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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 Earth Sciences, for the years 1200 – 2020

Alfred Wegener
# 1
Alfred Wegener

1880 - 1930 (50 years)

#1022 person's overall influence

Alfred Lothar Wegener was a German polar researcher, geophysicist and meteorologist.

Alfred Hettner
# 2
Alfred Hettner

1859 - 1941 (82 years)

#3179 person's overall influence

Alfred Hettner was a German geographer.

Arthur Holmes
# 3
Arthur Holmes

1890 - 1965 (75 years)

#3990 person's overall influence

Arthur Holmes was a British geologist who made two major contributions to the understanding of geology. He pioneered the use of radiometric dating of minerals and was the first earth scientist to grasp the mechanical and thermal implications of mantle convection, which led eventually to the acceptance of plate tectonics.

James Hutton
# 4
James Hutton

1726 - 1797 (71 years)

#361 person's overall influence

James Hutton was a Scottish geologist, experimental agriculturalist, chemical manufacturer, naturalist and physician. Often referred to as the ‘father’ of modern geology, his work played a key role in establishing geology as a modern science.

Edward Lhuyd
# 5
Edward Lhuyd

1660 - 1709 (49 years)

#2663 person's overall influence

Edward Lhuyd was a Welsh naturalist, botanist, linguist, geographer and antiquary. He is also known by the Latinized form of his name: Eduardus Luidius.

Alexander von Humboldt
# 6
Alexander von Humboldt

1769 - 1859 (90 years)

#99 person's overall influence

Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander von Humboldt was a Prussian polymath, geographer, naturalist, explorer, and proponent of Romantic philosophy and science. He was the younger brother of the Prussian minister, philosopher, and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt . Humboldt's quantitative work on botanical geography laid the foundation for the field of biogeography. Humboldt's advocacy of long-term systematic geophysical measurement laid the foundation for modern geomagnetic and meteorological monitoring.

Harry Hammond Hess
# 7
Harry Hammond Hess

1906 - 1969 (63 years)

#4013 person's overall influence

Harry Hammond Hess was an American geologist and a United States Navy officer in World War II who is considered one of the "founding fathers" of the unifying theory of plate tectonics. He is best known for his theories on sea floor spreading, specifically work on relationships between island arcs, seafloor gravity anomalies, and serpentinized peridotite, suggesting that the convection of the Earth's mantle was the driving force behind this process.

Cecil Howard Green
# 8
Cecil Howard Green

1900 - 2003 (103 years)

#2919 person's overall influence

Cecil Howard Green KBE was a British-born American geophysicist who trained at the University of British Columbia and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Nicolaus Steno
# 9
Nicolaus Steno

1638 - 1686 (48 years)

#1705 person's overall influence

Nicolas Steno was a Danish scientist, a pioneer in both anatomy and geology who became a Catholic bishop in his later years. Steno was trained in the classical texts on science; however, by 1659 he seriously questioned accepted knowledge of the natural world. Importantly he questioned explanations for tear production, the idea that fossils grew in the ground and explanations of rock formation. His investigations and his subsequent conclusions on fossils and rock formation have led scholars to consider him one of the founders of modern stratigraphy and modern geology. The importance of Steno's...

Henry Darcy
# 10
Henry Darcy

1803 - 1858 (55 years)

#3367 person's overall influence

Henry Philibert Gaspard Darcy was a French engineer who made several important contributions to hydraulics including Darcy’s law for flow in porous media.

Wladimir Köppen
# 11
Wladimir Köppen

1846 - 1940 (94 years)

#4828 person's overall influence

Wladimir Peter Köppen was a Russian-German geographer, meteorologist, climatologist and botanist. After studies in St. Petersburg, he spent the bulk of his life and professional career in Germany and Austria. His most notable contribution to science was the development of the Köppen climate classification system, which, with some modifications, is still commonly used. Köppen made significant contributions to several branches of science, and coined the name aerology for the science of measuring the upper air / atmosphere.

Albertus Magnus
# 12
Albertus Magnus

1193 - 1280 (87 years)

#332 person's overall influence

Albertus Magnus , also known as Saint Albert the Great and Albert of Cologne, was a German Catholic Dominican friar and bishop. Later canonised as a Catholic saint, he was known during his lifetime as Doctor universalis and Doctor expertus and, late in his life, the sobriquet Magnus was appended to his name. Scholars such as James A. Weisheipl and Joachim R. Söder have referred to him as the greatest German philosopher and theologian of the Middle Ages. The Catholic Church distinguishes him as one of the 36 Doctors of the Church.

