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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.

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Gender designations here are based off data sourced from Wikidata.

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

William Blackstone
# 1
William Blackstone

1723 - 1780 (57 years)

#207 person's overall influence

Sir William Blackstone was an English jurist, judge and Tory politician of the eighteenth century. He is most noted for writing the Commentaries on the Laws of England. Born into a middle-class family in London, Blackstone was educated at Charterhouse School before matriculating at Pembroke College, Oxford, in 1738. After switching to and completing a Bachelor of Civil Law degree, he was made a fellow of All Souls, Oxford, on 2 November 1743, admitted to Middle Temple, and called to the Bar there in 1746. Following a slow start to his career as a barrister, Blackstone became heavily involved

Abraham Lincoln
# 2
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.

Thomas Jefferson
# 3
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.

Edward Coke
# 4
Edward Coke

1549 - 1633 (84 years)

#407 person's overall influence

Sir Edward Coke was an English barrister, judge, and politician who is considered to be the greatest jurist of the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras.

Thomas Aquinas
# 5
Thomas Aquinas

1225 - 1274 (49 years)

#17 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...

James Madison
# 6
James Madison

1751 - 1836 (85 years)

#126 person's overall influence

James Madison was an American statesman, diplomat, expansionist, philosopher and Founding Father who served as the fourth president of the United States from 1809 to 1817. He is hailed as the "Father of the Constitution" for his pivotal role in drafting and promoting the Constitution of the United States and the United States Bill of Rights. He co-wrote The Federalist Papers, co-founded the Democratic-Republican Party, and served as the fifth United States secretary of State from 1801 to 1809.

Hugo Grotius
# 7
Hugo Grotius

1583 - 1645 (62 years)

#493 person's overall influence

Hugo Grotius , also known as Huig de Groot or Hugo de Groot , was a Dutch humanist, diplomat, lawyer, theologian, jurist, poet and playwright.

Oliver Wendell Holmes
# 8
Oliver Wendell Holmes

1841 - 1935 (94 years)

#632 person's overall influence

Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. was an American jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1902 to 1932, and as Acting Chief Justice of the United States in January–February 1930. Noted for his long service, concise and pithy opinions, and deference to the decisions of elected legislatures, he is one of the most widely cited United States Supreme Court justices in history, particularly for his "clear and present danger" opinion for a unanimous Court in the 1919 case of Schenck v. United States, and is one of the most influential American common law judg

Alexander Hamilton
# 9
Alexander Hamilton

1755 - 1804 (49 years)

#116 person's overall influence

Alexander Hamilton was an American statesman, politician, legal scholar, military commander, lawyer, banker, and economist. He was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was an influential interpreter and promoter of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the founder of the nation's financial system, the Federalist Party, the United States Coast Guard, and the New York Post newspaper. As the first secretary of the treasury, Hamilton was the main author of the economic policies of George Washington's administration. He took the lead in the Federal government's funding of the states' d

Martin Luther
# 10
Martin Luther

1483 - 1546 (63 years)

#62 person's overall influence

Martin Luther, was a German professor of theology, composer, priest, Augustinian monk, and a seminal figure in the Reformation. Luther was ordained to the priesthood in 1507. He came to reject several teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church; in particular, he disputed the view on indulgences. Luther proposed an academic discussion of the practice and efficacy of indulgences in his Ninety-five Theses of 1517. His refusal to renounce all of his writings at the demand of Pope Leo X in 1520 and the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms in 1521 resulted in his excomm...

Jeremy Bentham
# 11
Jeremy Bentham

1747 - 1832 (85 years)

#179 person's overall influence

Jeremy Bentham was an English philosopher, jurist, and social reformer regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism.

Richard Posner
# 12
Richard Posner

1939 - Present (82 years)

#311 person's overall influence

Richard Posner is a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School who served as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. He earned his A.B. degree in English literature from Yale University (summa cum laude), and his LL.B. from Harvard Law School (magna cum laude and valedictorian).

