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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 in Business, for the years 1800 – 2020

Bill Gates
# 1
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.

John D. Rockefeller
# 2
John D. Rockefeller

1839 - 1937 (98 years)

#198 person's overall influence

John Davison Rockefeller Sr. was an American business magnate and philanthropist. He is widely considered the wealthiest American of all time, and the richest person in modern history.

Peter Drucker
# 3
Peter Drucker

1909 - 2005 (96 years)

#595 person's overall influence

Peter Ferdinand Drucker was an Austrian-born American management consultant, educator, and author, whose writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business corporation. He was also a leader in the development of management education, he invented the concept known as management by objectives and self-control, and he has been described as "the founder of modern management".

Andrew Carnegie
# 4
Andrew Carnegie

1835 - 1919 (84 years)

#126 person's overall influence

Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish-American industrialist, and philanthropist. Carnegie led the expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century and became one of the richest Americans in history. He became a leading philanthropist in the United States and in the British Empire. During the last 18 years of his life, he gave away $350 million to charities, foundations, and universities – almost 90 percent of his fortune. His 1889 article proclaiming "The Gospel of Wealth" called on the rich to use their wealth to improve society, and stimulated a wave of philanthropy.

Steve Jobs
# 5
Steve Jobs

1955 - 2011 (56 years)

#229 person's overall influence

Warren Buffett
# 6
Warren Buffett

1930 - Present (90 years)

#351 person's overall influence

Warren Edward Buffett is an American investor, business tycoon, and philanthropist, who is the chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. He is considered one of the most successful investors in the world and has a net worth of US$88.9 billion as of December 2019, making him the fourth-wealthiest person in the world.

Muhammad Yunus
# 7
Muhammad Yunus

1940 - Present (80 years)

#575 person's overall influence

Muhammad Yunus is a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur, banker, economist, and civil society leader who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for founding the Grameen Bank and pioneering the concepts of microcredit and microfinance. These loans are given to entrepreneurs too poor to qualify for traditional bank loans. In 2006, Yunus and the Grameen Bank were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for their efforts through microcredit to create economic and social development from below". The Norwegian Nobel Committee said that "lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find way...

Thomas Alva Edison
# 8
Thomas Alva Edison

1847 - 1931 (84 years)

#132 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 the long-lasting, practical 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 employe...

Mark Zuckerberg
# 9
Mark Zuckerberg

1984 - Present (36 years)

#281 person's overall influence

Mark Elliot Zuckerberg is an American media magnate, internet entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He is known for co-founding Facebook, Inc. and serves as its chairman, chief executive officer, and controlling shareholder. He also is a co-founder of the solar sail spacecraft development project Breakthrough Starshot and serves as one of its board members.

J. P. Morgan
# 10
J. P. Morgan

1837 - 1913 (76 years)

#674 person's overall influence

John Pierpont Morgan Sr. was an American financier and banker who dominated corporate finance on Wall Street throughout the Gilded Age. As the head of the banking firm that ultimately became known as J.P. Morgan and Co., he was a driving force behind the wave of industrial consolidation in the United States spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Richard Branson
# 11
Richard Branson

1950 - Present (70 years)

#585 person's overall influence

Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson is a British business magnate, investor, author and former philanthropist. He founded the Virgin Group in the 1970s, which controls more than 400 companies in various fields.

Rupert Murdoch
# 12
Rupert Murdoch

1931 - Present (89 years)

#207 person's overall influence

Keith Rupert Murdoch, is an Australian-born American media mogul who founded News Corp. He is the son of Keith Murdoch, one time senior executive of Australia's Herald & Weekly Times publishing company. After his father's death in 1952, Murdoch took over the running of The News, a small Adelaide newspaper owned by his father.

