never won is a major Nobel prize controversy.

Karl Popper
# 24
Karl Popper

1902 - 1994 (92 years)

#58 person's overall influence

Sir Karl Raimund Popper was an Austrian-born British philosopher, academic and social commentator.

Herbert Spencer
# 25
Herbert Spencer

1820 - 1903 (83 years)

#56 person's overall influence

Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, and sociologist known for his infamous theory of Social Darwinism throughout contemporary history.

Stephen Jay Gould
# 26
Stephen Jay Gould

1941 - 2002 (61 years)

#54 person's overall influence

Stephen Jay Gould was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read authors of popular science of his generation. Gould spent most of his career teaching at Harvard University and working at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In 1996, Gould was hired as the Vincent Astor Visiting Research Professor of Biology at New York University, where he divided his time teaching there and at Harvard.

Franz Boas
# 27
Franz Boas

1858 - 1942 (84 years)

#61 person's overall influence

Franz Uri Boas was a German-born American anthropologist and a pioneer of modern anthropology who has been called the "Father of American Anthropology". His work is associated with the movements known as Historical Particularism and Cultural Relativism.

John Dewey
# 28
John Dewey

1859 - 1952 (93 years)

#64 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 is regarded as one of the most prominent American scholars in the first half of the twentieth century.

Virginia Woolf
# 29
Virginia Woolf

1882 - 1941 (59 years)

#62 person's overall influence

Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English writer, considered one of the most important modernist 20th-century authors and also a pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device.

George Orwell
# 30
George Orwell

1903 - 1950 (47 years)

#65 person's overall influence

Eric Arthur Blair , known by his pen name George Orwell, was an English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic. His work is characterised by lucid prose, biting social criticism, opposition to totalitarianism, and outspoken support of democratic socialism.

Rudyard Kipling
# 31
Rudyard Kipling

1865 - 1936 (71 years)

#66 person's overall influence

Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist. He was born in India, which inspired much of his work.

John von Neumann
# 32
John von Neumann

1903 - 1957 (54 years)

#71 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"; who integrated both pure and applied sciences.

Alan Turing
# 33
Alan Turing

1912 - 1954 (42 years)

#70 person's overall influence

Alan Mathison Turing was an English mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher, and theoretical biologist. Turing was highly influential in the development of theoretical computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of algorithm and computation with the Turing machine, which can be considered a model of a general-purpose computer. Turing is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. Despite these accomplishments, he was never fully recognised in his home country during his lifetime due to his homo...

Edmund Husserl
# 34
Edmund Husserl

1859 - 1938 (79 years)

#73 person's overall influence

Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl was a German philosopher 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 remains a notable ...

Carl Jung
# 35
Carl Jung

1875 - 1961 (86 years)

#74 person's overall influence

Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. Jung's work was influential in the fields of psychiatry, anthropology, archaeology, literature, philosophy, 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.

Samuel Beckett
# 36
Samuel Beckett

1906 - 1989 (83 years)

#76 person's overall influence

Samuel Barclay Beckett was an Irish novelist, playwright, short story writer, theatre director, poet, and literary translator. A resident of Paris for most of his adult life, he wrote in both French and English.

Oscar Wilde
# 37
Oscar Wilde

1854 - 1900 (46 years)

#77 person's overall influence

Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish poet and playwright. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, the early 1890s saw him become one of the most popular playwrights in London. He is best remembered for his epigrams and plays, his novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, and the circumstances of his criminal conviction for gross indecency for consensual homosexual acts, imprisonment, and early death at age 46.

Bill Gates
# 38
Bill Gates

1955 - Present (65 years)

#78 person's overall influence

William Henry Gates III is an American business magnate, software developer, investor, and philanthropist. He is best known as the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation. During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of chairman, chief executive officer , president and chief software architect, while also being the largest individual shareholder until May 2014. He is one of the best-known entrepreneurs and pioneers of the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s.

Gregor Mendel
# 39
Gregor Mendel

1822 - 1884 (62 years)

#80 person's overall influence

Gregor Johann Mendel was a scientist, Augustinian friar and abbot of St. Thomas' Abbey in Brno, Margraviate of Moravia. Mendel was born in a German-speaking family in the Silesian part of the Austrian Empire and gained posthumous recognition as the founder of the modern science of genetics. Though farmers had known for millennia that crossbreeding of animals and plants could favor certain desirable traits, Mendel's pea plant experiments conducted between 1856 and 1863 established many of the rules of heredity, now referred to as the laws of Mendelian inheritance.

