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 …
1757 - 1804 (47 years)
Alexander Hamilton was a Caribbean-born 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 President George Washington's administration. He took the lead in the federal government's
1749 - 1832 (83 years)
Jeremy Bentham was an English philosopher, jurist, and social reformer regarded as the founder of modern utilitarianism.Bentham defined as the "fundamental axiom" of his philosophy the principle that "it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong." He became a leading theorist in Anglo-American philosophy of law, and a political radical whose ideas influenced the development of welfarism. He advocated individual and economic freedoms, the separation of church and state, freedom of expression, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and the d
1931 - 2013 (82 years)
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
1907 - 1992 (85 years)
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.
1583 - 1645 (62 years)
Hugo Grotius , also known as Huig de Groot and in Dutch as Hugo de Groot , was a Dutch humanist, diplomat, lawyer, theologian, jurist, poet and playwright.A teenage intellectual prodigy, he was born in Delft and studied at Leiden University. He was imprisoned in Loevestein Castle for his involvement in the intra-Calvinist disputes of the Dutch Republic, but escaped hidden in a chest of books that was transported to Gorinchem. Grotius wrote most of his major works in exile in France.
1936 - 2016 (80 years)
Antonin Gregory Scalia was an American jurist who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1986 until his death in 2016. He was described as the intellectual anchor for the originalist and textualist position in the Court's conservative wing. For catalyzing an originalist and textualist movement in American law, he has been described as one of the most influential jurists of the twentieth century, and one of the most important justices in the Supreme Court's history. Scalia was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2018 by President Do...
1483 - 1546 (63 years)
Martin Luther, was a German professor of theology, priest, author, composer, 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 exc...
1864 - 1920 (56 years)
Maximilian Karl Emil Weber was a German sociologist, historian, jurist, and political economist, who is regarded as among the most important theorists of the development of modern Western society. His ideas profoundly influence social theory and research. Despite being recognized as one of the fathers of sociology along with Auguste Comte, Karl Marx, and Émile Durkheim, Weber saw himself not as a sociologist but as a historian.
1881 - 1973 (92 years)
Hans Kelsen was an Austrian jurist, legal philosopher and political philosopher. He was the author of the 1920 Austrian Constitution, which to a very large degree is still valid today. Due to the rise of totalitarianism in Austria , Kelsen left for Germany in 1930 but was forced to leave this university post after Hitler's seizure of power in 1933 because of his Jewish ancestry. That year he left for Geneva and later moved to the United States in 1940. In 1934, Roscoe Pound lauded Kelsen as "undoubtedly the leading jurist of the time". While in Vienna, Kelsen met Sigmund Freud and his circle,...
1948 - Present (73 years)
Clarence Thomas is an American lawyer who serves as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He was nominated by President George H. W. Bush to succeed Thurgood Marshall, and has served since 1991. Thomas is the second African-American to serve on the Court, after Marshall. Since 2018, Thomas has been the senior associate justice, the longest-serving member of the Court, with a tenure of as of .
1689 - 1755 (66 years)
Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu , generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French judge, man of letters, historian, and political philosopher.He is the principal source of the theory of separation of powers, which is implemented in many constitutions throughout the world. He is also known for doing more than any other author to secure the place of the word "despotism" in the political lexicon. His anonymously published The Spirit of the Laws , which was received well in both Great Britain and the American colonies, influenced the Founding Fathers of the
1509 - 1564 (55 years)
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, including its doctrines of predestination and of God's absolute sovereignty in the salvation of the human soul from death and eternal damnation. Calvinist doctrines were 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 beliefs, have spread thro...