Cornelius Vanderbilt
# 13
Cornelius Vanderbilt

1794 - 1877 (83 years)

#951 person's overall influence

Cornelius Vanderbilt was an American business magnate who built his wealth in railroads and shipping. After working with his father's business, Vanderbilt worked his way into leadership positions in the inland water trade and invested in the rapidly growing railroad industry. Nicknamed "The Commodore", he is known for owning the New York Central Railroad. His biographer T. J. Stiles says, "He vastly improved and expanded the nation's transportation infrastructure, contributing to a transformation of the very geography of the United States. He embraced new technologies and new forms of busines...

Mark Twain
# 14
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".

Jack Welch
# 15
Jack Welch

1935 - 2020 (85 years)

#1273 person's overall influence

John Francis Welch Jr. was an American business executive, chemical engineer, and writer. He was chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001. When he retired from GE he received a severance payment of $417 million, the largest such payment in business history. In 2006, Welch's net worth was estimated at $720 million.

Lillian Moller Gilbreth
# 16
Lillian Moller Gilbreth

1878 - 1972 (94 years)

#1086 person's overall influence

Lillian Evelyn Moller Gilbreth was an American psychologist, industrial engineer, consultant, and educator who was an early pioneer in applying psychology to time-and-motion studies. She was described in the 1940s as "a genius in the art of living." Gilbreth, one of the first female engineers to earn a Ph.D., is considered to be the first industrial/organizational psychologist. She and her husband, Frank Bunker Gilbreth, were efficiency experts who contributed to the study of industrial engineering, especially in the areas of motion study and human factors. Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on...

Alfred P. Sloan
# 17
Alfred P. Sloan

1875 - 1966 (91 years)

#1246 person's overall influence

Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr. was an American business executive in the automotive industry. He was a long-time president, chairman and CEO of General Motors Corporation. Sloan, first as a senior executive and later as the head of the organization, helped GM grow from the 1920s through the 1950s, decades when concepts such as the annual model change, brand architecture, industrial engineering, automotive design , and planned obsolescence transformed the industry, and when the industry changed lifestyles and the built environment in America and throughout the world.

Alexander Graham Bell
# 18
Alexander Graham Bell

1847 - 1922 (75 years)

#138 person's overall influence

Alexander Graham Bell was a Scottish-born inventor, scientist, and engineer who is credited with inventing and patenting the first practical telephone. He also co-founded the American Telephone and Telegraph Company in 1885.

James J. Hill
# 19
James J. Hill

1838 - 1916 (78 years)

#1554 person's overall influence

James Jerome Hill , was a Canadian-American railroad executive. He was the chief executive officer of a family of lines headed by the Great Northern Railway, which served a substantial area of the Upper Midwest, the northern Great Plains, and Pacific Northwest. Because of the size of this region and the economic dominance exerted by the Hill lines, Hill became known during his lifetime as "The Empire Builder".

Oprah Winfrey
# 20
Oprah Winfrey

1954 - Present (66 years)

#393 person's overall influence

Oprah Gail Winfrey is an American talk show host, actress, television producer, media executive, and philanthropist. She is best known for her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, broadcast from Chicago, which was the highest-rated television program of its kind in history and ran in national syndication for 25 years from 1986 to 2011. Dubbed the "Queen of All Media", she was the richest African American of the 20th century and North America's first black multi-billionaire, and she has been ranked the greatest black philanthropist in American history. By 2007, she was sometimes ranked as the mo...

Sam Walton
# 21
Sam Walton

1918 - 1992 (74 years)

#2268 person's overall influence

Samuel Moore Walton was an American businessman and entrepreneur best known for founding the retailers Walmart and Sam's Club. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. grew to be the world's largest corporation by revenue as well as the biggest private employer in the world. For a period of time, Walton was the richest man in America.