Andrew Jackson
# 13
Andrew Jackson

1767 - 1845 (78 years)

#248 person's overall influence

Andrew Jackson was an American soldier and statesman who served as the seventh president of the United States from 1829 to 1837. Before being elected to the presidency, Jackson gained fame as a general in the United States Army and served in both houses of the U.S. Congress. As president, Jackson sought to advance the rights of the "common man" against a "corrupt aristocracy" and to preserve the Union.

John Adams
# 14
John Adams

1735 - 1826 (91 years)

#350 person's overall influence

John Adams was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Father who served as the second president of the United States, from 1797 to 1801. Before his presidency, he was a leader of the American Revolution that achieved independence from Great Britain, and he served as the first vice president of the United States. Adams was a dedicated diarist and regularly corresponded with many important figures in early American history, including his wife and adviser Abigail Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

Montesquieu
# 15
Montesquieu

1689 - 1755 (66 years)

#318 person's overall influence

Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu , generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French judge, man of letters, and political philosopher.

John Marshall
# 16
John Marshall

1755 - 1835 (80 years)

#755 person's overall influence

John Marshall was an American politician and lawyer who served as the fourth Chief Justice of the United States from 1801 to 1835. Marshall remains the longest-serving chief justice and fourth-longest serving justice in Supreme Court history, and he is widely regarded as one of the most influential justices to ever sit on the Supreme Court. Prior to joining the Supreme Court , Marshall served as the United States Secretary of State under President John Adams.

Grover Cleveland
# 17
Grover Cleveland

1837 - 1908 (71 years)

#338 person's overall influence

Stephen Grover Cleveland was an American politician and lawyer who was the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, the only president in American history to serve two non-consecutive terms in office . He won the popular vote for three presidential elections—in 1884, 1888, and 1892—and was one of two Democrats to be elected president during the era of Republican political domination dating from 1861 to 1933.

H. L. A. Hart
# 18
H. L. A. Hart

1907 - 1992 (85 years)

#1105 person's overall influence

Herbert Lionel Adolphus Hart , usually cited as H. L. A. Hart, was a British legal philosopher, and a major figure in political and legal philosophy. He was Professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford University and the Principal of Brasenose College, Oxford. His most famous work is The Concept of Law , which has been hailed as "the most important work of legal philosophy written in the twentieth century". He is considered one of the world's foremost legal philosophers in the twentieth century, alongside Hans Kelsen.

Roscoe Pound
# 19
Roscoe Pound

1870 - 1964 (94 years)

#1128 person's overall influence

Nathan Roscoe Pound was an American legal scholar and educator. He served as Dean of the University of Nebraska College of Law from 1903 to 1911 and Dean of Harvard Law School from 1916 to 1936. He was a member of the faculty at UCLA School of Law in the school's early years, from 1949 to 1952. The Journal of Legal Studies has identified Pound as one of the most cited legal scholars of the 20th century.

Ronald Dworkin
# 20
Ronald Dworkin

1931 - 2013 (82 years)

#791 person's overall influence

Ronald Myles Dworkin was an American philosopher, jurist, and scholar of United States constitutional law. At the time of his death, he was Frank Henry Sommer Professor of Law and Philosophy at New York University and Professor of Jurisprudence at University College London. Dworkin had taught previously at Yale Law School and the University of Oxford, where he was the Professor of Jurisprudence, successor to renowned philosopher H. L. A. Hart. An influential contributor to both philosophy of law and political philosophy, Dworkin received the 2007 Holberg International Memorial Prize in the

John Jay
# 21
John Jay

1745 - 1829 (84 years)

#503 person's overall influence

John Jay was an American statesman, patriot, diplomat, Founding Father, abolitionist, negotiator, and signatory of the Treaty of Paris of 1783. He served as the second Governor of New York and the first Chief Justice of the United States . He directed U.S. foreign policy for much of the 1780s and was an important leader of the Federalist Party after the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788.

Joseph Story
# 22
Joseph Story

1779 - 1845 (66 years)

#1541 person's overall influence

Joseph Story was an American lawyer and jurist who served on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1812 to 1845, during the Marshall Court and early-Taney Court eras. He is most remembered for his opinions in Martin v. Hunter's Lessee and The Amistad case, and especially for his magisterial Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, first published in 1833. Dominating the field in the 19th century, this work is a cornerstone of early American jurisprudence. It is the second comprehensive treatise on the provisions of the U.S. Constitution and remains a critical source of his...

