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.

1913 - 1996 (83 years)

Paul Erdős was a renowned Hungarian mathematician. He was one of the most prolific mathematicians and producers of mathematical conjectures of the 20th century. He was known both for his social practice of mathematics and for his eccentric lifestyle . He devoted his waking hours to mathematics, even into his later years—indeed, his death came only hours after he solved a geometry problem at a conference in Warsaw.

Go to Profile 1928 - 2014 (86 years)

Alexander Grothendieck was a stateless and then French mathematician who became the leading figure in the creation of modern algebraic geometry. His research extended the scope of the field and added elements of commutative algebra, homological algebra, sheaf theory and category theory to its foundations, while his so-called "relative" perspective led to revolutionary advances in many areas of pure mathematics. He is considered by many to be the greatest mathematician of the 20th century.

Go to Profile 1951 - Present (71 years)

Witten is Professor of Mathematical Physics at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study (IAS). He is known world-wide for his many important contributions to the mathematics of string theory and treatments of theoretical physics. Interestingly, Witten received his Bachelor of Arts degree in History, with a minor in Linguistics at Brandeis University in 1971. After graduation, Witten wrote for The New Republic and The Nation, and even worked on George McGovern’s presidential campaign! He returned to college and studied economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before dropping out, returning to Princeton University to study applied mathematics, where he received his Ph.D.

Go to Profile 1949 - Present (73 years)

Chinese-born Shing-Tung Yau currently holds the title of William Caspar Graustein Professor of Mathematics at Harvard University, where he has worked since 1987. He is also the director of three mathematical institutes in China, including the Yau Mathematical Sciences Center at Tsinghua University. Yau completed his undergraduate education in mathematics at Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1969, then his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley in 1971. Yau is considered most influential for his work in differential geometry and geometric analysis. Early in his career, Yau proved the P...

Go to Profile 1929 - 2019 (90 years)

Sir Michael Francis Atiyah was a British-Lebanese mathematician specialising in geometry. He was awarded the Fields Medal in 1966 and the Abel Prize in 2004. Life Atiyah grew up in Sudan and Egypt but spent most of his academic life in the United Kingdom at the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge and in the United States at the Institute for Advanced Study. He was the President of the Royal Society , founding director of the Isaac Newton Institute , master of Trinity College, Cambridge , chancellor of the University of Leicester , and the President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh .

Go to Profile 1926 - Present (96 years)

Jean-Pierre Serre is a French mathematician who has made contributions to algebraic topology, algebraic geometry, and algebraic number theory. He was awarded the Fields Medal in 1954, the Wolf Prize in 2000 and the inaugural Abel Prize in 2003.

Go to Profile 1957 - Present (65 years)

Donaldson is a permanent member of the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics at Stony Brook University and Professor in Pure Mathematics at Imperial College, London. He is known for the eponymous Donaldson-Thomas theory of invariants in algebraic geometry (see also Andrei Akounkov above). Donaldson has a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from Pembroke College in Cambridge University in 1979, and his Ph.D. from Oxford University in 1983. Donaldson published a paper while working on his Ph.D. that made him famous. The paper, titled “Self-dual connections and the topology of smooth 4-manifo...

Go to Profile 1975 - Present (47 years)

Tao is arguably the greatest living mathematician, and has been called the greatest mathematician of his generation. Born in South Australia, Tao was a child prodigy, the youngest person ever to win a medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad—he was ten. He has since won the Field Medal, the “Nobel Prize” for mathematicians. Terence Tao holds the James and Carol Collins Chair in Mathematics at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). At the age of 14, Tao attended the Research Science Institute, a summer seminar for talented high school students hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Go to Profile 1966 - Present (56 years)

Grigori Yakovlevich Perelman is a Russian mathematician who is known for his contributions to the fields of geometric analysis, Riemannian geometry, and geometric topology. In the 1990s, partly in collaboration with Yuri Burago, Mikhael Gromov, and Anton Petrunin, he made influential contributions to the study of Alexandrov spaces. In 1994, he proved the soul conjecture in Riemannian geometry, which had been an open problem for the previous 20 years. In 2002 and 2003, he developed new techniques in the analysis of Ricci flow, thereby providing a detailed sketch of a proof of the Poincaré conj...

Go to Profile 1944 - Present (78 years)

Pierre René, Viscount Deligne is a Belgian mathematician. He is best known for work on the Weil conjectures, leading to a complete proof in 1973. He is the winner of the 2013 Abel Prize, 2008 Wolf Prize, 1988 Crafoord Prize, and 1978 Fields Medal.

