Search People Result

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 …

Gender designations here are based off data sourced from Wikidata.

About our data on gender

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

Herbert Spencer
# 51
Herbert Spencer

1820 - 1903 (83 years)

#113 person's overall influence

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.

Francis Crick
# 52
Francis Crick

1916 - 2004 (88 years)

#114 person's overall influence

Francis Harry Compton Crick was a British molecular biologist, biophysicist, and neuroscientist. He, James Watson, and Rosalind Franklin played a crucial role in deciphering the helical structure of the DNA molecule. Crick and Watson's paper in Nature in 1953 laid the groundwork for understanding DNA structure and functions. Together with Maurice Wilkins, they were 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".

Émile Durkheim
# 53
Émile Durkheim

1858 - 1917 (59 years)

#115 person's overall influence

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

Auguste Comte
# 54
Auguste Comte

1798 - 1857 (59 years)

#116 person's overall influence

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.

Martin Luther King Jr.
# 55
Martin Luther King Jr.

1929 - 1968 (39 years)

#118 person's overall influence

Martin Luther King Jr. was an African American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the American civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. King advanced civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, inspired by his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi. He was the son of early civil rights activist Martin Luther King Sr.

Jean Piaget
# 56
Jean Piaget

1896 - 1980 (84 years)

#119 person's overall influence

Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist known for his work on child development. Piaget's theory of cognitive development and epistemological view are together called "genetic epistemology".Piaget placed great importance on the education of children. As the Director of the International Bureau of Education, he declared in 1934 that "only education is capable of saving our societies from possible collapse, whether violent, or gradual." His theory of child development is studied in pre-service education programs. Educators continue to incorporate constructivist-based strategies.

Ernest Hemingway
# 57
Ernest Hemingway

1899 - 1961 (62 years)

#127 person's overall influence

Ernest Miller Hemingway was an American novelist, short-story writer, journalist, 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 was awarded 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 nonf

Amartya Sen
# 58
Amartya Sen

1933 - Present (88 years)

#128 person's overall influence

Amartya Sen is the Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University. He earned a B.A. in economics from the University of Calcutta and a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D from Trinity College in Cambridge.

Paul Dirac
# 59
Paul Dirac

1902 - 1984 (82 years)

#130 person's overall influence

Paul Adrien Maurice Dirac was an English theoretical physicist who is regarded as one of the most significant physicists of the 20th century.Dirac made fundamental contributions to the early development of both quantum mechanics and quantum electrodynamics. Among other discoveries, he formulated the Dirac equation which describes the behaviour of fermions and predicted the existence of antimatter. Dirac shared the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics with Erwin Schrödinger "for the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory". He also made significant contributions to the reconciliation of gen...

Michel Foucault
# 60
Michel Foucault

1926 - 1984 (58 years)

#132 person's overall influence

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.

Paul Samuelson
# 61
Paul Samuelson

1915 - 2009 (94 years)

#133 person's overall influence

Paul Anthony Samuelson was an American economist. The first American to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, the Swedish Royal Academies stated, when awarding the prize in 1970, that he "has done more than any other contemporary economist to raise the level of scientific analysis in economic theory". Economic historian Randall E. Parker has called him the "Father of Modern Economics", and The New York Times considered him to be the "foremost academic economist of the 20th century".

Alfred North Whitehead
# 62
Alfred North Whitehead

1861 - 1947 (86 years)

#135 person's overall influence

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.

Rupert Murdoch
# 63
Rupert Murdoch

1931 - Present (90 years)

#136 person's overall influence

Keith Rupert Murdoch is an Australian-born American billionaire businessman, media tycoon, and investor. Through his company News Corp, he is the owner of hundreds of local, national, and international publishing outlets around the world, including in the UK , in Australia , in the US , book publisher HarperCollins, and the television broadcasting channels Sky News Australia and Fox News . He was also the owner of Sky , 21st Century Fox , and the now-defunct News of the World.

Georg Cantor
# 64
Georg Cantor

1845 - 1918 (73 years)

#137 person's overall influence

Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp Cantor was a German mathematician. He created set theory, which has become a fundamental theory in mathematics. Cantor established the importance of one-to-one correspondence between the members of two sets, defined infinite and well-ordered sets, and proved that the real numbers are more numerous than the natural numbers. In fact, Cantor's method of proof of this theorem implies the existence of an infinity of infinities. He defined the cardinal and ordinal numbers and their arithmetic. Cantor's work is of great philosophical interest, a fact he was well aware...