William McKinley
# 23
William McKinley

1843 - 1901 (58 years)

#439 person's overall influence

William McKinley was the 25th president of the United States from 1897, until his assassination in 1901. During his presidency, McKinley led the nation to victory in the Spanish–American War, raised protective tariffs to promote American industry, and kept the nation on the gold standard in a rejection of the expansionary monetary policy of free silver.

Henry Clay
# 24
Henry Clay

1777 - 1852 (75 years)

#568 person's overall influence

Henry Clay Sr. was an American attorney and statesman who represented Kentucky in both the Senate and House. He was the seventh House Speaker and the ninth Secretary of State. He received electoral votes for president in the 1824, 1832, and 1844 presidential elections. He also helped found both the National Republican Party and the Whig Party. For his role in defusing sectional crises, he earned the appellation of the "Great Compromiser" and was part of the "Great Triumvirate."

John Calvin
# 25
John Calvin

1509 - 1564 (55 years)

#313 person's overall influence

John Calvin was a French theologian, pastor and reformer in Geneva during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism, aspects of which include the doctrines of predestination and of the absolute sovereignty of God in salvation of the human soul from death and eternal damnation, in which doctrines Calvin was influenced by and elaborated upon the Augustinian and other Christian traditions. Various Congregational, Reformed and Presbyterian churches, which look to Calvin as the chief expositor of their beli...

# 26
Henry de Bracton

1210 - 1268 (58 years)

#2020 person's overall influence

Henry of Bracton, also Henry de Bracton, also Henricus Bracton, or Henry Bratton also Henry Bretton was an English cleric and jurist.

Francis Bacon
# 27
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.

John Quincy Adams
# 28
John Quincy Adams

1767 - 1848 (81 years)

#732 person's overall influence

John Quincy Adams was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, and diarist who served as the sixth president of the United States, from 1825 to 1829. He previously served as the eighth United States Secretary of State from 1817 to 1825. During his long diplomatic and political career, Adams also served as an ambassador, and as a member of the United States Senate and United States House of Representatives representing Massachusetts. He was the eldest son of John Adams, who served as the second US president from 1797 to 1801, and First Lady Abigail Adams. Initially a Federalist like his father...

Rutherford B. Hayes
# 29
Rutherford B. Hayes

1822 - 1893 (71 years)

#721 person's overall influence

Rutherford Birchard Hayes was the 19th president of the United States from 1877 to 1881, after serving in the U.S. House of Representatives and as governor of Ohio. A lawyer and staunch abolitionist, he had defended refugee slaves in court proceedings during the antebellum years.

Otto von Bismarck
# 30
Otto von Bismarck

1815 - 1898 (83 years)

#411 person's overall influence

Otto Eduard Leopold, Prince of Bismarck, Duke of Lauenburg , known as Otto von Bismarck , was a conservative German statesman who masterminded the unification of Germany in 1871 and served as its first chancellor until 1890, in which capacity he dominated European affairs for two decades. He had previously been Minister President of Prussia and Chancellor of the North German Confederation . He provoked three short, decisive wars against Denmark, Austria, and France. Following the victory against Austria, he abolished the supranational German Confederation and instead formed the North German C

James Buchanan
# 31
James Buchanan

1791 - 1868 (77 years)

#810 person's overall influence

James Buchanan Jr. was an American lawyer and politician who served as the 15th president of the United States . He previously served as Secretary of State and represented Pennsylvania in both houses of the U.S. Congress. He was a states' rights advocate, and minimized the role of the federal government in the nation's closing era of slavery. He is therefore consistently ranked by historians as one of the least effective presidents in history, for his failure to mitigate the national disunity that led to the American Civil War.

# 32
Eugen Ehrlich

1862 - 1922 (60 years)

#1292 person's overall influence

Eugen Ehrlich was an Austrian legal scholar and sociologist of law. He is widely regarded as one of the primary founders of the modern field of sociology of law.

