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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

Jean-Paul Sartre
# 51
Jean-Paul Sartre

1905 - 1980 (75 years)

#95 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.

Napoleon
# 52
Napoleon

1769 - 1821 (52 years)

#24 person's overall influence

Napoleon Bonaparte , born Napoleone di Buonaparte , byname "Le Corse" or "Le Petit Caporal" , was a French statesman and military leader who became notorious 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

James D. Watson
# 53
James D. Watson

1928 - Present (92 years)

#96 person's overall influence

James D. Watson is a zoologist, geneticist and molecular biologist. He earned a Bachelor of Science from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from Indiana University. He is most recently well-known due to his controversial comments about race and genetics, for which he has been largely ostracized.

Ernst Haeckel
# 54
Ernst Haeckel

1834 - 1919 (85 years)

#98 person's overall influence

Ernst Heinrich Philipp August Haeckel was a German zoologist, naturalist, eugenicist, philosopher, physician, professor, marine biologist, and artist who discovered, described and named thousands of new species, mapped a genealogical tree relating all life forms, and coined many terms in biology, including ecology, phylum, phylogeny, and Protista. Haeckel promoted and popularised Charles Darwin's work in Germany and developed the influential but no longer widely held recapitulation theory claiming that an individual organism's biological development, or ontogeny, parallels and summarises its...

Ludwig Wittgenstein
# 55
Ludwig Wittgenstein

1889 - 1951 (62 years)

#99 person's overall influence

Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein was an Austrian-British philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language.

Jacques Derrida
# 56
Jacques Derrida

1930 - 2004 (74 years)

#102 person's overall influence

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

Joseph Conrad
# 57
Joseph Conrad

1857 - 1924 (67 years)

#103 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.

Friedrich Engels
# 58
Friedrich Engels

1820 - 1895 (75 years)

#106 person's overall influence

Friedrich Engels , sometimes anglicised as Frederick Engels , was a German philosopher, historian, political scientist 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 .

Jürgen Habermas
# 59
Jürgen Habermas

1929 - Present (91 years)

#107 person's overall influence

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

Werner Heisenberg
# 60
Werner Heisenberg

1901 - 1976 (75 years)

#110 person's overall influence

Werner Karl Heisenberg was a German theoretical physicist and one of the key pioneers of quantum mechanics. He published his work in 1925 in a breakthrough paper. In the subsequent series of papers with Max Born and Pascual Jordan, during the same year, this matrix formulation of quantum mechanics was substantially elaborated. He is known for the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which he published in 1927. Heisenberg was awarded the 1932 Nobel Prize in Physics "for the creation of quantum mechanics".

Henry James
# 61
Henry James

1843 - 1916 (73 years)

#111 person's overall influence

Henry James was an American author, who became a British subject in the last year of his life. 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.

Clive Staples Lewis
# 62
Clive Staples Lewis

1898 - 1963 (65 years)

#112 person's overall influence

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

Ulysses S. Grant
# 63
Ulysses S. Grant

1822 - 1885 (63 years)

#113 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 during Reconstruction to protect blacks and reestablish the public credit, while rebuilding the U.S. Navy.

Salman Rushdie
# 64
Salman Rushdie

1947 - Present (73 years)

#109 person's overall influence

Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie is an Indian novelist and essayist whose work, combining magical realism with historical fiction, is primarily concerned with the many connections, disruptions, and migrations between Eastern and Western civilizations, with much of his fiction being set on the Indian subcontinent.

Erwin Schrödinger
# 65
Erwin Schrödinger

1887 - 1961 (74 years)

#114 person's overall influence

Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger , sometimes written as or , was a Nobel Prize-winning Austrian-Irish 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.

Franz Kafka
# 66
Franz Kafka

1883 - 1924 (41 years)

#118 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.

Rosalind Franklin
# 67
Rosalind Franklin

1920 - 1958 (38 years)

#120 person's overall influence

Rosalind Elsie Franklin was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer whose work was central to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA , RNA , viruses, coal, and graphite. Although her works on coal and viruses were appreciated in her lifetime, her contributions to the discovery of the structure of DNA were largely recognised posthumously.

Rabindranath Tagore
# 68
Rabindranath Tagore

1861 - 1941 (80 years)

#121 person's overall influence

Rabindranath Tagore , sobriquets Gurudev, was a Bengali polymath- poet, writer, composer, philosopher and painter. He reshaped Bengali literature and music, as well as Indian art with Contextual Modernism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Author of the "profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse" of Gitanjali, he became in 1913 the first non-European as well as the first lyricist to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Tagore's poetic songs were viewed as spiritual and mercurial; however, his "elegant prose and magical poetry" remain largely unknown outside Bengal. He is sometimes...

Friedrich Hayek
# 69
Friedrich Hayek

1899 - 1992 (93 years)

#125 person's overall influence

Friedrich August von Hayek , often referred to by his initials F. A. Hayek, was an Austrian-British economist and philosopher who is best known for his defence of classical liberalism. Hayek shared the 1974 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences with Gunnar Myrdal for his "pioneering work in the theory of money and economic fluctuations and [...] penetrating analysis of the interdependence of economic, social and institutional phenomena". His account of how changing prices communicate information that helps individuals co-ordinate their plans is widely regarded as an important achievement...

