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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.

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List of the most influential people in Anthropology, for the years 1200 – 2020

Franz Boas
# 1
Franz Boas

1858 - 1942 (84 years)

#56 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.

Bronisław Malinowski
# 2
Bronisław Malinowski

1884 - 1942 (58 years)

#160 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.

Margaret Mead
# 3
Margaret Mead

1901 - 1978 (77 years)

#172 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.

Panfilo Costa
# 4
Panfilo Costa

1887 - 1948 (61 years)

#262 person's overall influence

Ruth Fulton Benedict was an American anthropologist and folklorist.

Émile Durkheim
# 5
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.

Edward Burnett Tylor
# 6
Edward Burnett Tylor

1832 - 1917 (85 years)

#378 person's overall influence

Sir Edward Burnett Tylor was an English anthropologist, the founder of cultural anthropology.

Edward Sapir
# 7
Edward Sapir

1884 - 1939 (55 years)

#453 person's overall influence

Edward Sapir was an American anthropologist-linguist, who is widely considered to be one of the most important figures in the development of the discipline of linguistics in the US.

Michel Foucault
# 8
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.

Clifford Geertz
# 9
Clifford Geertz

1926 - 2006 (80 years)

#345 person's overall influence

Clifford James Geertz was an American anthropologist who is remembered mostly for his strong support for and influence on the practice of symbolic anthropology, and who was considered "for three decades...the single most influential cultural anthropologist in the United States." He served until his death as professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

Immanuel Kant
# 10
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.

# 11
Meyer Fortes

1906 - 1983 (77 years)

#815 person's overall influence

Meyer Fortes was a South African-born anthropologist, best known for his work among the Tallensi and Ashanti in Ghana.

# 12
Marvin Harris

1927 - 2001 (74 years)

#802 person's overall influence

Marvin Harris was an American anthropologist. He was born in Brooklyn, New York City. A prolific writer, he was highly influential in the development of cultural materialism. In his work, he combined Karl Marx's emphasis on the forces of production with Thomas Malthus's insights on the impact of demographic factors on other parts of the sociocultural system.

# 13
Eric Wolf

1923 - 1999 (76 years)

#859 person's overall influence

Eric Robert Wolf was an anthropologist, best known for his studies of peasants, Latin America, and his advocacy of Marxist perspectives within anthropology.

# 14
Max Gluckman

1911 - 1975 (64 years)

#1042 person's overall influence

Herman Max Gluckman was a South African and British social anthropologist. He is best known as the founder of the Manchester School of anthropology.

# 15
Edmund Leach

1910 - 1989 (79 years)

#1096 person's overall influence

Sir Edmund Ronald Leach was a British social anthropologist.

Marshall Sahlins
# 16
Marshall Sahlins

1930 - Present (91 years)

#658 person's overall influence

Marshall Sahlins was the Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Anthropology and Social Sciences at the University of Chicago. Sahlins earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Michigan, and his Ph.D from Columbia University.

# 17
Sidney Mintz

1922 - 2015 (93 years)

#1205 person's overall influence

Sidney Wilfred Mintz was an American anthropologist best known for his studies of the Caribbean, creolization, and the anthropology of food. Mintz received his PhD at Columbia University in 1951 and conducted his primary fieldwork among sugar-cane workers in Puerto Rico. Later expanding his ethnographic research to Haiti and Jamaica, he produced historical and ethnographic studies of slavery and global capitalism, cultural hybridity, Caribbean peasants, and the political economy of food commodities. He taught for two decades at Yale University before helping to found the Anthropology Departme

Julian Steward
# 18
Julian Steward

1902 - 1972 (70 years)

#1044 person's overall influence

Julian Steward

# 19
Robert Lowie

1883 - 1957 (74 years)

#1266 person's overall influence

Robert Harry Lowie was an Austrian-born American anthropologist. An expert on North American Indians, he was instrumental in the development of modern anthropology.

Pierre Bourdieu
# 20
Pierre Bourdieu

1930 - 2002 (72 years)

#187 person's overall influence

Pierre Bourdieu was a French sociologist, anthropologist, philosopher and public intellectual. Bourdieu's major contributions to the sociology of education, the theory of sociology, and sociology of aesthetics have achieved wide influence in several related academic fields , popular culture, and the arts. During his academic career he was primarily associated with the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris and the Collège de France.

Herbert Spencer
# 21
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.

Mary Douglas
# 22
Mary Douglas

1921 - 2007 (86 years)

#1178 person's overall influence

Dame Mary Douglas, was a British anthropologist, known for her writings on human culture and symbolism, whose area of speciality was social anthropology. Douglas was considered a follower of Émile Durkheim and a proponent of structuralist analysis, with a strong interest in comparative religion.

# 23
Božo Škerlj

1904 - 1961 (57 years)

#1939 person's overall influence

Božo Škerlj was a Slovene anthropologist, author of eleven books and over 200 scientific articles published in journals at home and abroad.