Benjamin Harrison
# 33
Benjamin Harrison

1833 - 1901 (68 years)

#909 person's overall influence

Benjamin Harrison was an American politician and lawyer who served as the 23rd president of the United States from 1889 to 1893. He was a grandson of the ninth president, William Henry Harrison, creating the only grandfathergrandson duo to have held the office. He was also a great-grandson of Benjamin Harrison V, a founding father who signed the United States Declaration of Independence.

James Monroe
# 34
James Monroe

1758 - 1831 (73 years)

#784 person's overall influence

James Monroe was an American statesman, lawyer, diplomat and Founding Father who served as the fifth president of the United States from 1817 to 1825. A member of the Democratic-Republican Party, Monroe was the last president of the Virginia dynasty; his presidency coincided with the Era of Good Feelings. He is perhaps best known for issuing the Monroe Doctrine, a policy of opposing European colonialism in the Americas. He also served as the governor of Virginia, a member of the United States Senate, the U.S. ambassador to France and Britain, the seventh Secretary of State, and the eighth Sec...

Francisco Suárez
# 35
Francisco Suárez

1548 - 1617 (69 years)

#1980 person's overall influence

Francisco Suárez was a Spanish Jesuit priest, philosopher and theologian, one of the leading figures of the School of Salamanca movement, and generally regarded among the greatest scholastics after Thomas Aquinas. His work is considered a turning point in the history of second scholasticism, marking the transition from its Renaissance to its Baroque phases. According to Christopher Shields and Daniel Schwartz, "figures as distinct from one another in place, time, and philosophical orientation as Leibniz, Grotius, Pufendorf, Schopenhauer, and Heidegger, all found reason to cite him as a sourc...

Francisco de Vitoria
# 36
Francisco de Vitoria

1480 - 1546 (66 years)

#1820 person's overall influence

Francisco de Vitoria was a Spanish Roman Catholic philosopher, theologian, and jurist of Renaissance Spain. He is the founder of the tradition in philosophy known as the School of Salamanca, noted especially for his contributions to the theory of just war and international law. He has in the past been described by some scholars as one of the "fathers of international law", along with Alberico Gentili and Hugo Grotius, though contemporary academics have suggested that such a description is anachronistic, since the concept of international law did not truly develop until much later. American j...

A. V. Dicey
# 37
A. V. Dicey

1835 - 1922 (87 years)

#2826 person's overall influence

Albert Venn Dicey , usually cited as A. V. Dicey, was a British Whig jurist and constitutional theorist. He is most widely known as the author of Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution . The principles it expounds are considered part of the uncodified British constitution. He became Vinerian Professor of English Law at Oxford, one of the first Professors of Law at the London School of Economics, and a leading constitutional scholar of his day. Dicey popularised the phrase "rule of law", although its use goes back to the 17th century.

Daniel Webster
# 38
Daniel Webster

1782 - 1852 (70 years)

#1161 person's overall influence

Daniel Webster was an American lawyer and statesman who represented New Hampshire and Massachusetts in the U.S. Congress and served as the U.S. Secretary of State under Presidents William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, and Millard Fillmore. As one of the most prominent American lawyers of the 19th century, he argued over 200 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court between 1814 and his death in 1852. During his life, he was a member of the Federalist Party, the National Republican Party, and the Whig Party.

Brian Leiter
# 39
Brian Leiter

1963 - Present (58 years)

#2142 person's overall influence

Brian Leiter is the Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence for The University of Chicago Law School and Founder and Director of the Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values at the University of Chicago. He earned an AB in philosophy from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Michigan.

Alan Dershowitz
# 40
Alan Dershowitz

1938 - Present (83 years)

#1015 person's overall influence

Alan Dershowitz is a former Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. He earned his A.B. in political science from Brooklyn College and his LL.B from Yale Law School.

