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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 4000 BC – 2020

Aristotle
# 1
Aristotle

384 BC - 322 BC (62 years)

#1 person's overall influence

Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. Taught by Plato, he was the founder of the Lyceum, the Peripatetic school of philosophy, and the Aristotelian tradition. His writings cover many subjects including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theatre, music, rhetoric, psychology, linguistics, economics, politics, and government. Aristotle provided a complex synthesis of the various philosophies existing prior to him. It was above all from his teachings that the West inherited its intellectual lexicon, as

Charles Darwin
# 2
Charles Darwin

1809 - 1882 (73 years)

#2 person's overall influence

Charles Robert Darwin was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. His proposition that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors is now widely accepted, and considered a foundational concept in science. In a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace, he introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breedin

Plato
# 3
Plato

429 BC - 347 BC (82 years)

#3 person's overall influence

Plato was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought, and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.

Albert Einstein
# 4
Albert Einstein

1879 - 1955 (76 years)

#4 person's overall influence

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

Isaac Newton
# 5
Isaac Newton

1642 - 1727 (85 years)

#5 person's overall influence

Sir Isaac Newton was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author who is widely recognised as one of the most influential scientists of all time and as a key figure in the scientific revolution. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica , first published in 1687, laid the foundations of classical mechanics. Newton also made seminal contributions to optics, and shares credit with Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz for developing the infinitesimal calculus.

Karl Marx
# 6
Karl Marx

1818 - 1883 (65 years)

#6 person's overall influence

Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, historian, sociologist, political theorist, journalist and socialist revolutionary. Born in Trier, Germany, Marx studied law and philosophy at university. He married Jenny von Westphalen in 1843. Due to his political publications, Marx became stateless and lived in exile with his wife and children in London for decades, where he continued to develop his thought in collaboration with German thinker Friedrich Engels and publish his writings, researching in the reading room of the British Museum. His best-known titles are the 1848 pamphlet

William Shakespeare
# 7
William Shakespeare

1564 - 1616 (52 years)

#7 person's overall influence

William Shakespeare was an English playwright, poet, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon" . His extant works, including collaborations, consist of some 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. They also continue to be studied and reinterpreted.

Sigmund Freud
# 8
Sigmund Freud

1856 - 1939 (83 years)

#8 person's overall influence

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst.

Immanuel Kant
# 9
Immanuel Kant

1724 - 1804 (80 years)

#9 person's overall influence

Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher and one of the central Enlightenment thinkers. Kant's comprehensive and systematic works in epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics have made him one of the most influential figures in modern Western philosophy.

Muhammad
# 10
Muhammad

570 - 632 (62 years)

#10 person's overall influence

Muhammad was an Arab religious, social, and political leader and the founder of Islam. According to Islamic doctrine, he was a prophet, sent to preach and confirm the monotheistic teachings of Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. He is viewed as the final prophet of God in all the main branches of Islam, though some modern denominations diverge from this belief. Muhammad united Arabia into a single Muslim polity, with the Quran as well as his teachings and practices forming the basis of Islamic religious belief.

Charles Dickens
# 11
Charles Dickens

1812 - 1870 (58 years)

#11 person's overall influence

Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the 20th century, critics and scholars had recognised Dickens as a literary genius. His novels and short stories are still widely read today.

Adam Smith
# 12
Adam Smith

1723 - 1790 (67 years)

#12 person's overall influence

Adam Smith was a British economist, philosopher, and author born in Scotland, as well as a moral philosopher, a pioneer of political economy, and a key figure during the Scottish Enlightenment,. Smith wrote two classic works, The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations . The latter, often abbreviated as The Wealth of Nations, is considered his magnum opus and the first modern work of economics. In his work, Adam Smith introduced his theory of absolute advantage.

Richard Dawkins
# 13
Richard Dawkins

1941 - Present (79 years)

#13 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.

Abraham Lincoln
# 14
Abraham Lincoln

1809 - 1865 (56 years)

#14 person's overall influence

Abraham Lincoln was an American statesman and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States from 1861 to 1865. Lincoln led the nation through the American Civil War, the country's greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis. He succeeded in preserving the Union, abolishing slavery, bolstering the federal government, and modernizing the U.S. economy.

James Joyce
# 15
James Joyce

1882 - 1941 (59 years)

#15 person's overall influence

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

Thomas Aquinas
# 16
Thomas Aquinas

1225 - 1274 (49 years)

#16 person's overall influence

Thomas Aquinas was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, Catholic priest, and Doctor of the Church. An immensely influential philosopher, theologian, and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism, he is also known within the latter as the and the . The name Aquinas identifies his ancestral origins in the county of Aquino in present-day Lazio, Italy. He was the foremost classical proponent of natural theology and the father of Thomism; of which he argued that reason is found in God. His influence on Western thought is considerable, and much of modern philosophy developed or opposed his idea...