Ryūzō Torii
# 24
Ryūzō Torii

1870 - 1953 (83 years)

#1958 person's overall influence

Ryuzo Torii was a Japanese anthropologist, ethnologist, archaeologist and folklorist. He was known for his anthropological research in China, Taiwan, Korea, Russia, Europe, etc. His research took him all over East Asia and South America.

Ibn Khaldun
# 25
Ibn Khaldun

1332 - 1406 (74 years)

#121 person's overall influence

Ibn Khaldun was an Arab scholar of Islam, social scientist and historian who has been described as the father of the modern disciplines of historiography, sociology, economics, and demography. Niccolò Machiavelli of the Renaissance and the 19th-century European scholars widely acknowledged the significance of his works and considered Ibn Khaldun to be one of the greatest philosophers of the Middle Ages.

Madison Grant
# 26
Madison Grant

1865 - 1937 (72 years)

#687 person's overall influence

Madison Grant was an American lawyer, writer, and zoologist known primarily for his work as a eugenicist and conservationist, an advocate of scientific racism and as one of the leading thinkers and activists of the Progressive Era.

# 27
Victor Turner

1920 - 1983 (63 years)

#1041 person's overall influence

Victor Witter Turner was a British cultural anthropologist best known for his work on symbols, rituals, and rites of passage. His work, along with that of Clifford Geertz and others, is often referred to as symbolic and interpretive anthropology.

Alfred Radcliffe-Brown
# 28
Alfred Radcliffe-Brown

1881 - 1955 (74 years)

#641 person's overall influence

Alfred Reginald Radcliffe-Brown, FBA was an English social anthropologist who developed the theory of structural functionalism and coadaptation.

James George Frazer
# 29
James George Frazer

1854 - 1941 (87 years)

#677 person's overall influence

Sir James George Frazer was a Scottish social anthropologist and folklorist influential in the early stages of the modern studies of mythology and comparative religion. His most famous work, The Golden Bough , documents and details the similarities among magical and religious beliefs around the world. Frazer posited that human belief progressed through three stages: primitive magic, replaced by religion, in turn replaced by science.

Jean Comaroff
# 30
Jean Comaroff

1946 - Present (75 years)

#2515 person's overall influence

Jean Comaroff is Professor of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology, Oppenheimer Fellow in African Studies at Harvard University. She is an expert on the effects of colonialism on people in Southern Africa. Until 2012, Jean was the Bernard E. & Ellen C. Sunny Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences at the University of Chicago and Honorary Professor of Anthropology at the University of Cape Town.

# 31
John Comaroff

1945 - Present (76 years)

#2604 person's overall influence

John Comaroff is the Hugh K. Foster Professor of African and African American Studies and of Anthropology, and Oppenheimer Research Fellow in African Studies at Harvard University. Comaroff also serves as a research professor at the American Bar Foundation. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Cape Town and his doctorate from the London School of Economics.

Ulf Hannerz
# 32
Ulf Hannerz

1942 - Present (79 years)

#2220 person's overall influence

Ulf Hannerz is an emeritus professor of social anthropology at Stockholm University, which is where he also earned his Ph.D. As an anthropologist, he has focused his research on urban and media anthropology. His research has taken him to locations in the United States, the Caribbean, and West Africa.

Manuel Gamio
# 33
Manuel Gamio

1883 - 1960 (77 years)

#2310 person's overall influence

Manuel Gamio was a Mexican anthropologist, archaeologist, sociologist, and a leader of the indigenismo movement. Although he rejected full sovereignty for indigenous communities in Mexico, he argued that their self-governing organizations, such as tribal governments, municipal organizations, and elected community leaders should be recognized and respected. He is often considered as the father of modern anthropological studies in Mexico. He devised a well-known system for classifying the hunter-gatherers of Central America.

Zora Neale Hurston
# 34
Zora Neale Hurston

1891 - 1960 (69 years)

#496 person's overall influence

Zora Neale Hurston was an American author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. She portrayed racial struggles in the early-1900s American South and published research on hoodoo. The most popular of her four novels is Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937. She also wrote more than 50 short stories, plays, and essays.

# 35
Leslie White

1900 - 1975 (75 years)

#1692 person's overall influence

Leslie Alvin White was an American anthropologist known for his advocacy of theories of cultural evolution, sociocultural evolution, and especially neoevolutionism, and for his role in creating the department of anthropology at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. He was president of the American Anthropological Association .

Louis Leakey
# 36
Louis Leakey

1903 - 1972 (69 years)

#1869 person's overall influence

Louis Seymour Bazett Leakey was a British paleoanthropologist and archaeologist whose work was important in demonstrating that humans evolved in Africa, particularly through discoveries made at Olduvai Gorge with his wife, fellow paleontologist Mary Leakey. Having established a program of palaeoanthropological inquiry in eastern Africa, he also motivated many future generations to continue this scholarly work. Several members of Leakey's family became prominent scholars themselves.

E. E. Evans-Pritchard
# 37
E. E. Evans-Pritchard

1902 - 1973 (71 years)

#1970 person's overall influence

Sir Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard, FBA , known as E. E. Evans-Pritchard, was an English anthropologist who was instrumental in the development of social anthropology. He was Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford from 1946 to 1970.