John Walter Gregory
# 13
John Walter Gregory

1864 - 1932 (68 years)

#7788 person's overall influence

Prof John Walter Gregory, FRS, FRSE FGS LLD was a British geologist and explorer, known principally for his work on glacial geology and on the geography and geology of Australia and East Africa.

Maurice Ewing
# 14
Maurice Ewing

1906 - 1974 (68 years)

#5043 person's overall influence

William Maurice "Doc" Ewing was an American geophysicist and oceanographer.

Bernhard Eitel
# 15
Bernhard Eitel

1959 - Present (62 years)

#8000 person's overall influence

Bernhard Eitel is a German earth scientist and geographer.

# 16
Edward Bullard

1907 - 1980 (73 years)

#6683 person's overall influence

Sir Edward "Teddy" Crisp Bullard FRS was a British geophysicist who is considered, along with Maurice Ewing, to have founded the discipline of marine geophysics. He developed the theory of the geodynamo, pioneered the use of seismology to study the sea floor, measured geothermal heat flow through the ocean crust, and found new evidence for the theory of continental drift.

Abraham Gottlob Werner
# 17
Abraham Gottlob Werner

1749 - 1817 (68 years)

#3738 person's overall influence

Abraham Gottlob Werner was a German geologist who set out an early theory about the stratification of the Earth's crust and propounded a history of the Earth that came to be known as Neptunism. While most tenets of Neptunism were eventually set aside, Werner is remembered for his demonstration of chronological succession in rockss; for the zeal with which he infused his pupils; and for the impulse he thereby gave to the study of geology. He has been called the "father of German geology".

John Tuzo Wilson
# 18
John Tuzo Wilson

1908 - 1993 (85 years)

#1150 person's overall influence

John Tuzo Wilson was a Canadian geophysicist and geologist who achieved worldwide acclaim for his contributions to the theory of plate tectonics.

# 19
Keith Runcorn

1922 - 1995 (73 years)

#9719 person's overall influence

Keith Runcorn was a British physicist whose paleomagnetic reconstruction of the relative motions of Europe and America revived the theory of continental drift and was a major contribution to plate tectonics.

Louis Agassiz
# 20
Louis Agassiz

1807 - 1873 (66 years)

#286 person's overall influence

Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz was a Swiss-born American biologist and geologist recognized as an innovative and prodigious scholar of Earth's natural history. Agassiz grew up in Switzerland. He received doctor of philosophy and medical degrees at Erlangen and Munich, respectively. After studying with Cuvier and Humboldt in Paris, Agassiz was appointed professor of natural history at the University of Neuchâtel. He emigrated to the United States in 1847 after visiting Harvard University. He went on to become professor of zoology and geology at Harvard, to head its Lawrence Scientific School, and...

Georgius Agricola
# 21
Georgius Agricola

1494 - 1555 (61 years)

#3801 person's overall influence

Georgius Agricola was a German Humanist scholar, mineralogist and metallurgist. Born in the small town of Glauchau, in the Electorate of Saxony of the Holy Roman Empire, he was broadly educated, but took a particular interest in the mining and refining of metals. He is well known for his pioneering work De re metallica libri XII, that was published in 1556, one year after his death. This 12-volume work is a comprehensive and systematic study, classification and methodical guide on all available factual and practical aspects, that are of concern for mining, the mining sciences and metallurgy,

Jean-André Deluc
# 22
Jean-André Deluc

1727 - 1817 (90 years)

#10217 person's overall influence

Jean-André Deluc or de Luc was a Swiss geologist, natural philosopher and meteorologist. He also devised measuring instruments.

John Walker
# 23
John Walker

1731 - 1803 (72 years)

#5091 person's overall influence

Very Rev Prof John Walker DD MD FRSE was a Scottish minister and natural historian. He was Regius Professor of Natural history at the University of Edinburgh from 1779 to 1803. He was joint founder of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1783 and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1790.

Robert FitzRoy
# 24
Robert FitzRoy

1805 - 1865 (60 years)

#3001 person's overall influence

Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy was an English officer of the Royal Navy and a scientist. He achieved lasting fame as the captain of during Charles Darwin's famous voyage, FitzRoy's second expedition to Tierra del Fuego and the Southern Cone.

Mikhail Vassilyevich Lomonosov
# 25
Mikhail Vassilyevich Lomonosov

1711 - 1765 (54 years)

#924 person's overall influence

Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov was a Russian polymath, scientist and writer, who made important contributions to literature, education, and science. Among his discoveries were the atmosphere of Venus and the law of conservation of mass in chemical reactions. His spheres of science were natural science, chemistry, physics, mineralogy, history, art, philology, optical devices and others. Lomonosov was also a poet and influenced the formation of the modern Russian literary language.