Carl Linnaeus
# 17
Carl Linnaeus

1707 - 1778 (71 years)

#17 person's overall influence

Carl Linnaeus , also known after his ennoblement as Carl von Linné , was a Swedish botanist, zoologist, and physician who formalised binomial nomenclature, the modern system of naming organisms. He is known as the "father of modern taxonomy". Many of his writings were in Latin, and his name is rendered in Latin as .

John Locke
# 18
John Locke

1632 - 1704 (72 years)

#18 person's overall influence

John Locke was an English philosopher and physician, widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers and commonly known as the "Father of Liberalism". Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Sir Francis Bacon, Locke is equally important to social contract theory. His work greatly affected the development of epistemology and political philosophy. His writings influenced Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, many Scottish Enlightenment thinkers, as well as the American Revolutionaries. His contributions to classical republicanis...

H. G. Wells
# 19
H. G. Wells

1866 - 1946 (80 years)

#19 person's overall influence

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

Cicero
# 20
Cicero

106 BC - 43 BC (63 years)

#20 person's overall influence

Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman statesman, lawyer, scholar and Academic skeptic who played an important role in the politics of the late Roman Republic and in vain tried to uphold republican principles during the crises that led to the establishment of the Roman Empire. His extensive writings include treatises on rhetoric, philosophy and politics, and he is considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the Roman equestrian order, and served as consul in 63 BC.

Thomas Jefferson
# 21
Thomas Jefferson

1743 - 1826 (83 years)

#21 person's overall influence

Thomas Jefferson was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, philosopher, and Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. He had previously served as the second vice president of the United States between 1797 and 1801. The principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was a proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights, motivating American colonists to break from the Kingdom of Great Britain and form a new nation; he produced formative documents and decisions at both the state and national level.

René Descartes
# 22
René Descartes

1596 - 1650 (54 years)

#22 person's overall influence

René Descartes was a French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. A native of the Kingdom of France, he spent about 20 years of his life in the Dutch Republic after serving for a while in the Dutch States Army of Maurice of Nassau, Prince of Orange and the Stadtholder of the United Provinces. One of the most notable intellectual figures of the Dutch Golden Age, Descartes is also widely regarded as one of the founders of modern philosophy.

William James
# 23
William James

1842 - 1910 (68 years)

#23 person's overall influence

William James was an American philosopher and psychologist, and the first educator to offer a psychology course in the United States. James is considered to be a leading thinker of the late nineteenth century, one of the most influential philosophers of the United States, and the "Father of American psychology".

Napoleon
# 24
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

Avicenna
# 25
Avicenna

980 - 1037 (57 years)

#25 person's overall influence

Ibn Sina , also known as Abu Ali Sina , Pur Sina , and often known in the West as Avicenna , was a Persian polymath who is regarded as one of the most significant physicians, astronomers, thinkers and writers of the Islamic Golden Age, and the father of early modern medicine. Sajjad H. Rizvi has called Avicenna "arguably the most influential philosopher of the pre-modern era". He was a Muslim Peripatetic philosopher influenced by Aristotelian philosophy. Of the 450 works he is believed to have written, around 240 have survived, including 150 on philosophy and 40 on medicine.

Michel Foucault
# 26
Michel Foucault

1926 - 1984 (58 years)

#26 person's overall influence

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

Émile Durkheim
# 27
Émile Durkheim

1858 - 1917 (59 years)

#27 person's overall influence

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

Voltaire
# 28
Voltaire

1694 - 1778 (84 years)

#28 person's overall influence

François-Marie Arouet , known by his nom de plume Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian, and philosopher famous for his wit, his criticism of Christianity—especially the Roman Catholic Church—as well as his advocacy of freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state.

Friedrich Nietzsche
# 29
Friedrich Nietzsche

1844 - 1900 (56 years)

#29 person's overall influence

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

Stephen Jay Gould
# 30
Stephen Jay Gould

1941 - 2002 (61 years)

#30 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.

Homer
# 31
Homer

900 BC - 700 BC (200 years)

#31 person's overall influence

Homer is the presumed author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, two epic poems that are the central works of ancient Greek literature. The Iliad is set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek kingdoms. It focuses on a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles lasting a few weeks during the last year of the war. The Odyssey focuses on the ten-year journey home of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, after the fall of Troy. Many accounts of Homer's life circulated in classical antiquity, the most widespread being that he was a blind bard from Ionia, a

David Hume
# 32
David Hume

1711 - 1776 (65 years)

#32 person's overall influence

David Hume was a Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, historian, economist, librarian and essayist, who is best known today for his highly influential system of philosophical empiricism, skepticism, and naturalism. Beginning with A Treatise of Human Nature , Hume strove to create a naturalistic science of man that examined the psychological basis of human nature. Hume argued against the existence of innate ideas, positing that all human knowledge derives solely from experience. This places him with Francis Bacon, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and George Berkeley, as a British Empiricist.