# 38
Clyde Kluckhohn

1905 - 1960 (55 years)

#2368 person's overall influence

Clyde Kluckhohn , was an American anthropologist and social theorist, best known for his long-term ethnographic work among the Navajo and his contributions to the development of theory of culture within American anthropology.

Lewis H. Morgan
# 39
Lewis H. Morgan

1818 - 1881 (63 years)

#1875 person's overall influence

Lewis Henry Morgan was a pioneering American anthropologist and social theorist who worked as a railroad lawyer. He is best known for his work on kinship and social structure, his theories of social evolution, and his ethnography of the Iroquois. Interested in what holds societies together, he proposed the concept that the earliest human domestic institution was the matrilineal clan, not the patriarchal family.

Gregory Bateson
# 40
Gregory Bateson

1904 - 1980 (76 years)

#531 person's overall influence

Gregory Bateson was an English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician, and cyberneticist whose work intersected that of many other fields. His writings include Steps to an Ecology of Mind and Mind and Nature .

Arthur de Gobineau
# 41
Arthur de Gobineau

1816 - 1882 (66 years)

#1008 person's overall influence

Joseph Arthur de Gobineau was a French aristocrat who is best known for helping to legitimise racism by the use of scientific racist theory and "racial demography", and for developing the theory of the Aryan master race. Known to his contemporaries as a novelist, diplomat and travel writer, he was an elitist who, in the immediate aftermath of the Revolutions of 1848, wrote An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races. In it he claimed aristocrats were superior to commoners, and they possessed more Aryan genetic traits because of less interbreeding with inferior races—Alpines and Mediterranea

# 42
Ralph Linton

1893 - 1953 (60 years)

#3625 person's overall influence

Ralph Linton was a respected American anthropologist of the mid-20th century, particularly remembered for his texts The Study of Man and The Tree of Culture . One of Linton's major contributions to anthropology was defining a distinction between status and role.

Paul Broca
# 43
Paul Broca

1824 - 1880 (56 years)

#1552 person's overall influence

Pierre Paul Broca was a French physician, anatomist and anthropologist. He is best known for his research on Broca's area, a region of the frontal lobe that is named after him. Broca's area is involved with language. His work revealed that the brains of patients suffering from aphasia contained lesions in a particular part of the cortex, in the left frontal region. This was the first anatomical proof of localization of brain function. Broca's work also contributed to the development of physical anthropology, advancing the science of anthropometry.

# 44
James Hunt

1833 - 1869 (36 years)

#3223 person's overall influence

James Hunt was a speech therapist in London, England who had among his clients Charles Kingsley, Leo Tennyson and Lewis Carroll author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Isaac Schapera
# 45
Isaac Schapera

1905 - 2003 (98 years)

#4058 person's overall influence

Isaac Schapera , was a social anthropologist at the London School of Economics specialising in South Africa. He was notable for his contributions of ethnographic and typological studies of the indigenous peoples of Botswana and South Africa. Additionally, he was one of the founders of the group that would develop British social anthropology.

Alfred Cort Haddon
# 46
Alfred Cort Haddon

1855 - 1940 (85 years)

#2258 person's overall influence

Alfred Cort Haddon, Sc.D., FRS, FRGS was an influential British anthropologist and ethnologist. Initially a biologist, who achieved his most notable fieldwork, with W.H.R. Rivers, C.G. Seligman and Sidney Ray on the Torres Strait Islands. He returned to Christ's College, Cambridge, where he had been an undergraduate, and effectively founded the School of Anthropology. Haddon was a major influence on the work of the American ethnologist Caroline Furness Jayne.

Wilhelm Schmidt
# 47
Wilhelm Schmidt

1868 - 1954 (86 years)

#2894 person's overall influence

Wilhelm Schmidt SVD was an Austrian priest, linguist and ethnologist. He presided over the Fourth International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences that was held at Vienna in 1952.

# 48
Oscar Lewis

1914 - 1970 (56 years)

#3161 person's overall influence

Oscar Lewis, born Lefkowitz was an American anthropologist. He is best known for his vivid depictions of the lives of slum dwellers and his argument that a cross-generational culture of poverty transcends national boundaries. Lewis contended that the cultural similarities occurred because they were "common adaptations to common problems" and that "the culture of poverty is both an adaptation and a reaction of the poor classes to their marginal position in a class-stratified, highly individualistic, capitalistic society." He won the 1967 U.S. National Book Award in Science, Philosophy and Rel...

Johann Jakob Bachofen
# 49
Johann Jakob Bachofen

1815 - 1887 (72 years)

#3047 person's overall influence

Johann Jakob Bachofen was a Swiss antiquarian, jurist, philologist, anthropologist, and professor for Roman law at the University of Basel from 1841 to 1845.

# 50
Michelle Rosaldo

1944 - 1981 (37 years)

#4767 person's overall influence

Michelle "Shelly" Zimbalist Rosaldo was a social, linguistic, and psychological anthropologist famous for her studies of the Ilongot people in the Philippines and for her pioneering role in women's studies and the anthropology of gender.