Linus Pauling
# 26
Linus Pauling

1901 - 1994 (93 years)

#72 person's overall influence

Linus Carl Pauling was an American chemist, biochemist, chemical engineer, peace activist, author, and educator. He published more than 1,200 papers and books, of which about 850 dealt with scientific topics. New Scientist called him one of the 20 greatest scientists of all time, and as of 2000, he was rated the 16th most important scientist in history. For his scientific work, Pauling was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1954. For his peace activism, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962. He is one of four individuals to have won more than one Nobel Prize . Of these, he is the

Michael E. Mann
# 27
Michael E. Mann

1965 - Present (56 years)

#2378 person's overall influence

Michael E. Mann is the director of the Earth System Science Center for Pennsylvania State University, a climatologist, and geophysicist. He has earned an A.B. in applied mathematics and an A.B. in physics from the University of California at Berkeley, before earning an M.S. and M.Phil in physics, an M.Phil in geology, and a Ph.D in geology & geophysics from Yale University. His work has resulted in new techniques for recording and evaluating past climate data and how to distinguish between useful climate data and statistical noise.

# 28
Cecil Edgar Tilley

1894 - 1973 (79 years)

#16755 person's overall influence

Prof Cecil Edgar Tilley FRS HFRSE PGS was an Australian-British petrologist and geologist.

Naomi Oreskes
# 29
Naomi Oreskes

1958 - Present (63 years)

#2517 person's overall influence

Naomi Oreskes is a Professor of the History of Science, and an Affiliated Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University. She earned a B.S. in mining geology from the Royal School of Mines of the Imperial College of London. She went on to earn a Ph.D in geological research and history of science from Stanford University. Her body of work has encompassed geology, scientific methods, climate change, plate tectonics and the history and philosophy of science.

Robert S. Dietz
# 30
Robert S. Dietz

1914 - 1995 (81 years)

#10750 person's overall influence

Robert Sinclair Dietz was a scientist with the US Coast and Geodetic Survey. Dietz was a marine geologist, geophysicist and oceanographer who conducted pioneering research along with Harry Hammond Hess concerning seafloor spreading, published as early as 1960–1961. While at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography he observed the nature of the Emperor chain of seamounts that extended from the northwest end of the Hawaiian Island–Midway chain and speculated over lunch with Robert Fisher in 1953 that something must be carrying these old volcanic mountains northward like a conveyor belt.

Beno Gutenberg
# 31
Beno Gutenberg

1889 - 1960 (71 years)

#8076 person's overall influence

Beno Gutenberg was a German-American seismologist who made several important contributions to the science. He was a colleague and mentor of Charles Francis Richter at the California Institute of Technology and Richter's collaborator in developing the Richter magnitude scale for measuring an earthquake's magnitude.

Vilhelm Bjerknes
# 32
Vilhelm Bjerknes

1862 - 1951 (89 years)

#7235 person's overall influence

Vilhelm Friman Koren Bjerknes was a Norwegian physicist and meteorologist who did much to found the modern practice of weather forecasting. He formulated the primitive equations that are still in use in numerical weather prediction and climate modeling, and he developed the so-called Bergen School of Meteorology, which was successful in advancing weather prediction and meteorology in the early 20th century.

Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck
# 33
Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck

1744 - 1829 (85 years)

#177 person's overall influence

Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, chevalier de Lamarck , often known simply as Lamarck , was a French naturalist. He was a soldier, biologist, and academic, and an early proponent of the idea that biological evolution occurred and proceeded in accordance with natural laws.

Henry Arnold Karo
# 34
Henry Arnold Karo

1903 - 1986 (83 years)

#13470 person's overall influence

Henry Arnold Karo was a vice admiral in the former United States Coast and Geodetic Survey Corps, which is today known as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps. Vice Admiral Karo spent most of his working career in the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, which provided coastal maps and charts for the United States. He rose through the organization's bureaucracy to become the director of the Survey.

Lewis Fry Richardson
# 35
Lewis Fry Richardson

1881 - 1953 (72 years)

#4984 person's overall influence

Lewis Fry Richardson, FRS was an English mathematician, physicist, meteorologist, psychologist and pacifist who pioneered modern mathematical techniques of weather forecasting, and the application of similar techniques to studying the causes of wars and how to prevent them. He is also noted for his pioneering work concerning fractals and a method for solving a system of linear equations known as modified Richardson iteration.

David Karoly
# 36
David Karoly

1955 - Present (66 years)

#14197 person's overall influence

David John Karoly is an Australian atmospheric scientist, currently based at CSIRO.