Go to Profile 1947 - Present (75 years)

Connes is currently Professor at the Collège de France, IHÉS, in France, as well as at Ohio State University and Vanderbilt University. Connes’ work focuses on algebra, or what is known as “operator algebra,” an important area in functional analysis. Born in France, Connes received his undergraduate degree in Mathematics from the prestigious École normale supérieure in Paris and his Ph.D. from the University Pierre et Marie Curie. Among other notables, Connes was a member of Bourbaki, a group of predominantly French mathematicians who formed after the First World War in response to the loss of so many mathematicians in the wake of the war.

Go to Profile 1948 - Present (74 years)

László Lovász is a Hungarian mathematician and professor emeritus at Eötvös Loránd University, best known for his work in combinatorics, for which he was awarded the 2021 Abel Prize jointly with Avi Wigderson. He was the president of the International Mathematical Union from 2007 to 2010 and the president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences from 2014 to 2020.

Go to Profile 1931 - Present (91 years)

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 widely regarded as among the greatest living mathematical physicists.

Go to Profile 1937 - 2020 (83 years)

Conway is the John Von Neumann Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Princeton University. He has interests in diverse fields in mathematics, including number theory, combinatorial games theory, knot theory, and coding theory. Coding theory is a mathematical treatment of codes and their use in cryptography and other disciplines. Conway is perhaps best known as the inventor of the Game of Life, an Artificial Intelligence program whose agents (objects in code) evolve according to deterministic rules. The agents are known in mathematics as cellular automatons. Conway received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics from Cambridge University in England in 1959.

Go to Profile 1953 - Present (69 years)

Wiles is Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Oxford. He became an overnight sensation when he proved one of the most famous conjectures in all of mathematics, known as Fermat’s Last Theorem, after the 17th century mathematician Pierre Fermat. Wiles received his bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Oxford and his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Cambridge. He spent a year at Princeton University’s Institute for Advanced Study and then became Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University. He has taught back and forth between Princeton and Oxford for much of his stellar career.

Go to Profile 1943 - Present (79 years)

Richard Streit Hamilton is Davies Professor of Mathematics at Columbia University, and is known for contributions to geometric analysis and partial differential equations. He is best known for foundational contributions to the theory of the Ricci flow and the development of a corresponding program of techniques and ideas for resolving the Poincaré conjecture and geometrization conjecture in the field of geometric topology. Grigori Perelman built upon Hamilton's results to prove the conjectures, and was awarded a Millennium Prize for his work. However, he declined the award, regarding Hamilton...

Go to Profile 1937 - Present (85 years)

Yuri Ivanovich Manin is a Russian mathematician, known for work in algebraic geometry and diophantine geometry, and many expository works ranging from mathematical logic to theoretical physics. Moreover, Manin was one of the first to propose the idea of a quantum computer in 1980 with his book Computable and Uncomputable.

Go to Profile 1937 - Present (85 years)

David Bryant Mumford is an American mathematician known for distinguished work in algebraic geometry, and then for research into vision and pattern theory. He won the Fields Medal and was a MacArthur Fellow. In 2010 he was awarded the National Medal of Science. He is currently a University Professor Emeritus in the Division of Applied Mathematics at Brown University.

Go to Profile 1906 - 1998 (92 years)

André Weil was a French mathematician, known for his foundational work in number theory and algebraic geometry. He was a founding member and the de facto early leader of the mathematical Bourbaki group. The philosopher Simone Weil was his sister. The writer Sylvie Weil is his daughter.

Go to Profile 1946 - 2012 (66 years)

William Paul Thurston was an American mathematician. He was a pioneer in the field of low-dimensional topology. In 1982, he was awarded the Fields Medal for his contributions to the study of 3-manifolds. From 2003 until his death he was a professor of mathematics and computer science at Cornell University.

Go to Profile 1903 - 1987 (84 years)

Andrey Nikolaevich Kolmogorov was a Soviet mathematician who contributed to the mathematics of probability theory, topology, intuitionistic logic, turbulence, classical mechanics, algorithmic information theory and computational complexity.

Go to Profile 1954 - Present (68 years)

Vladimir Gershonovich Drinfeld , surname also romanized as Drinfel'd, is a renowned mathematician from the former USSR, who emigrated to the United States and is currently working at the University of Chicago.

Go to Profile 1935 - 2020 (85 years)

Graham is Irwin and Joan Jacobs Professor in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). He also holds the title of Chief Scientist at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology. He received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1962, and went into research in industry, working at Bell Labs and then AT&T Labs. Graham is known for using the largest number in a real mathematical proof, which earned him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. The so-called Graham number, used as an up...

Go to Profile 1913 - 2009 (96 years)

Israel Moiseevich Gelfand, also written Israïl Moyseyovich Gel'fand, or Izrail M. Gelfand was a prominent Soviet mathematician. He made significant contributions to many branches of mathematics, including group theory, representation theory and functional analysis. The recipient of many awards, including the Order of Lenin and the first Wolf Prize, he was a Foreign Fellow of the Royal Society and professor at Moscow State University and, after immigrating to the United States shortly before his 76th birthday, at Rutgers University. Gelfand is also a 1994 MacArthur Fellow.