1920 - 2019 (99 years)
John Paul Stevens was an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, serving from 1975 to 2010. At the time of his retirement, he was the second-oldest justice in the history of the court and the third-longest-serving justice. At the time of his death, he was the longest lived Supreme Court justice ever. His long tenure saw him write for the court on most issues of American law, including civil liberties, death penalty, government action and intellectual property. In cases involving presidents of the United States, he wrote for the court that they were to be held accountable under A
1933 - 2020 (87 years)
Joan Ruth Bader Ginsburg was an American lawyer and jurist who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1993 until her death in September 2020. She was nominated by President Bill Clinton, replacing retiring Justice Byron White, and at the time was generally viewed as a moderate consensus-builder. She eventually became part of the liberal wing of the Court as the Court shifted to the right over time. Ginsburg was the first Jewish woman and the second woman to serve on the Court, after Sandra Day O'Connor. During her tenure, Ginsburg wrote notable majority
1895 - 1972 (77 years)
John Edgar Hoover was an American law enforcement administrator who served as the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States. He was appointed director of the Bureau of Investigation – the FBI's predecessor – in 1924 and was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director for another 37 years until his death in 1972 at the age of 77. Hoover has been credited with building the FBI into a larger crime-fighting agency than it was at its inception and with instituting a number of modernizations to police technology, such as a centralized finge
1930 - Present (91 years)
Sandra Day O'Connor is an American retired attorney and politician who served as the first female associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1981 to 2006. She was the first woman nominated and confirmed. Nominated by President Ronald Reagan, she was considered the swing vote for the Rehnquist Court and the first few months of the Roberts Court.
1561 - 1626 (65 years)
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 seen as developing the scientific method and remained influential through the scientific revolution.
1924 - 2005 (81 years)
William Hubbs Rehnquist was an American lawyer and jurist who served on the Supreme Court of the United States for 33 years, as an associate justice from 1972 to 1986 and as the 16th Chief Justice from 1986 until his death in 2005. Considered a conservative, Rehnquist favored a conception of federalism that emphasized the Tenth Amendment's reservation of powers to the states. Under this view of federalism, the court, for the first time since the 1930s, struck down an act of Congress as exceeding its power under the Commerce Clause.
1936 - Present (85 years)
Anthony McLeod Kennedy is a retired American lawyer and jurist who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1988 until his retirement in 2018. He was nominated to the court in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan, and sworn in on February 18, 1988. After the retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor in 2006, he was the swing vote on many of the Roberts Court's 5–4 decisions.
1882 - 1965 (83 years)
Felix Frankfurter was an American lawyer, professor, and jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Frankfurter served on the Supreme Court from 1939 to 1962 and was a noted advocate of judicial restraint in the judgments of the Court.
1898 - 1980 (82 years)
William Orville Douglas was an American jurist and politician who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Douglas was confirmed at the age of 40, one of the youngest justices appointed to the court. His term, lasting 36 years and 211 days , is the longest in the history of the Supreme Court. In 1975, Time magazine called Douglas "the most doctrinaire and committed civil libertarian ever to sit on the court."
1950 - Present (71 years)
Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. is an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He was nominated by President George W. Bush on October 31, 2005, and has served since January 31, 2006. He is the second Italian-American justice to serve on the Supreme Court, after Antonin Scalia, and the eleventh Roman Catholic.
1961 - Present (60 years)
Lester Lawrence Lessig III is an American academic, attorney, and political activist. He is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the former director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. Lessig was a candidate for the Democratic Party's nomination for president of the United States in the 2016 U.S. presidential election but withdrew before the primaries.
1938 - Present (83 years)
Stephen Gerald Breyer is an American lawyer and jurist who has served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States since 1994. He was nominated by President Bill Clinton, and replaced retiring justice Harry Blackmun. Breyer is generally associated with the liberal wing of the Court.
1940 - Present (81 years)
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.