George Soros
# 22
George Soros

1930 - Present (90 years)

#382 person's overall influence

Robert Owen
# 23
Robert Owen

1771 - 1858 (87 years)

#960 person's overall influence

Robert Owen , a Welsh textile manufacturer, philanthropist and social reformer, was one founder of utopian socialism and the cooperative movement. He is known for efforts to improve factory working conditions for his workers and promote experimental socialistic communities. In the early 1800s, he became wealthy as an investor and eventual manager of a large textile mill at New Lanark, Scotland. He had initially trained as a draper in Stamford, Lincolnshire and worked in London before relocating aged 18 to Manchester and becoming a textile manufacturer. In 1824, Owen travelled to America and in...

George Westinghouse
# 24
George Westinghouse

1846 - 1914 (68 years)

#1092 person's overall influence

George Westinghouse Jr. was an American entrepreneur and engineer based in Pennsylvania who created the railway air brake and was a pioneer of the electrical industry, gaining his first patent at the age of 19. Westinghouse saw the potential in alternating current as an electricity distribution system in the early 1880s and put all his resources into developing and marketing it, a move that put his business in direct competition with the Edison direct current system. In 1911 Westinghouse received the AIEE's Edison Medal "For meritorious achievement in connection with the development of the al...

Thomas J. Watson
# 25
Thomas J. Watson

1874 - 1956 (82 years)

#1849 person's overall influence

Thomas John Watson Sr. was an American businessman. He served as the chairman and CEO of International Business Machines . He oversaw the company's growth into an international force from 1914 to 1956. Watson developed IBM's management style and corporate culture from John Henry Patterson's training at NCR. He turned the company into a highly-effective selling organization, based largely on punched card tabulating machines. A leading self-made industrialist, he was one of the richest men of his time and was called the world's greatest salesman when he died in 1956.

Henri Fayol
# 26
Henri Fayol

1841 - 1925 (84 years)

#2655 person's overall influence

Henri Fayol was a French mining engineer, mining executive, author and director of mines who developed general theory of business administration that is often called Fayolism. He and his colleagues developed this theory independently of scientific management but roughly contemporaneously. Like his contemporary, he is widely acknowledged as a founder of modern management method.

Cyrus McCormick
# 27
Cyrus McCormick

1809 - 1884 (75 years)

#2265 person's overall influence

Cyrus Hall McCormick was an American inventor and businessman who founded the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, which later became part of the International Harvester Company in 1902. Originally from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, he and many members of his family became prominent residents of Chicago.

Howard Hughes
# 28
Howard Hughes

1905 - 1976 (71 years)

#802 person's overall influence

Howard Robard Hughes Jr. was an American business magnate, investor, record-setting pilot, engineer, film director, and philanthropist, known during his lifetime as one of the most financially successful individuals in the world. He first became prominent as a film producer, and then as an influential figure in the aviation industry. Later in life, he became known for his eccentric behavior and reclusive lifestyle – oddities that were caused in part by a worsening obsessive-compulsive disorder , chronic pain from a near-fatal plane crash and increasing deafness.

Thomas Peters
# 29
Thomas Peters

1942 - Present (78 years)

#3166 person's overall influence

Thomas J. Peters is an American writer on business management practices, best known for In Search of Excellence .

William Redington Hewlett
# 30
William Redington Hewlett

1913 - 2001 (88 years)

#3307 person's overall influence

William Redington Hewlett was an American engineer and the co-founder, with David Packard, of the Hewlett-Packard Company .

C. K. Prahalad
# 31
C. K. Prahalad

1941 - 2010 (69 years)

#3870 person's overall influence

Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad was the Paul and Ruth McCracken Distinguished University Professor of Corporate Strategy at University of Michigan Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

Ray Kroc
# 32
Ray Kroc

1902 - 1984 (82 years)

#3444 person's overall influence

Raymond Albert Kroc was an American fast-food tycoon. He joined the California company McDonald's in 1954, after the McDonald brothers had franchised 6 locations out from their original 1940 operation in San Bernardino. This set the stage for national expansion with the help of Kroc, eventually leading to a global franchise, making it the most successful fast food corporation in the world. Kroc was included in Time 100: The Most Important People of the Century, and amassed a multi-million dollar fortune during his lifetime. He owned the San Diego Padres baseball team from 1974 until his death...