Stephen Jay Gould
# 65
Stephen Jay Gould

1941 - 2002 (61 years)

#138 person's overall influence

Stephen Jay Gould was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was 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.

Sophus Lie
# 66
Sophus Lie

1842 - 1899 (57 years)

#139 person's overall influence

Marius Sophus Lie was a Norwegian mathematician. He largely created the theory of continuous symmetry and applied it to the study of geometry and differential equations.Biography His first mathematical work, Repräsentation der Imaginären der Plangeometrie, was published in 1869 by the Academy of Sciences in Christiania and also by Crelle's Journal. That same year he received a scholarship and traveled to Berlin, where he stayed from September to February 1870. There, he met Felix Klein and they became close friends. When he left Berlin, Lie traveled to Paris, where he was joined by Klein two

Daniel Dennett
# 67
Daniel Dennett

1942 - Present (79 years)

#140 person's overall influence

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.

H. P. Lovecraft
# 68
H. P. Lovecraft

1890 - 1937 (47 years)

#141 person's overall influence

Howard Phillips Lovecraft was an American writer of weird and horror fiction, who is known for his creation of what became known as the Cthulhu Mythos.Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Lovecraft spent most of his life in New England. He was born into affluence, but his family's wealth dissipated soon after the death of his grandfather. In 1913, he wrote a critical letter to a pulp magazine that ultimately led to his involvement in pulp fiction. During the interwar period, he wrote and published stories that focused on his interpretation of humanity's place in the universe. In his view, humani

Michael Faraday
# 69
Michael Faraday

1791 - 1867 (76 years)

#142 person's overall influence

Michael Faraday was an English scientist who contributed to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. His main discoveries include the principles underlying electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism and electrolysis.

Lewis Carroll
# 70
Lewis Carroll

1832 - 1898 (66 years)

#146 person's overall influence

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson , better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English writer of children's fiction, notably Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. He was noted for his facility with word play, logic, and fantasy. The poems "Jabberwocky" and The Hunting of the Snark are classified in the genre of literary nonsense. He was also a mathematician, photographer, inventor, and Anglican deacon.

Richard Dawkins
# 71
Richard Dawkins

1941 - Present (80 years)

#147 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.

Paul Krugman
# 72
Paul Krugman

1953 - Present (68 years)

#148 person's overall influence

Paul Krugman is one of the most highly respected and well-known economists in the world. He is a professor emeritus of the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University, a distinguished professor of the Graduate Center Economics Ph.D program and scholar at the Luxembourg Income Study Center, both at City University of New York.

Murray Rothbard
# 73
Murray Rothbard

1926 - 1995 (69 years)

#149 person's overall influence

Murray Newton Rothbard was an American heterodox economist of the Austrian School, economic historian and political theorist. Rothbard was the 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.

Pablo Picasso
# 74
Pablo Picasso

1881 - 1973 (92 years)

#150 person's overall influence

Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist and theatre designer who spent most of his adult life in France. Regarded as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, he is known for co-founding the Cubist movement, the invention of constructed sculpture, the co-invention of collage, and for the wide variety of styles that he helped develop and explore. Among his most famous works are the proto-Cubist Les Demoiselles d'Avignon , and Guernica , a dramatic portrayal of the bombing of Guernica by German and Italian air forces during the Spanish Civil War...

Warren Buffett
# 75
Warren Buffett

1930 - Present (91 years)

#153 person's overall influence

Warren Edward Buffett is an American investor, business tycoon, philanthropist, and 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 over $100.6 billion as of April 2021, making him the world's seventh-wealthiest person.

Peter Singer
# 76
Peter Singer

1946 - Present (75 years)

#155 person's overall influence

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.

Franz Boas
# 77
Franz Boas

1858 - 1942 (84 years)

#156 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.

Hilary Putnam
# 78
Hilary Putnam

1926 - 2016 (90 years)

#158 person's overall influence

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.

Joseph Smith
# 79
Joseph Smith

1805 - 1844 (39 years)

#159 person's overall influence

Joseph Smith Jr. was an American religious leader and founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement. When he was 24, Smith published the Book of Mormon. By the time of his death, 14 years later, he had attracted tens of thousands of followers and founded a religion that continues to the present with millions of global adherents.