Go to Profile 1923 - 2017 (94 years)

Igor Rostislavovich Shafarevich was a Russian mathematician who contributed to algebraic number theory and algebraic geometry. He wrote books and articles that criticised socialism, and he was an important dissident during the Soviet regime.

Go to Profile 1937 - 2010 (73 years)

Vladimir Igorevich Arnold was a Soviet and Russian mathematician. While he is best known for the Kolmogorov–Arnold–Moser theorem regarding the stability of integrable systems, he made important contributions in several areas including dynamical systems theory, algebra, catastrophe theory, topology, algebraic geometry, symplectic geometry, differential equations, classical mechanics, hydrodynamics and singularity theory, including posing the ADE classification problem, since his first main result—the solution of Hilbert's thirteenth problem in 1957 at the age of 19. He co-founded two new branc...

Go to Profile 1946 - Present (76 years)

Nigel James Hitchin FRS is a British mathematician working in the fields of differential geometry, gauge theory, algebraic geometry, and mathematical physics. He is a Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the University of Oxford.

Go to Profile 1909 - 2005 (96 years)

Saunders Mac Lane was an American mathematician who co-founded Category Theory with Samuel Eilenberg. Early life and education Mac Lane was born in Norwich, Connecticut, near where his family lived in Taftville. He was christened "Leslie Saunders MacLane", but "Leslie" fell into disuse because his parents, Donald MacLane and Winifred Saunders, came to dislike it. He began inserting a space into his surname because his first wife found it difficult to type the name without a space. He was the oldest of three brothers; one of his brothers, Gerald MacLane, also became a mathematics professor at Rice University and Purdue University.

Go to Profile 1911 - 2004 (93 years)

Shiing-Shen Chern was a Chinese-American mathematician and poet. He made fundamental contributions to differential geometry and topology. He has been called the "father of modern differential geometry" and is widely regarded as a leader in geometry and one of the greatest mathematicians of the twentieth century, winning numerous awards and recognition including the Wolf Prize and the inaugural Shaw Prize. In memory of Shiing-Shen Chern, the International Mathematical Union established the Chern Medal in 2010 to recognize "an individual whose accomplishments warrant the highest level of recogn...

Go to Profile 1938 - Present (84 years)

Areas of Specialization: Computer Programming, Analysis of Algorithms Knuth is professor emeritus of computer science at Stanford University. He received his Ph.D. in Mathematics at the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech). As an undergraduate at the Case Western Reserve University (then Case Institute of Technology), Knuth received the extraordinary honor of receiving his bachelor of science degree together with a master of science in mathematics based on the strength of his work at Case. He also helped redesign an early IBM computer while at Case, and made fundamental contributions ...

Go to Profile 1927 - 2005 (78 years)

Serge Lang was a French-American mathematician and activist who taught at Yale University for most of his career. He is known for his work in number theory and for his mathematics textbooks, including the influential Algebra. He received the Frank Nelson Cole Prize in 1960 and was a member of the Bourbaki group.

Go to Profile 1954 - 2018 (64 years)

Jean, Baron Bourgain was a Belgian mathematician. He was awarded the Fields Medal in 1994 in recognition of his work on several core topics of mathematical analysis such as the geometry of Banach spaces, harmonic analysis, ergodic theory and nonlinear partial differential equations from mathematical physics.

Go to Profile 1943 - Present (79 years)

Béla Bollobás FRS is a Hungarian-born British mathematician who has worked in various areas of mathematics, including functional analysis, combinatorics, graph theory, and percolation. He was strongly influenced by Paul Erdős since the age of 14.

Go to Profile 1916 - 2006 (90 years)

Paul Richard Halmos was a Hungarian-born American mathematician and statistician who made fundamental advances in the areas of mathematical logic, probability theory, statistics, operator theory, ergodic theory, and functional analysis . He was also recognized as a great mathematical expositor. He has been described as one of The Martians.

Go to Profile 1914 - 2010 (96 years)

Martin Gardner was an American popular mathematics and popular science writer with interests also encompassing scientific skepticism, micromagic, philosophy, religion, and literature—especially the writings of Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, and G. K. Chesterton. He was also a leading authority on Lewis Carroll. The Annotated Alice, which incorporated the text of Carroll's two Alice books, was his most successful work and sold over a million copies. He had a lifelong interest in magic and illusion and in 1999, MAGIC magazine named him as one of the "100 Most Influential Magicians of the Twentieth Century".

Go to Profile 1927 - 2012 (85 years)

Friedrich Ernst Peter Hirzebruch ForMemRS was a German mathematician, working in the fields of topology, complex manifolds and algebraic geometry, and a leading figure in his generation. He has been described as "the most important mathematician in Germany of the postwar period."