Steven Spielberg
# 33
Steven Spielberg

1946 - Present (74 years)

#292 person's overall influence

Steven Allan Spielberg is an American film director, producer, and screenwriter. He is considered one of the founding pioneers of the New Hollywood era and one of the most popular directors and producers in film history. Spielberg started in Hollywood directing television and several minor theatrical releases. He became a household name as the director of Jaws , which was critically and commercially successful and is considered the first summer blockbuster. His subsequent releases focused typically on science fiction/adventure films such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind , Raiders of the ...

Vince McMahon
# 34
Vince McMahon

1945 - Present (75 years)

#3340 person's overall influence

Vincent Kennedy McMahon is an American professional wrestling promoter and executive, American football executive, and media proprietor currently serving as the chairman and CEO of WWE, and the founder and owner of Alpha Entertainment. McMahon is widely recognized as the pioneer of the professional wrestling revolution in the United States of the 1980s and 1990s, as well as being the industry's most important figure well into the 21st century.

Gary Hamel
# 35
Gary Hamel

1954 - Present (66 years)

#4682 person's overall influence

Gary P. Hamel is an American management consultant. He is a founder of Strategos, an international management consulting firm based in Chicago.

Jay Gould
# 36
Jay Gould

1836 - 1892 (56 years)

#1815 person's overall influence

Jason Gould was an American railroad magnate and financial speculator who is generally identified as one of the robber barons of the Gilded Age. His sharp and often unscrupulous business practices made him one of the wealthiest men of the late nineteenth century. As a reclusive and powerful figure, Gould had a controversial and unpopular public image. However, some modern historians, working from primary sources, have attempted to combat this negative portrayal.

Bill Drayton
# 37
Bill Drayton

1943 - Present (77 years)

#4735 person's overall influence

William "Bill" Drayton is a social entrepreneur. Drayton was named by U.S. News & World Report as one of America's 25 Best Leaders in 2005. He is responsible for the rise of the phrase "social entrepreneur", a concept first found in print in 1972.

Elon Musk
# 38
Elon Musk

1971 - Present (49 years)

#454 person's overall influence

Elon Reeve Musk is an engineer, industrial designer, technology entrepreneur and philanthropist. He is a citizen of South Africa, Canada, and the United States. He is based in the United States, where he immigrated to at age 20 and has resided since. He is the founder, CEO and chief engineer/designer of SpaceX; early investor, CEO and product architect of Tesla, Inc.; founder of The Boring Company; co-founder of Neuralink; and co-founder and initial co-chairman of OpenAI. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2018. In December 2016, he was ranked 21st on the Forbes list of The Wo...

Jefferson Davis
# 39
Jefferson Davis

1808 - 1889 (81 years)

#396 person's overall influence

Jefferson Finis Davis was an American politician who served as the president of the Confederate States from 1861 to 1865. As a member of the Democratic Party, he represented Mississippi in the United States Senate and the House of Representatives before the American Civil War. He previously served as the United States Secretary of War from 1853 to 1857 under President Franklin Pierce.

Martha Stewart
# 40
Martha Stewart

1941 - Present (79 years)

#1964 person's overall influence

Martha Helen Stewart is an American retail businesswoman, writer, television personality, and former model. As founder of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, she gained success through a variety of business ventures, encompassing publishing, broadcasting, merchandising and e-commerce. She has written numerous bestselling books, is the publisher of Martha Stewart Living magazine and hosted two syndicated television programs: Martha Stewart Living, which ran from 1993 to 2004, and Martha, which ran from 2005 to 2012.