Francis Crick
# 33
Francis Crick

1916 - 2004 (88 years)

#33 person's overall influence

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

Galileo Galilei
# 34
Galileo Galilei

1564 - 1642 (78 years)

#34 person's overall influence

Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei was an Italian astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath, from Pisa. Galileo has been called the "father of observational astronomy", the "father of modern physics", the "father of the scientific method", and the "father of modern science".

John Stuart Mill
# 35
John Stuart Mill

1806 - 1873 (67 years)

#35 person's overall influence

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

George Washington
# 36
George Washington

1732 - 1799 (67 years)

#36 person's overall influence

George Washington was an American political leader, military general, statesman, and founding father who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Previously, he led Patriot forces to victory in the nation's War for Independence. He presided at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which established the U.S. Constitution and a federal government. Washington has been called the "Father of His Country" for his manifold leadership in the formative days of the new nation.

Pliny the Elder
# 37
Pliny the Elder

23 - 79 (56 years)

#37 person's overall influence

Gaius Plinius Secundus , called Pliny the Elder , was a Roman author, a naturalist and natural philosopher, a naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and a friend of emperor Vespasian. He wrote the encyclopedic Naturalis Historia , which became an editorial model for encyclopedias. He spent most of his spare time studying, writing, and investigating natural and geographic phenomena in the field.

John Milton
# 38
John Milton

1608 - 1674 (66 years)

#38 person's overall influence

John Milton was an English poet and intellectual who served as a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under its Council of State and later under Oliver Cromwell. He wrote at a time of religious flux and political upheaval, and is best known for his epic poem Paradise Lost , written in blank verse, and widely considered to be one of the greatest works of literature ever written.

Augustine of Hippo
# 39
Augustine of Hippo

354 - 430 (76 years)

#39 person's overall influence

Augustine of Hippo , also known as Saint Augustine, was a theologian, philosopher, and the bishop of Hippo Regius in Numidia, Roman North Africa. His writings influenced the development of Western philosophy and Western Christianity, and he is viewed as one of the most important Church Fathers of the Latin Church in the Patristic Period. His many important works include The City of God, On Christian Doctrine, and Confessions.

Moshe ben Maimon
# 40
Moshe ben Maimon

1138 - 1204 (66 years)

#41 person's overall influence

Moses ben Maimon, commonly known as Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam , was a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. In his time, he was also a preeminent astronomer and physician. Born in Córdoba, Almoravid Empire on Passover eve, 1138 , he worked as a rabbi, physician and philosopher in Morocco and Egypt. He died in Egypt on 12 December 1204, whence his body was taken to the lower Galilee and buried in Tiberias.

Noam Chomsky
# 41
Noam Chomsky

1928 - Present (92 years)

#40 person's overall influence

Noam Chomsky currently holds joint appointments at MIT as Institute Professor Emeritus, and the University of Arizona as Laureate Professor. Chomsky completed his university studies between the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard.

Edgar Allan Poe
# 42
Edgar Allan Poe

1809 - 1849 (40 years)

#42 person's overall influence

Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer, poet, editor, and literary critic. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is widely regarded as a central figure of Romanticism in the United States and of American literature as a whole, and he was one of the country's earliest practitioners of the short story. He is also generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre and is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. Poe was the first well-known American writer to earn a living through...

James Clerk Maxwell
# 43
James Clerk Maxwell

1831 - 1879 (48 years)

#43 person's overall influence

James Clerk Maxwell was a Scottish scientist in the field of mathematical physics. His most notable achievement was to formulate the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation, bringing together for the first time electricity, magnetism, and light as different manifestations of the same phenomenon. Maxwell's equations for electromagnetism have been called the "second great unification in physics" after the first one realised by Isaac Newton.

Mark Twain
# 44
Mark Twain

1835 - 1910 (75 years)

#44 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".

Karl Popper
# 45
Karl Popper

1902 - 1994 (92 years)

#45 person's overall influence

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

Herbert Spencer
# 46
Herbert Spencer

1820 - 1903 (83 years)

#46 person's overall influence

Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, and sociologist famous for his theory 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.

Ptolemy
# 47
Ptolemy

100 - 170 (70 years)

#47 person's overall influence

Claudius Ptolemy was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer and astrologer who wrote several scientific treatises, three of which were of importance to later Byzantine, Islamic and Western European science. The first is the astronomical treatise now known as the Almagest, although it was originally entitled the Mathematical Treatise and then known as The Great Treatise . The second is the Geography, which is a thorough discussion of the geographic knowledge of the Greco-Roman world. The third is the astrological treatise in which he attempted to adapt horoscopic astrology to the Aristotelia

Queen Victoria
# 48
Queen Victoria

1819 - 1901 (82 years)

#48 person's overall influence

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

Gregor Mendel
# 49
Gregor Mendel

1822 - 1884 (62 years)

#49 person's overall influence

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

Francis Bacon
# 50
Francis Bacon

1561 - 1626 (65 years)

#50 person's overall influence

Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban, , also known as Lord Verulam, was an English philosopher and statesman who served as Attorney General and as Lord Chancellor of England. His works are credited with developing the scientific method and remained influential through the scientific revolution.