John Wesley Powell
# 37
John Wesley Powell

1834 - 1902 (68 years)

#1634 person's overall influence

John Wesley Powell was a geologist, U.S. Soldier, explorer of the American West, professor at Illinois Wesleyan University, and director of major scientific and cultural institutions. He is famous for the 1869 Powell Geographic Expedition, a three-month river trip down the Green and Colorado rivers, including the first official U.S. government-sponsored passage through the Grand Canyon.

Edmund Halley
# 38
Edmund Halley

1656 - 1742 (86 years)

#1011 person's overall influence

Edmond Halley, FRS was an English astronomer, geophysicist, mathematician, meteorologist, and physicist. He was the second Astronomer Royal in Britain, succeeding John Flamsteed in 1720.

Leonhard Euler
# 39
Leonhard Euler

1707 - 1783 (76 years)

#247 person's overall influence

Leonhard Euler was a Swiss mathematician, physicist, astronomer, geographer, logician and engineer who made important and influential discoveries in many branches of mathematics, such as infinitesimal calculus and graph theory, while also making pioneering contributions to several branches such as topology and analytic number theory. He also introduced much of the modern mathematical terminology and notation, particularly for mathematical analysis, such as the notion of a mathematical function. He is also known for his work in mechanics, fluid dynamics, optics, astronomy and music theory.

Alfredo Jahn
# 40
Alfredo Jahn

1867 - 1940 (73 years)

#1566 person's overall influence

Dr. Alfredo Jahn Hartman was a Venezuelan civil engineer, botanist and geographer. Jahn was a member of the Academy of History, the Academy of Physical Sciences, Mathematics and Naturalist of Venezuela and the Venezuelan Society of Natural Sciences and achieved the Order of the Liberator. He was also an explorer and mountain climber. There is a large cave named after Jahn, "Cueva Alfredo Jahn" . In 1911 he became the first person to ascend Pico Humboldt in the Sierra Nevada de Mérida in Venezuela.

Johan Gottschalk Wallerius
# 41
Johan Gottschalk Wallerius

1709 - 1785 (76 years)

#16566 person's overall influence

Johan Gottschalk Wallerius was a Swedish chemist and mineralogist.

Dorothy Hodgkin
# 42
Dorothy Hodgkin

1910 - 1994 (84 years)

#715 person's overall influence

Dorothy Mary Crowfoot Hodgkin was a Nobel Prize-winning British chemist who advanced the technique of X-ray crystallography to determine the structure of biomolecules, which became an essential tool in structural biology.

Jules Verne
# 43
Jules Verne

1828 - 1905 (77 years)

#158 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 .

Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon
# 44
Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon

1707 - 1788 (81 years)

#273 person's overall influence

Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon was a French naturalist, mathematician, cosmologist, and encyclopédiste.

# 45
Ken Caldeira
#7767 person's overall influence

Kenneth Caldeira is an atmospheric scientist who works at the Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Global Ecology. He researches ocean acidification, climate effects of trees, intentional climate modification, and interactions in the global carbon cycle/climate system. He also acted as an inventor for Intellectual Ventures, a Seattle-based invention and patent company headed up by Nathan Myhrvold.

Milutin Milanković
# 46
Milutin Milanković

1879 - 1958 (79 years)

#7618 person's overall influence

Milutin Milanković was a Serbian mathematician, astronomer, climatologist, geophysicist, civil engineer and popularizer of science.

John Dalton
# 47
John Dalton

1766 - 1844 (78 years)

#481 person's overall influence

John Dalton was an English chemist, physicist, and meteorologist. He is best known for introducing the atomic theory into chemistry, and for his research into colour blindness, sometimes referred to as Daltonism in his honour.

Vasily Dokuchaev
# 48
Vasily Dokuchaev

1846 - 1903 (57 years)

#5575 person's overall influence

Vasily Vasilyevich Dokuchaev was a Russian geologist and geographer who is credited with laying the foundations of soil science.

Harold Jeffreys
# 49
Harold Jeffreys

1891 - 1989 (98 years)

#3591 person's overall influence

Sir Harold Jeffreys, FRS was an English mathematician, statistician, geophysicist, and astronomer. His book, Theory of Probability, which was first published in 1939, played an important role in the revival of the objective Bayesian view of probability.

Maurice Wilkins
# 50
Maurice Wilkins

1916 - 2004 (88 years)

#234 person's overall influence

Maurice Hugh Frederick Wilkins was a New Zealand-born British biophysicist and Nobel laureate whose research spanned multiple areas of physics and biophysics, contributing to the scientific understanding of phosphorescence, isotope separation, optical microscopy and X-ray diffraction, and to the development of radar. He is best known for his work at King's College London on the structure of DNA.