Ronald Fisher
# 80
Ronald Fisher

1890 - 1962 (72 years)

#161 person's overall influence

Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher was a British statistician, geneticist, and academic. For his work in statistics, he has been described as "a genius who almost single-handedly created the foundations for modern statistical science" and "the single most important figure in 20th century statistics". In genetics, his work used mathematics to combine Mendelian genetics and natural selection; this contributed to the revival of Darwinism in the early 20th-century revision of the theory of evolution known as the modern synthesis. For his contributions to biology, Fisher has been called "the greatest of Da...

Henry James
# 81
Henry James

1843 - 1916 (73 years)

#163 person's overall influence

Henry James was an American author. He is regarded as a key transitional figure between literary realism and literary modernism and is considered by many to be among the greatest novelists in the English language. He was the son of Henry James Sr. and the brother of renowned philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James.

Andrew Carnegie
# 82
Andrew Carnegie

1835 - 1919 (84 years)

#165 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 many 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, expressed support for progressive taxation an...

Rudyard Kipling
# 83
Rudyard Kipling

1865 - 1936 (71 years)

#166 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.Kipling's works of fiction include The Jungle Book , Kim , and many short stories, including "The Man Who Would Be King" . His poems include "Mandalay" , "Gunga Din" , "The Gods of the Copybook Headings" , "The White Man's Burden: The United States and the Philippine Islands" , and "If—" . He is seen as an innovator in the art of the short story. His children's books are classics; one critic noted "a versatile and luminous narrative gift."

Douglas MacArthur
# 84
Douglas MacArthur

1880 - 1964 (84 years)

#167 person's overall influence

Douglas MacArthur was an American five-star general and Field Marshal of the Philippine Army. He was Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the Philippines campaign, which made him and his father Arthur MacArthur Jr. the first father and son to be awarded the medal. He was one of only five to rise to the rank of General of the Army in the U.S. Army, and the only one conferred the rank of field marshal in the Philippine Army.

John Keats
# 85
John Keats

1795 - 1821 (26 years)

#169 person's overall influence

John Keats was an English Romantic poet. He was prominent in the second generation of Romantic poets, with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, though his poems were in publication for only four years before he died of tuberculosis at the age of 25. They were not generally well received by critics in his lifetime, but his fame grew rapidly after his death. By the end of the century he had been placed within the canon of English literature and had become the inspiration for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, with a strong influence on many writers; the Encyclopædia Britannica described one ode as

Robert E. Lee
# 86
Robert E. Lee

1807 - 1870 (63 years)

#170 person's overall influence

Robert Edward Lee was an American Confederate general best known as a commander of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War. He led the Army of Northern Virginia from 1862 until its surrender in 1865 and earned a reputation as a skilled tactician.

Willard Van Orman Quine
# 87
Willard Van Orman Quine

1908 - 2000 (92 years)

#172 person's overall influence

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.

Felix Klein
# 88
Felix Klein

1849 - 1925 (76 years)

#173 person's overall influence

Christian Felix Klein was a German mathematician and mathematics educator, known for his work with group theory, complex analysis, non-Euclidean geometry, and on the associations between geometry and group theory. His 1872 Erlangen program, classifying geometries by their basic symmetry groups, was an influential synthesis of much of the mathematics of the time.

Évariste Galois
# 89
Évariste Galois

1811 - 1832 (21 years)

#174 person's overall influence

Évariste Galois was a French mathematician and political activist. While still in his teens, he was able to determine a necessary and sufficient condition for a polynomial to be solvable by radicals, thereby solving a problem standing for 350 years. His work laid the foundations for Galois theory and group theory, two major branches of abstract algebra, and the subfield of Galois connections. He died at age 20 from wounds suffered in a duel.

Rudolf Carnap
# 90
Rudolf Carnap

1891 - 1970 (79 years)

#175 person's overall influence

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."

Franz Kafka
# 91
Franz Kafka

1883 - 1924 (41 years)

#176 person's overall influence

Franz Kafka was a German-speaking Bohemian novelist and short-story writer, widely regarded as one of the major figures of 20th-century literature. His work fuses elements of realism and the fantastic. It typically features isolated protagonists facing bizarre or surrealistic predicaments and incomprehensible socio-bureaucratic powers. It has been interpreted as exploring themes of alienation, existential anxiety, guilt, and absurdity. His best known works include "" , , and . The term Kafkaesque has entered the English language to describe situations like those found in his writing.