J. R. R. Tolkien
# 40
J. R. R. Tolkien

1892 - 1973 (81 years)

#79 person's overall influence

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was an English writer, poet, philologist, and academic. He was the author of the high fantasy works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Ernest Hemingway
# 41
Ernest Hemingway

1899 - 1961 (62 years)

#83 person's overall influence

Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American journalist, novelist, short-story writer, and sportsman. His economical and understated style—which he termed the iceberg theory—had a strong influence on 20th-century fiction, while his adventurous lifestyle and his public image brought him admiration from later generations. Hemingway produced most of his work between the mid-1920s and the mid-1950s, and he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1954. He published seven novels, six short-story collections, and two nonfiction works. Three of his novels, four short-story collections, and three nonfiction w...

Napoleon
# 42
Napoleon

1769 - 1821 (52 years)

#20 person's overall influence

Napoleon Bonaparte , born Napoleone di Buonaparte , was a French statesman and military leader who became famous as an artillery commander during the French Revolution. He led many successful campaigns during the French Revolutionary Wars and was Emperor of the French as Napoleon I from 1804 until 1814 and again briefly in 1815 during the Hundred Days. Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions during the Napoleonic Wars. He won many of these wars and a vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that rule...

Isaac Asimov
# 43
Isaac Asimov

1920 - 1992 (72 years)

#86 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 who wrote or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards.

Niels Bohr
# 44
Niels Bohr

1885 - 1962 (77 years)

#88 person's overall influence

Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum theory, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr was also a philosopher and a promoter of scientific research.

Linus Pauling
# 45
Linus Pauling

1901 - 1994 (93 years)

#90 person's overall influence

Linus Carl Pauling was an American chemical engineer, chemist, biochemist, peace activist, author, and educator. He published more than 1,200 papers and books, of which about 850 dealt with scientific topics. New Scientist called him one of the 20 greatest scientists of all time, and as of 2000, he was rated the 16th most important scientist in history. For his scientific work, Pauling was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954. For his peace activism, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962. He is one of four individuals to have won more than one Nobel Prize . Of these, he is the...

Edward Snowden
# 46
Edward Snowden

1983 - Present (37 years)

#85 person's overall influence

Ulysses S. Grant
# 47
Ulysses S. Grant

1822 - 1885 (63 years)

#92 person's overall influence

Ulysses S. Grant was an American soldier and politician who served as the 18th president of the United States from 1869 to 1877. Before his presidency, Grant led the Union Army as Commanding General of the United States Army in winning the American Civil War. As president, Grant worked with the Radical Republicans in the Reconstruction of the Union while dealing with corruption in his administration.

Jean-Paul Sartre
# 48
Jean-Paul Sartre

1905 - 1980 (75 years)

#93 person's overall influence

Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism and phenomenology, and one of the leading figures in 20th-century French philosophy and Marxism. His work has also influenced sociology, critical theory, post-colonial theory, and literary studies, and continues to influence these disciplines.

Salman Rushdie
# 49
Salman Rushdie

1947 - Present (73 years)

#94 person's overall influence

Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie is a British Indian novelist and essayist. His second novel, Midnight's Children , won the Booker Prize in 1981 and was deemed to be "the best novel of all winners" on two separate occasions, marking the 25th and the 40th anniversary of the prize. Much of his fiction is set on the Indian subcontinent. He combines magical realism with historical fiction; his work is concerned with the many connections, disruptions, and migrations between Eastern and Western civilizations.

Joseph Conrad
# 50
Joseph Conrad

1857 - 1924 (67 years)

#89 person's overall influence

Joseph Conrad was a Polish-British writer regarded as one of the greatest novelists to write in the English language. Though he did not speak English fluently until his twenties, he was a master prose stylist who brought a non-English sensibility into English literature. Conrad wrote stories and novels, many with a nautical setting, that depict trials of the human spirit in the midst of what he saw as an impassive, inscrutable universe.