1646 - 1716 (70 years)
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a German polymath active as a mathematician, philosopher, scientist, and diplomat. He is a prominent figure in both the history of philosophy and the history of mathematics. He wrote works on philosophy, theology, ethics, politics, law, history, and philology. Leibniz also made major contributions to physics and technology, and anticipated notions that surfaced much later in probability theory, biology, medicine, geology, psychology, linguistics, and computer science. He also contributed to the field of library science: while serving as overseer of the Wolfenbü
1779 - 1861 (82 years)
Friedrich Carl von Savigny was a German jurist and historian.Early life and education Savigny was born at Frankfurt, of a family recorded in the history of Lorraine, deriving its name from the castle of Savigny near Charmes in the valley of the Moselle. Left an orphan at the age of 13, Savigny was brought up by a guardian until, in 1795, he entered the University of Marburg, where, though in poor health, he studied under Professors Anton Bauer and Philipp Friedrich Weiss, the former a pioneer in the reform of the German criminal law, the latter distinguished for his knowledge of medieval juri
1888 - 1985 (97 years)
Carl Schmitt was a German jurist, political theorist, and prominent member of the Nazi Party. Schmitt wrote extensively about the effective wielding of political power. A conservative theorist, he is noted as a critic of parliamentary democracy, liberalism, and cosmopolitanism, and his work has been a major influence on subsequent political theory, legal theory, continental philosophy, and political theology, but its value and significance are controversial, mainly due to his intellectual support for and active involvement with Nazism. Schmitt's work has attracted the attention of numerous ...
1480 - 1546 (66 years)
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...
1790 - 1859 (69 years)
John Austin was an English legal theorist, who posthumously influenced British and American law with an analytical approach to jurisprudence and a theory of legal positivism. Austin opposed traditional approaches of "natural law", arguing against any need for connections between law and morality. Human legal systems, he claimed, can and should be studied in an empirical, value-free way.
1908 - 1999 (91 years)
Harry Andrew Blackmun was an American lawyer and jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from 1970 until 1994. Appointed by Republican President Richard Nixon, Blackmun ultimately became one of the most liberal justices on the Court. He is best known as the author of the Court's opinion in Roe v. Wade, which prohibits many state and federal restrictions on abortion.
1779 - 1845 (66 years)
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...
1872 - 1961 (89 years)
Billings Learned Hand was an American judge and judicial philosopher. He served on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and later the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Hand had been quoted more often by legal scholars and by the Supreme Court of the United States than any other lower-court judge.
1955 - Present (66 years)
John Glover Roberts Jr. is an American lawyer and jurist who has served as the 17th chief justice of the United States since 2005. Roberts has authored the majority opinion in several landmark cases, including Shelby County v. Holder, National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, King v. Burwell, Department of Commerce v. New York, and Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California. He has been described as having a conservative judicial philosophy but has shown a willingness to work with the Supreme Court's liberal bloc, and since the retirement of Anth
1870 - 1938 (68 years)
Benjamin Nathan Cardozo was an American lawyer and jurist who served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Previously, he had served as the Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals. Cardozo is remembered for his significant influence on the development of American common law in the 20th century, in addition to his philosophy and vivid prose style.
1944 - Present (77 years)
Robert Swan Mueller III is an American lawyer and government official who served as the sixth director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation from 2001 to 2013.A graduate of Princeton University and New York University, Mueller served as a Marine Corps officer during the Vietnam War, receiving a Bronze Star for heroism and a Purple Heart. He subsequently attended the University of Virginia School of Law. Mueller is a registered Republican in Washington, D.C., and was appointed and reappointed to Senate-confirmed positions by presidents George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Bar...
1954 - Present (67 years)
Cass Sunstein is Harvard Law School’s Robert Walmsley University Professor. He earned his B.A. and J.D. from Harvard University and is a scholar of constitutional law and behavioral economics.
1857 - 1938 (81 years)
Clarence Seward Darrow was an American lawyer who became famous in the early 20th century for his involvement in the Leopold and Loeb murder trial and the Scopes "Monkey" Trial. He was a leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union, and a prominent advocate for Georgist economic reform.
1856 - 1941 (85 years)
Louis Dembitz Brandeis was an American lawyer and associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Jewish immigrant parents from Bohemia , who raised him in a secular home. He attended Harvard Law School, graduating at the age of 20 with the highest grade point average in the law school's history. Brandeis settled in Boston, where he founded a law firm and became a recognized lawyer through his work on progressive social causes.
