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.Methodology: How and Why We Rank by Influence …
1818 - 1883 (65 years)
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 British Museum Reading Room. His best-known titles are the 1848 pamphlet The Com
1872 - 1970 (98 years)
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 philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of language, epistemology and metaphysics. He was a public intellectual, historian, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate. He was born in Monmouthshire into one of the most prominent aristocratic fami...
1889 - 1976 (87 years)
Martin Heidegger was a key German philosopher of the 20th Century. He is best known for contributions to phenomenology, hermeneutics, and existentialism.In Heidegger's fundamental text Being and Time , "Dasein" is introduced as a term for the type of being that humans possess. Dasein has been translated as "being there". Heidegger believes that Dasein already has a "pre-ontological" and non-abstract understanding that shapes how it lives. This mode of being he terms "being-in-the-world". Commentators have noted that Dasein and "being-in-the-world" are unitary concepts in contrast with the "su
1839 - 1914 (75 years)
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
1848 - 1925 (77 years)
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...
1813 - 1855 (42 years)
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...
1902 - 1994 (92 years)
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 n...
1820 - 1895 (75 years)
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 .
1842 - 1910 (68 years)
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".
1930 - 2004 (74 years)
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.
1856 - 1939 (83 years)
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
1859 - 1952 (93 years)
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.
1809 - 1882 (73 years)
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 from common ancestors is now widely accepted and considered a fundamental 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 breeding. Darwin ha...
1859 - 1938 (79 years)
Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl was a German philosopher and mathematician 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 ph...
1929 - Present (92 years)
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.
1908 - 2000 (92 years)
Willard Van Orman Quine was an American philosopher and logician in the analytic tradition, recognized as "one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century." From 1930 until his death 70 years later, Quine was continually affiliated with Harvard University in one way or another, first as a student, then as a professor. He filled the Edgar Pierce Chair of Philosophy at Harvard from 1956 to 1978.
1879 - 1955 (76 years)
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
1891 - 1970 (79 years)
Rudolf Carnap was a German-language philosopher who was active in Europe before 1935 and in the United States thereafter. He was a major member of the Vienna Circle and an advocate of logical positivism. He is considered "one of the giants among twentieth-century philosophers."
1921 - 2002 (81 years)
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 "revived the disciplines of political and ethical philosophy with his argument that a society in which the most fortunate help the least fortunate is not only a moral society but a logical one."
1929 - Present (92 years)
Alasdair MacIntyre is Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Contemporary Aristotelian Studies in Ethics and Politics (CASEP) at London Metropolitan University. He is also Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, and Permanent Senior Distinguished Research Fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture. MacIntyre received his early philosophical training at the University of Manchester and the University of Oxford.
1946 - Present (75 years)
Peter Singer is a well-known Australian moral philosopher, Laureate Professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne, and Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. He studied at the University of Melbourne and the University of Oxford.
1864 - 1920 (56 years)
Maximilian Karl Emil Weber was a German sociologist, historian, jurist, and political economist, who is regarded as among the most important theorists of the development of modern Western society. His ideas profoundly influence social theory and research. Despite being recognized as one of the fathers of sociology along with Auguste Comte, Karl Marx, and Émile Durkheim, Weber saw himself not as a sociologist but as a historian.
1931 - 2007 (76 years)
Richard McKay Rorty was an American philosopher.Educated at the University of Chicago and Yale University, he had strong interests and training in both the history of philosophy and contemporary analytic philosophy, the latter of which came to constitute the main focus of his work at Princeton University in the 1960s. He subsequently came to reject the tradition of philosophy according to which knowledge involves correct representation of a world whose existence remains wholly independent of that representation.
1806 - 1856 (50 years)
Johann Kaspar Schmidt , known professionally as Max Stirner, was a German post-Hegelian philosopher, dealing mainly with the Hegelian notion of social alienation and self-consciousness. Stirner is often seen as one of the forerunners of nihilism, existentialism, psychoanalytic theory, postmodernism and individualist anarchism.