John Finnis
# 41
John Finnis

1940 - Present (81 years)

#2000 person's overall influence

John Finnis is the Biolchini Family Professor of Law and a Permanent Senior Distinguished Research Fellow for Notre Dame. He is also a Professor Emeritus of Law & Legal Philosophy at the University of Oxford. he earned his LL.B from the University of Adelaide’s St. Mark’s College. He then attended University College in Oxford on a Rhodes scholarship, earning a PhD.

Christopher Columbus Langdell
# 42
Christopher Columbus Langdell

1826 - 1906 (80 years)

#2465 person's overall influence

Christopher Columbus Langdell was an American jurist and legal academic who was Dean of Harvard Law School from 1870 to 1895.

Thomas More
# 43
Thomas More

1478 - 1535 (57 years)

#360 person's overall influence

Sir Thomas More , venerated in the Catholic Church as Saint Thomas More, was an English lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, and noted Renaissance humanist. He also served Henry VIII as Lord High Chancellor of England from October 1529 to May 1532. He wrote Utopia, published in 1516, about the political system of an imaginary island state.

Georges Gurvitch
# 44
Georges Gurvitch

1894 - 1965 (71 years)

#1487 person's overall influence

Georges Gurvitch was a Russian-born French sociologist and jurist. One of the leading sociologists of his times, he was a specialist of the sociology of knowledge. In 1944 he founded the journal Cahiers internationaux de Sociologie. He held a chair in sociology at the Sorbonne in Paris. An outspoken advocate of Algerian decolonization, Gurvitch and his wife were the victim of terrorist attack by the far-right nationalist group, L'O.A.S on June 22, 1962. Their apartment was destroyed by a bomb, and they took refuge for a time at the house of painter Marc Chagall.

John Marshall Harlan
# 45
John Marshall Harlan

1833 - 1911 (78 years)

#2679 person's overall influence

John Marshall Harlan was an American lawyer and politician who served as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. He is often called "The Great Dissenter" due to his many dissents in cases that restricted civil liberties, including the Civil Rights Cases and Plessy v. Ferguson. His grandson John Marshall Harlan II was also a Supreme Court justice.

Martin Van Buren
# 46
Martin Van Buren

1782 - 1862 (80 years)

#1369 person's overall influence

Martin Van Buren was an American statesman who served as the eighth president of the United States from 1837 to 1841. A founder of the Democratic Party, he had previously served as the ninth governor of New York, the tenth United States secretary of state, and the eighth vice president of the United States. He won the 1836 presidential election with the endorsement of popular outgoing President Andrew Jackson and the organizational strength of the Democratic Party. He lost his 1840 reelection bid to Whig Party nominee William Henry Harrison, thanks in part to the poor economic conditions surr

John Selden
# 47
John Selden

1584 - 1654 (70 years)

#2616 person's overall influence

John Selden was an English jurist, a scholar of England's ancient laws and constitution and scholar of Jewish law. He was known as a polymath; John Milton hailed Selden in 1644 as "the chief of learned men reputed in this land."

John C. Calhoun
# 48
John C. Calhoun

1782 - 1850 (68 years)

#1173 person's overall influence

John Caldwell Calhoun was an American statesman and political theorist from South Carolina who served in many important positions including as the seventh vice president of the United States from 1825 to 1832. He is remembered for strongly defending slavery and for advancing the concept of minority states' rights in politics. He did this in the context of protecting the interests of the white South when its residents were outnumbered by Northerners. He began his political career as a nationalist, modernizer, and proponent of a strong national government and protective tariffs. In the late 182

Franklin Pierce
# 49
Franklin Pierce

1804 - 1869 (65 years)

#1314 person's overall influence

Franklin Pierce was the 14th president of the United States , a northern Democrat who saw the abolitionist movement as a fundamental threat to the unity of the nation. He alienated anti-slavery groups by supporting and signing the Kansas–Nebraska Act and enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act, yet he failed to stem conflict between North and South, setting the stage for Southern secession and the American Civil War.

Erwin Chemerinsky
# 50
Erwin Chemerinsky

1953 - Present (68 years)

#2006 person's overall influence

Erwin Chemerinsky is the dean of the University of California at Berkeley’s School of Law, as well as their Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law. He earned a B.S. in communications from Northwestern University, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.