1891 - 1956 (65 years)
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar , venerated as Babasaheb , was an Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer, who inspired the Dalit Buddhist movement and campaigned against social discrimination towards the untouchables . He was British India's Minister of Labour in Viceroy's Executive Council, Chairman of the Constituent Drafting committee, independent India's first Minister of Law and Justice, and considered the chief architect of the Constitution of India.
1763 - 1847 (84 years)
James Kent was an American jurist and legal scholar. He was the author of Commentaries on American Law.Life and career Kent was the son of Moss Kent, a lawyer from Dutchess County, New York and the first Surrogate of Rensselaer County, New York. He graduated from Yale College in 1781, having helped establish the Phi Beta Kappa Society there in 1780, and began to practice law at Poughkeepsie, New York in 1785 as an attorney, and in 1787 at the bar. In 1791 and 1792-93 Kent was a member from Dutchess County of the New York State Assembly. In 1793, he removed to New York City, where he was appoi...
1860 - 1925 (65 years)
William Jennings Bryan was an American orator and politician. Beginning in 1896, he emerged as a dominant force in the Democratic Party, running three times as the party's nominee for President of the United States in the 1896, 1900, and 1908 elections. He also served in the House of Representatives and as the Secretary of State under Woodrow Wilson. Because of his faith in the wisdom of the common people, he was often called "The Great Commoner".
1955 - Present (66 years)
Michael William McConnell is a constitutional law scholar who served as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit from 2002 to 2009. Since 2009, McConnell has been a professor and Director of the Stanford Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School. He is also a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, and Senior Of Counsel to the Litigation Practice Group at . In May 2020, Facebook appointed him to its content oversight board. In 2020, McConnell published "The President Who Would Not Be King: Executive Power under the Con...
1954 - Present (67 years)
Sonia Maria Sotomayor is an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. She was nominated by President Barack Obama on May 26, 2009 and has served since August 8, 2009. She is the third woman to hold the position. Sotomayor is the first woman of color, first Hispanic, and first Latina member of the Court.
1932 - Present (89 years)
Guido Calabresi is a Senior United States Circuit Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Sterling Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale University. He is known, along with his colleagues Ronald Coase and Richard Posner, as a founder of the interdisciplinary study of law and economics. He earned a B.S. from Yale University, a B.A. from Magdalen College of Oxford University, an LL.B from Yale Law School and an M.A. from Oxford University.
1826 - 1906 (80 years)
Christopher Columbus Langdell was an American jurist and legal academic who was Dean of Harvard Law School from 1870 to 1895.Dean Langdell's legacy lies in the educational and administrative reforms he made to Harvard Law School, a task he was entrusted with by President Charles Eliot. Before Langdell's tenure the study of law was a rather technical pursuit in which students were simply told what the law is. Langdell applied the principles of pragmatism to the teaching of law as a result of which students were compelled to use their own reasoning powers to understand how the law might apply i
1938 - Present (83 years)
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.
1939 - Present (82 years)
David Hackett Souter is a retired associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He served from October 1990 to his retirement in June 2009. Appointed by US President George H. W. Bush to fill the seat that had been vacated by William J. Brennan Jr., Souter sat on both the Rehnquist and the Roberts Courts.
1820 - 1891 (71 years)
William Tecumseh Sherman was an American soldier, businessman, educator, and author. He served as a general in the Union Army during the American Civil War , receiving recognition for his command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the scorched earth policies that he used against the Confederate States. British military theorist and historian B. H. Liddell Hart declared that Sherman was "the first modern general".
1782 - 1850 (68 years)
John Caldwell Calhoun was an American statesman and political theorist from South Carolina who held many important positions including being the seventh vice president of the United States from 1825 to 1832, while adamantly defending slavery and protecting the interests of the white South. He began his political career as a nationalist, modernizer, and proponent of a strong national government and protective tariffs. In the late 1820s, his views changed radically, and he became a leading proponent of states' rights, limited government, nullification, and opposition to high tariffs. He saw Nor
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