Florence Nightingale
# 41
Florence Nightingale

1820 - 1910 (90 years)

#241 person's overall influence

Florence Nightingale , was an English social reformer, statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. Nightingale came to prominence while serving as a manager and trainer of nurses during the Crimean War, in which she organised care for wounded soldiers. She gave nursing a favourable reputation and became an icon of Victorian culture, especially in the persona of "The Lady with the Lamp" making rounds of wounded soldiers at night.

Steve Ballmer
# 42
Steve Ballmer

1956 - Present (64 years)

#2343 person's overall influence

Steven Anthony Ballmer is an American businessman and investor who was the chief executive officer of Microsoft from January 13, 2000, to February 4, 2014, and is the current owner of the Los Angeles Clippers of the National Basketball Association . , his personal wealth is estimated at US $63.6 billion, ranking him the 16th richest person in the world.

Eli Whitney
# 43
Eli Whitney

1765 - 1825 (60 years)

#751 person's overall influence

Eli Whitney was an American inventor, widely known for inventing the cotton gin, one of the key inventions of the Industrial Revolution and shaped the economy of the Antebellum South.

Calvin Klein
# 44
Calvin Klein

1942 - Present (78 years)

#3044 person's overall influence

Calvin Richard Klein is an American fashion designer who launched the company that would later become Calvin Klein Inc., in 1968. In addition to clothing, he also has given his name to a range of perfumes, watches, and jewellery.

Frederick Law Olmsted
# 45
Frederick Law Olmsted

1822 - 1903 (81 years)

#600 person's overall influence

Frederick Law Olmsted was an American landscape architect, journalist, social critic, and public administrator. He is popularly considered to be the father of American landscape architecture. Olmsted was famous for co-designing many well-known urban parks with his senior partner Calvert Vaux. One of Olmstead's early works included designing the Walnut Hill Park in New Britain, Connecticut. His later efforts included Central Park and Prospect Park in New York City and Cadwalader Park in Trenton. He headed the pre-eminent landscape architecture and planning consultancy of late nineteenth-centu...

Ted Turner
# 46
Ted Turner

1938 - Present (82 years)

#865 person's overall influence

Robert Edward "Ted" Turner III is an American media proprietor, producer, and philanthropist. As a businessman, he is known as founder of the Cable News Network , the first 24-hour cable news channel. In addition, he founded WTBS, which pioneered the superstation concept in cable television, which later became TBS.

Travis Kalanick
# 47
Travis Kalanick

1976 - Present (44 years)

#3966 person's overall influence

Travis Cordell Kalanick is an American businessman. He is the co-founder of Scour, a peer-to-peer file sharing application; Red Swoosh, a peer-to-peer content delivery network; and Uber, a transportation network company. Red Swoosh was sold to Akamai Technologies in 2007. Kalanick is the co-founder and former CEO of Uber, a position he held from 2010 to 2017. He resigned from Uber in 2017, after controversy over the company's reported unethical culture, including allegations that he ignored reports of sexual harassment at the company. In the weeks leading up to a December 24th, 2019 announcem...

Steve Blank
# 48
Steve Blank

1953 - Present (67 years)

#6792 person's overall influence

Steve Blank is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur based in Pescadero, California.

Cary Grant
# 49
Cary Grant

1904 - 1986 (82 years)

#2168 person's overall influence

Cary Grant was an English-born American actor, who was one of classic Hollywood's definitive leading men. He is known for his transatlantic accent, debonair demeanor, light-hearted approach to acting, and sense of comic timing.

Paul G. Allen
# 50
Paul G. Allen

1953 - 2018 (65 years)

#892 person's overall influence

Paul Gardner Allen was an American business magnate, researcher, investor, and philanthropist. He was best known for co-founding Microsoft Corporation with childhood friend Bill Gates in 1975, which helped spark the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s, later making Microsoft the world's largest personal computer software company. Allen was ranked as the 44th-wealthiest person in the world by Forbes in 2018, with an estimated net worth of $20.3 billion at the time of his death.