Swami Vivekananda
# 92
Swami Vivekananda

1863 - 1902 (39 years)

#177 person's overall influence

Swami Vivekananda , born Narendranath Datta , was an Indian Hindu monk. He was a chief disciple of the 19th-century Indian mystic Ramakrishna. He was a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world, and is credited with raising interfaith awareness, bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion during the late 19th century. He was a major force in the contemporary Hindu reform movements in India, and contributed to the concept of nationalism in colonial India. Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission....

Anton Chekhov
# 93
Anton Chekhov

1860 - 1904 (44 years)

#180 person's overall influence

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was a Russian playwright and short-story writer who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short fiction in history. His career as a playwright produced four classics, and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics. Along with Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg, Chekhov is often referred to as one of the three seminal figures in the birth of early modernism in the theatre. Chekhov practiced as a medical doctor throughout most of his literary career: "Medicine is my lawful wife", he once said, "and literature is my mistress."

Le Corbusier
# 94
Le Corbusier

1887 - 1965 (78 years)

#182 person's overall influence

Charles-Édouard Jeanneret , known as Le Corbusier , was a Swiss-French architect, designer, painter, urban planner, writer, and one of the pioneers of what is now regarded as modern architecture. He was born in Switzerland and became a French citizen in 1930. His career spanned five decades, and he designed buildings in Europe, Japan, India, and North and South America.

Virginia Woolf
# 95
Virginia Woolf

1882 - 1941 (59 years)

#183 person's overall influence

Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English writer, considered one of the most important modernist 20th-century authors and a pioneer in the use of stream of consciousness as a narrative device.Woolf was born into an affluent household in South Kensington, London, the seventh child in a blended family of eight which included the modernist painter Vanessa Bell. Her mother was Julia Prinsep Jackson and her father Leslie Stephen. While the boys in the family received college educations, the girls were home-schooled in English classics and Victorian literature. An important influence in Virginia Woolf'...

Roger Penrose
# 96
Roger Penrose

1931 - Present (90 years)

#184 person's overall influence

Sir Roger Penrose was born in Colchester, England in 1931. He is best known for his significant contributions to the mathematical physics of general relativity and cosmology. Penrose attended University College London where he earned his bachelor’s in mathematics. He received a PhD studying algebraic geometry at St John’s College, Cambridge in 1958. In his free time at Cambridge, he attended a few lectures led by Hermann Bondi and Paul Dirac, which lent some of his curiosity in the direction of physics. Penrose went on to become an innovator in the field of mathematical physics, and is now wid

Erwin Schrödinger
# 97
Erwin Schrödinger

1887 - 1961 (74 years)

#185 person's overall influence

Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger , sometimes written as or , was a Nobel Prize-winning Austrian physicist who developed a number of fundamental results in quantum theory: the Schrödinger equation provides a way to calculate the wave function of a system and how it changes dynamically in time.

Ludwig von Mises
# 98
Ludwig von Mises

1881 - 1973 (92 years)

#186 person's overall influence

Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises was an Austrian School economist, historian, logician, and sociologist. Mises wrote and lectured extensively on the societal contributions of classical liberalism. He is best known for his work on praxeology, a study of human choice and action.

L. Ron Hubbard
# 99
L. Ron Hubbard

1911 - 1986 (75 years)

#187 person's overall influence

Lafayette Ronald Hubbard was an American author of science fiction and fantasy stories who founded the Church of Scientology. In 1950, Hubbard authored Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health and established a series of organizations to promote Dianetics. In 1952, Hubbard lost the rights to Dianetics in bankruptcy proceedings, and he subsequently founded Scientology. Thereafter Hubbard oversaw the growth of the Church of Scientology into a worldwide organization.

Vilfredo Pareto
# 100
Vilfredo Pareto

1848 - 1923 (75 years)

#190 person's overall influence

Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto was an Italian civil engineer, sociologist, economist, political scientist, and philosopher. He made several important contributions to economics, particularly in the study of income distribution and in the analysis of individuals' choices. He was also responsible for popularising the use of the term "elite" in social analysis.

Want to be an Academic Influence Insider? Sign up to get the latest news, information, and rankings in our upcoming newsletter.