Go to Profile 1946 - Present (76 years)

Grigory Aleksandrovich Margulis is a Russian-American mathematician known for his work on lattices in Lie groups, and the introduction of methods from ergodic theory into diophantine approximation. He was awarded a Fields Medal in 1978, a Wolf Prize in Mathematics in 2005, and an Abel Prize in 2020, becoming the fifth mathematician to receive the three prizes. In 1991, he joined the faculty of Yale University, where he is currently the Erastus L. De Forest Professor of Mathematics.

Go to Profile 1936 - Present (86 years)

Robert Phelan Langlands, is a Canadian mathematician. He is best known as the founder of the Langlands program, a vast web of conjectures and results connecting representation theory and automorphic forms to the study of Galois groups in number theory, for which he received the 2018 Abel Prize. He was an emeritus professor and occupied Albert Einstein's office at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, until 2020 when he retired.

Go to Profile 1932 - 1999 (67 years)

Gian-Carlo Rota was an Italian-American mathematician and philosopher. He spent most of his career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he worked in combinatorics, functional analysis, probability theory, and phenomenology.

Go to Profile 1942 - 2018 (76 years)

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...

Go to Profile 1923 - 2005 (82 years)

Raoul Bott was a Hungarian-American mathematician known for numerous basic contributions to geometry in its broad sense. He is best known for his Bott periodicity theorem, the Morse–Bott functions which he used in this context, and the Borel–Bott–Weil theorem.

Go to Profile 1899 - 1971 (72 years)

Wolfgang Krull was a German mathematician who made fundamental contributions to commutative algebra, introducing concepts that are now central to the subject. Krull was born and went to school in Baden-Baden. He attended the Universities of Freiburg, Rostock and finally Göttingen, where he earned his doctorate under Alfred Loewy. He worked as an instructor and professor at Freiburg, then spent a decade at the University of Erlangen. In 1939 Krull moved to become chair at the University of Bonn, where he remained for the rest of his life. Wolfgang Krull was a member of the NSDAP.

Go to Profile 1930 - 2019 (89 years)

Gorō Shimura was a Japanese mathematician and Michael Henry Strater Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at Princeton University who worked in number theory, automorphic forms, and arithmetic geometry. He was known for developing the theory of complex multiplication of abelian varieties and Shimura varieties, as well as posing the Taniyama–Shimura conjecture which ultimately led to the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem.

Go to Profile 1945 - Present (77 years)

Anatoly Timofeevich Fomenko is a Soviet and Russian conspiracy theorist, mathematician, professor at Moscow State University, well-known as a topologist, and a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He is the author of a pseudoscientific theory known as New Chronology, based on works of Russian-Soviet writer and freemason Nikolai Alexandrovich Morozov. He is also a member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences .

Go to Profile 1930 - Present (92 years)

Stephen Smale is an American mathematician, known for his research in topology, dynamical systems and mathematical economics. He was awarded the Fields Medal in 1966 and spent more than three decades on the mathematics faculty of the University of California, Berkeley . Currently, he is Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley with research interests in algorithms, numerical analysis and global analysis.

Go to Profile 1940 - Present (82 years)

Endre Szemerédi is a Hungarian-American mathematician and computer scientist, working in the field of combinatorics and theoretical computer science. He has been the State of New Jersey Professor of computer science at Rutgers University since 1986. He also holds a professor emeritus status at the Alfréd Rényi Institute of Mathematics of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Go to Profile 1943 - Present (79 years)

Jeff Cheeger is a mathematician. Cheeger is professor at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University in New York City. His main interests are differential geometry and its connections with topology and analysis.

Go to Profile 1937 - Present (85 years)

Barry Mazur currently holds the title of Gerhard Gade University Professor at Harvard University, where he has worked as a professor since 1962. Prior to his long tenure at Harvard, Mazur held post-doctoral fellowships at Harvard and the Institute for Advanced Study. Mazur earned his PhD in Mathematics at Princeton University; though he attended MIT as an undergraduate, he did not complete a bachelor’s degree. Mazur boasts a long career of discoveries and advancements in geometry, arithmetic, and number theory. In fact, he has several discoveries and proofs named after him, including the Mazur swindle, the Mazur manifold, and Mazur’s torsion theorem.

Go to Profile 1964 - Present (58 years)

Kontsevich is Professor of Mathematics at the prestigious Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques in France, as well as a distinguished professor at the University of Miami. Having dual Russian and French citizenship, Kontsevich studied at Moscow University before leaving before degree completion to take a position as a researcher at the Institute for Information Transmission Problems in Moscow. His research there attracted the attention of the University of Bonn, where he was invited to attend. While there he sketched a proof of the famous Witten Conjecture, and was recognized as a true mathematical genius.

Go to Profile 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.

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