Arthur C. Clarke
# 70
Arthur C. Clarke

1917 - 2008 (91 years)

#126 person's overall influence

Sir Arthur Charles Clarke was an English science-fiction writer, science writer, futurist, inventor, undersea explorer, and television series host.

Michael Faraday
# 71
Michael Faraday

1791 - 1867 (76 years)

#100 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.

Edward Snowden
# 72
Edward Snowden

1983 - Present (37 years)

#119 person's overall influence

Jorge Luis Borges
# 73
Jorge Luis Borges

1899 - 1986 (87 years)

#129 person's overall influence

Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator, and a key figure in Spanish-language and universal literature. His best-known books, Ficciones and El Aleph , published in the 1940s, are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes, including dreams, labyrinths, philosophers, libraries, mirrors, fictional writers, and mythology. Borges' works have contributed to philosophical literature and the fantasy genre, and have been considered by some critics to mark the beginning of the magic realist movement in 20th cent

Ronald Fisher
# 74
Ronald Fisher

1890 - 1962 (72 years)

#132 person's overall influence

Sir Ronald Aylmer Fisher was a British statistician, geneticist, eugenicist, and professor. 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 g...

Stephen Hawking
# 75
Stephen Hawking

1942 - 2018 (76 years)

#134 person's overall influence

Stephen Hawking was born in Oxford, England in 1942 and died in March of 2018. He attended University College, Oxford where he received a BA in physics. Within his first year as a PhD student at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, Hawking’s speech became difficult to understand and he started to have difficulty walking. He was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and predicted to only live another two years. Luckily his disease progressed much more slowly than anticipated. It’s a good thing, because he is widely considered one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century. Hawking was Lucasian Professo...

Theodosius Dobzhansky
# 76
Theodosius Dobzhansky

1900 - 1975 (75 years)

#135 person's overall influence

Theodosius Grygorovych Dobzhansky was a prominent Russian-American geneticist and evolutionary biologist, and a central figure in the field of evolutionary biology for his work in shaping the modern synthesis. Dobzhansky was born in Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire, and became an immigrant to the United States in 1927, aged 27.

Charles Lyell
# 77
Charles Lyell

1797 - 1875 (78 years)

#133 person's overall influence

Sir Charles Lyell, 1st Baronet, was a Scottish geologist who demonstrated the power of known natural causes in explaining Earth's history. He is best known as the author of Principles of Geology , which presented to a wide public audience the idea that Earth was shaped by the same natural processes still in operation today, operating at similar intensities. The philosopher William Whewell termed this gradualistic view "uniformitarianism" and contrasted it with catastrophism, which had been championed by Georges Cuvier and was better accepted in Europe. The combination of evidence and eloquen...

Søren Kierkegaard
# 78
Søren Kierkegaard

1813 - 1855 (42 years)

#141 person's overall influence

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

Andrew Carnegie
# 79
Andrew Carnegie

1835 - 1919 (84 years)

#143 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.

Louis Pasteur
# 80
Louis Pasteur

1822 - 1895 (73 years)

#144 person's overall influence

Louis Pasteur was a French biologist, microbiologist, and chemist renowned for his discoveries of the principles of vaccination, microbial fermentation and pasteurization. He is remembered for his remarkable breakthroughs in the causes and prevention of diseases, and his discoveries have saved many lives ever since. He reduced mortality from puerperal fever and created the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax.

Thomas Alva Edison
# 81
Thomas Alva Edison

1847 - 1931 (84 years)

#147 person's overall influence

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

Walter Scott
# 82
Walter Scott

1771 - 1832 (61 years)

#58 person's overall influence

Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet was a Scottish historical novelist, poet, playwright, and historian. Many of his works remain classics of both English-language literature and of Scottish literature. Famous titles include The Lady of the Lake and the novels Waverley, Old Mortality , Rob Roy, The Heart of Mid-Lothian, The Bride of Lammermoor, and Ivanhoe.

Alexander Graham Bell
# 83
Alexander Graham Bell

1847 - 1922 (75 years)

#149 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.

Julian Huxley
# 84
Julian Huxley

1887 - 1975 (88 years)

#151 person's overall influence

Sir Julian Sorell Huxley was an English evolutionary biologist, eugenicist, and internationalist. He was a proponent of natural selection, and a leading figure in the mid-twentieth century modern synthesis. He was secretary of the Zoological Society of London , the first Director of UNESCO, a founding member of the World Wildlife Fund and the first President of the British Humanist Association.

Auguste Comte
# 85
Auguste Comte

1798 - 1857 (59 years)

#137 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 are also seen as fundamental to thinking of sociology as an independent scientific discipline.