1906 - 1978 (72 years)
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 Frege.
1861 - 1947 (86 years)
Alfred North Whitehead was an English mathematician and philosopher. He is best known as the defining figure of the philosophical school known as process philosophy, which today has found application to a wide variety of disciplines, including ecology, theology, education, physics, biology, economics, and psychology, among other areas.
1926 - 2016 (90 years)
Hilary Whitehall Putnam was an American philosopher, mathematician, and computer scientist, and a major figure in analytic philosophy in the second half of the 20th century. He made significant contributions to philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of mathematics, and philosophy of science. Outside philosophy, Putnam contributed to mathematics and computer science. Together with Martin Davis he developed the Davis–Putnam algorithm for the Boolean satisfiability problem and he helped demonstrate the unsolvability of Hilbert's tenth problem.
1940 - Present (81 years)
Saul Kripke currently boasts the title of Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Unlike other philosophers on this list (and other notable academics in general) Kripke holds only a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, earned in 1962 at Harvard University. It is worth noting, however, that during his undergraduate studies Kripke taught a graduate-level logic course at MIT. He also holds numerous honorary degrees. Kripke has also taught at Harvard University, Rockefeller University, and Princeton University.
1862 - 1943 (81 years)
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 .
1932 - Present (89 years)
Alvin Plantinga currently holds the title of the William Harry Jellema Chair in Philosophy at Calvin University. Previously, Plantinga has taught at Wayne State University and the University of Notre Dame. Additionally, Plantinga was the president of the American Philosophical Association, Western Division from 1981 to 1982. As an undergraduate, Plantinga studied at Jamestown College, Calvin College, and Harvard University. Plantinga went on to pursue graduate studies at the University of Michigan, before transferring to Yale University in 1955 and earning his PhD there in 1958.
1901 - 1983 (82 years)
Alfred Tarski , born Alfred Teitelbaum, was a Polish-American logician and mathematician. A prolific author best known for his work on model theory, metamathematics, and algebraic logic, he also contributed to abstract algebra, topology, geometry, measure theory, mathematical logic, set theory, and analytic philosophy.
1932 - Present (89 years)
John Rogers Searle is an American philosopher. He was Willis S. and Marion Slusser Professor Emeritus of the Philosophy of Mind and Language and Professor of the Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley until 2019. Widely noted for his contributions to the philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, and social philosophy, he began teaching at UC Berkeley in 1959.
1873 - 1958 (85 years)
George Edward Moore was an English philosopher. He was, with Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Gottlob Frege, one of the founders of analytic philosophy. Along with Russell, he led the turn away from idealism in British philosophy, and became well known for his advocacy of common sense concepts, his contributions to ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics, and "his exceptional personality and moral character". Ray Monk later described him as "the most revered philosopher of his era".
1879 - 1940 (61 years)
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.
1926 - 1995 (69 years)
Murray Newton Rothbard was an American heterodox economist of the Austrian School, economic historian and political theorist. Rothbard was a founder and leading theoretician of anarcho-capitalism, a staunch advocate of historical revisionism and a central figure in the 20th-century American libertarian movement. He wrote over twenty books on political theory, revisionist history, economics, and other subjects.
1898 - 1979 (81 years)
Herbert Marcuse was a German-American philosopher, sociologist, and political theorist, associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory. Born in Berlin, Marcuse studied at the Humboldt University of Berlin and then at Freiburg, where he received his PhD. He was a prominent figure in the Frankfurt-based Institute for Social Research – what later became known as the Frankfurt School. He was married to Sophie Wertheim , Inge Neumann , and Erica Sherover . In his written works, he criticized capitalism, modern technology, Soviet Communism and entertainment culture, arguing that they repre...