Albert Camus
# 86
Albert Camus

1913 - 1960 (47 years)

#154 person's overall influence

Albert Camus was a French-Algerian philosopher, author, and journalist. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature at the age of 44 in 1957, the second-youngest recipient in history.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky
# 87
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

1821 - 1881 (60 years)

#155 person's overall influence

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky , sometimes transliterated Dostoyevsky, was a Russian novelist, philosopher, short story writer, essayist, and journalist. Dostoevsky's literary works explore human psychology in the troubled political, social, and spiritual atmospheres of 19th-century Russia, and engage with a variety of philosophical and religious themes. His most acclaimed works include Crime and Punishment , The Idiot , Demons , and The Brothers Karamazov . Dostoevsky's body of works consists of 12 novels, four novellas, 16 short stories, and numerous other works. Many literary critics rate h

Walt Whitman
# 88
Walt Whitman

1819 - 1892 (73 years)

#157 person's overall influence

Walt Whitman was an American poet, essayist, and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse. His work was controversial in its time, particularly his poetry collection Leaves of Grass, which was described as obscene for its overt sensuality. Whitman's own life came under scrutiny for his presumed homosexuality.

Bronisław Malinowski
# 89
Bronisław Malinowski

1884 - 1942 (58 years)

#158 person's overall influence

Bronisław Kasper Malinowski was an anthropologist whose writings on ethnography, social theory, and field research were a lasting influence on the discipline of anthropology.

Jules Verne
# 90
Jules Verne

1828 - 1905 (77 years)

#159 person's overall influence

Jules Gabriel Verne was a French novelist, poet, and playwright. His collaboration with the publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel led to the creation of the Voyages extraordinaires, a series of bestselling adventure novels including Journey to the Center of the Earth , Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea , and Around the World in Eighty Days .

Herman Melville
# 91
Herman Melville

1819 - 1891 (72 years)

#161 person's overall influence

Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, and poet of the American Renaissance period. Among his best-known works are Moby-Dick , Typee , a romanticized account of his experiences in Polynesia, and Billy Budd, Sailor, a posthumously published novella. Although his reputation was not high at the time of his death, the centennial of his birth in 1919 was the starting point of a Melville revival and Moby-Dick grew to be considered one of the great American novels.

Richard Lewontin
# 92
Richard Lewontin

1929 - Present (91 years)

#160 person's overall influence

Richard Lewontin is a geneticist, evolutionary biologist, mathematician, and commentator. He earned a B.S. in biology from Harvard College, a master’s degree in mathematical statistics, and a Ph.D. in zoology from Columbia University. Lewontin is best known for his work in theoretical and experimental population genetics.

Lewis Carroll
# 93
Lewis Carroll

1832 - 1898 (66 years)

#163 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 at 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.

Marshall McLuhan
# 94
Marshall McLuhan

1911 - 1980 (69 years)

#164 person's overall influence

Herbert Marshall McLuhan was a Canadian philosopher, whose work is among the cornerstones of the study of media theory. Born in Edmonton, Alberta, McLuhan studied at the University of Manitoba and the University of Cambridge. He began his teaching career as a professor of English at several universities in the US and Canada before moving to the University of Toronto in 1946, where he remained for the rest of his life.

J.B.S. Haldane
# 95
J.B.S. Haldane

1892 - 1964 (72 years)

#165 person's overall influence

John Burdon Sanderson Haldane , nicknamed "Jack" or "JBS", was a scientist in Britain, and later India, known for his works in physiology, genetics, evolutionary biology, and mathematics. With innovative use of statistics in biology, he was one of the founders of neo-Darwinism.

Carl Sagan
# 96
Carl Sagan

1934 - 1996 (62 years)

#166 person's overall influence

Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, planetary scientist, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, and science communicator. His best known scientific contribution is research on extraterrestrial life, including experimental demonstration of the production of amino acids from basic chemicals by radiation. Sagan assembled the first physical messages sent into space: the Pioneer plaque and the Voyager Golden Record, universal messages that could potentially be understood by any extraterrestrial intelligence that might find them. Sagan argued the now-accepted hypothesis that...

Enrico Fermi
# 97
Enrico Fermi

1901 - 1954 (53 years)

#168 person's overall influence

Enrico Fermi was an Italian physicist and the creator of the world's first nuclear reactor, the Chicago Pile-1. He has been called the "architect of the nuclear age" and the "architect of the atomic bomb". He was one of very few physicists to excel in both theoretical physics and experimental physics. Fermi was awarded the 1938 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on induced radioactivity by neutron bombardment and for the discovery of transuranium elements. With his colleagues, Fermi filed several patents related to the use of nuclear power, all of which were taken over by the US government....

Max Planck
# 98
Max Planck

1858 - 1947 (89 years)

#169 person's overall influence

Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck, ForMemRS was a German theoretical physicist whose discovery of energy quanta won him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.

Margaret Mead
# 99
Margaret Mead

1901 - 1978 (77 years)

#170 person's overall influence

Margaret Mead was an American cultural anthropologist who featured frequently as an author and speaker in the mass media during the 1960s and 1970s. She earned her bachelor's degree at Barnard College in New York City and her MA and PhD degrees from Columbia University. Mead served as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1975.

Alfred North Whitehead
# 100
Alfred North Whitehead

1861 - 1947 (86 years)

#172 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.