1838 - 1900 (62 years)
Henry Sidgwick was an English utilitarian philosopher and economist. He was the Knightbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Cambridge from 1883 until his death, and is best known in philosophy for his utilitarian treatise The Methods of Ethics. He was one of the founders and first president of the Society for Psychical Research and a member of the Metaphysical Society and promoted the higher education of women. His work in economics has also had a lasting influence. In 1875 he co-founded Newnham College, a women-only constituent college of the University of Cambridge. It w
1905 - 1980 (75 years)
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.
1938 - 2002 (64 years)
Robert Nozick was an American philosopher. He held the Joseph Pellegrino University Professorship at Harvard University, and was president of the American Philosophical Association. He is best known for his books Philosophical Explanations , which included his counterfactual theory of knowledge, and Anarchy, State, and Utopia , a libertarian answer to John Rawls' A Theory of Justice , in which Nozick also presented his own theory of utopia as one in which people can freely choose the rules of the society they enter into. His other work involved ethics, decision theory, philosophy of mind, met
1798 - 1857 (59 years)
Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte was a French philosopher and writer who formulated the doctrine of positivism. He is often regarded as the first philosopher of science in the modern sense of the term. Comte's ideas were also fundamental to the development of sociology; indeed, he invented the term and treated that discipline as the crowning achievement of the sciences.
1820 - 1903 (83 years)
Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, and sociologist famous for his hypothesis of social Darwinism whereby superior physical force shapes history. Spencer originated the expression "survival of the fittest", which he coined in Principles of Biology after reading Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. The term strongly suggests natural selection, yet Spencer saw evolution as extending into realms of sociology and ethics, so he also supported Lamarckism.
1942 - Present (79 years)
Currently appointed as the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy at Tufts University (and co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies) Daniel Dennett is a philosopher concerned with questions of the mind and cognitive science, and is colloquially known as one of the “Four Horsemen of New Atheism.” As an undergraduate, Dennett studied at Wesleyan University and Harvard University before earning his PhD in philosophy at Oxford University in 1965.
1926 - 1984 (58 years)
Paul-Michel Foucault was a French philosopher, historian of ideas, writer, political activist, and literary critic.Foucault's theories primarily address the relationship between power and knowledge, and how they are used as a form of social control through societal institutions. Though often cited as a structuralist and postmodernist, Foucault rejected these labels. His thought has influenced academics, especially those working in communication studies, anthropology, psychology, sociology, criminology, cultural studies, literary theory, feminism, Marxism and critical theory.
1806 - 1873 (67 years)
John Stuart Mill , usually cited as J. S. Mill, was an English philosopher, political economist, Member of Parliament , 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", he conceived of liberty as justifying the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state and social control. In his later years, whilst continuing to staunchly defend individual rights and freedoms, he bec...
1857 - 1913 (56 years)
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.
1922 - 1996 (74 years)
Thomas Samuel Kuhn was an American philosopher of science whose 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was influential in both academic and popular circles, introducing the term paradigm shift, which has since become an English-language idiom.
1918 - 1990 (72 years)
Louis Pierre Althusser was a French Marxist philosopher. He was born in Algeria and studied at the École normale supérieure in Paris, where he eventually became Professor of Philosophy.Althusser was a longtime member and sometimes a strong critic of the French Communist Party . His arguments and theses were set against the threats that he saw attacking the theoretical foundations of Marxism. These included both the influence of empiricism on Marxist theory, and humanist and reformist socialist orientations which manifested as divisions in the European communist parties, as well as the problem
1817 - 1862 (45 years)
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.
1858 - 1932 (74 years)
Giuseppe Peano was an Italian mathematician and glottologist. The author of over 200 books and papers, he was a founder of mathematical logic and set theory, to which he contributed much notation. The standard axiomatization of the natural numbers is named the Peano axioms in his honor. As part of this effort, he made key contributions to the modern rigorous and systematic treatment of the method of mathematical induction. He spent most of his career teaching mathematics at the University of Turin. He also wrote an international auxiliary language, Latino sine flexione , which is a simplified
1803 - 1882 (79 years)
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.
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