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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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List of the most influential people in Mathematics, for the years 1970 – 2020

Paul Erdős
# 1
Paul Erdős

1913 - 1996 (83 years)

#628 person's overall influence

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

Edward Witten
# 2
Edward Witten

1951 - Present (70 years)

#923 person's overall influence

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

Grigori Perelman
# 3
Grigori Perelman

1966 - Present (55 years)

#3031 person's overall influence

Grigori Yakovlevich Perelman is a Russian mathematician who is known for his contributions to the fields of geometric analysis, Riemannian geometry, and geometric topology.

Shing-Tung Yau
# 4
Shing-Tung Yau

1949 - Present (72 years)

#2693 person's overall influence

Chinese-born Shing-Tung Yau currently holds the title of William Caspar Graustein Professor of Mathematics at Harvard University, where he has worked since 1987. He is also the director of three mathematical institutes in China, including the Yau Mathematical Sciences Center at Tsinghua University. Yau completed his undergraduate education in mathematics at Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1969, then his PhD at the University of California, Berkeley in 1971.

Stephen Hawking
# 5
Stephen Hawking

1942 - 2018 (76 years)

#134 person's overall influence

Stephen Hawking was born in Oxford, England in 1942 and died in March of 2018. He attended University College, Oxford where he received a BA in physics. Within his first year as a PhD student at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, Hawking’s speech became difficult to understand and he started to have difficulty walking. He was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and predicted to only live another two years. Luckily his disease progressed much more slowly than anticipated. It’s a good thing, because he is widely considered one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century. Hawking was Lucasian Professo...

Andrew Wiles
# 6
Andrew Wiles

1953 - Present (68 years)

#3386 person's overall influence

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

Jean-Pierre Serre
# 7
Jean-Pierre Serre

1926 - Present (95 years)

#5883 person's overall influence

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

Hilary Putnam
# 8
Hilary Putnam

1926 - 2016 (90 years)

#708 person's overall influence

Hilary Whitehall Putnam was an American philosopher, mathematician, and computer scientist, and a major figure in analytic philosophy in the second half of the 20th century. He made significant contributions to philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, philosophy of mathematics, and philosophy of science. Outside philosophy, Putnam contributed to mathematics and computer science. Together with Martin Davis he developed the Davis–Putnam algorithm for the Boolean satisfiability problem and he helped demonstrate the unsolvability of Hilbert's tenth problem.

Keith Devlin
# 9
Keith Devlin

1947 - Present (74 years)

#5525 person's overall influence

Devlin is formerly a Consulting Professor of Mathematics at Stanford University and now co-founder and Executive Director of Stanford’s Human-Sciences and Technologies Advanced Research Institute, founded in 2006. He is also a member of Stanford’s Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI), an important research center for work in computational linguistics, computer science, and mathematics. Devlin received his bachelor’s (special) in mathematics at Kings College, London and his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of Bristol in 1971.

John Horton Conway
# 10
John Horton Conway

1937 - 2020 (83 years)

#2426 person's overall influence

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

Reuben Hersh
# 11
Reuben Hersh

1927 - 2020 (93 years)

#4183 person's overall influence

Reuben Hersh was an American mathematician and academic, best known for his writings on the nature, practice, and social impact of mathematics. This work challenges and complements mainstream philosophy of mathematics.

Roger Penrose
# 12
Roger Penrose

1931 - Present (90 years)

#635 person's overall influence

Sir Roger Penrose was born in Colchester, England in 1931. He is best known for his significant contributions to the mathematical physics of general relativity and cosmology. Penrose attended University College London where he earned his bachelor’s in mathematics. He received a PhD studying algebraic geometry at St John’s College, Cambridge in 1958. In his free time at Cambridge, he attended a few lectures led by Hermann Bondi and Paul Dirac, which lent some of his curiosity in the direction of physics. Penrose went on to become an innovator in the field of mathematical physics, and is now wid

William Thurston
# 13
William Thurston

1946 - 2012 (66 years)

#5974 person's overall influence

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

# 14
Penelope Maddy

1950 - Present (71 years)

#5485 person's overall influence

Penelope Maddy is UCI Distinguished Professor of Logic and Philosophy of Science and of Mathematics at the University of California, Irvine. Maddy specializes and is known for her influential work in the philosophy of mathematics and mathematical realism. She received her Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1979.

Terence Tao
# 15
Terence Tao

1975 - Present (46 years)

#4092 person's overall influence

Tao is arguably the greatest living mathematician, and has been called the greatest mathematician of his generation. Born in South Australia, Tao was a child prodigy, the youngest person ever to win a medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad—he was ten. He has since won the Field Medal, the “Nobel Prize” for mathematicians. Terence Tao holds the James and Carol Collins Chair in Mathematics at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

Donald Knuth
# 16
Donald Knuth

1938 - Present (83 years)

#688 person's overall influence

Knuth is professor emeritus of computer science at Stanford University. He received his Ph.D. in Mathematics at the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech). As an undergraduate at the Case Institute of Technology (now Case Western Reserve University), Knuth received the extraordinary honor of receiving his bachelor of science degree together with a master of science in mathematics based on the strength of his work at Case. He also helped redesign an early IBM computer while at Case, and made fundamental contributions to programming—writing a program to help predict the scores of basketba...

Serge Lang
# 17
Serge Lang

1927 - 2005 (78 years)

#9624 person's overall influence

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

Saunders Mac Lane
# 18
Saunders Mac Lane

1909 - 2005 (96 years)

#4714 person's overall influence

Saunders Mac Lane was an American mathematician who co-founded category theory with Samuel Eilenberg.

Martin Gardner
# 19
Martin Gardner

1914 - 2010 (96 years)

#575 person's overall influence

Martin Gardner was an American popular mathematics and popular science writer, with interests also encompassing scientific skepticism, micromagic, philosophy, religion, and literature—especially the writings of Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum, and G. K. Chesterton. He was also a leading authority on Lewis Carroll. The Annotated Alice, which incorporated the text of Carroll's two Alice books, was his most successful work and sold over a million copies. He had a lifelong interest in magic and illusion and was regarded as one of the most important magicians of the twentieth century. He was consider

Michael Atiyah
# 20
Michael Atiyah

1929 - 2019 (90 years)

#4672 person's overall influence

Sir Michael Francis Atiyah was a British-Lebanese mathematician specialising in geometry.

# 21
Philip J. Davis

1923 - 2018 (95 years)

#4545 person's overall influence

Philip J. Davis was an American academic applied mathematician.

Ian Stewart
# 22
Ian Stewart

1945 - Present (76 years)

#3005 person's overall influence

Stewart is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at the University of Warwick, England. Stewart received his bachelor’s of arts degree (first class) in mathematics from the University of Cambridge in 1966 and his Ph.D. in Mathematics at the University of Warwick in 1969.

Simon Donaldson
# 23
Simon Donaldson

1957 - Present (64 years)

#7315 person's overall influence

Donaldson is a permanent member of the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics at Stony Brook University and Professor in Pure Mathematics at Imperial College, London. He is known for the eponymous Donaldson-Thomas theory of invariants in algebraic geometry (see also Andrei Akounkov above). Donaldson has a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics from Pembroke College in Cambridge University in 1979, and his Ph.D. from Oxford University in 1983.

Vladimir Arnold
# 24
Vladimir Arnold

1937 - 2010 (73 years)

#3273 person's overall influence

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

Alain Connes
# 25
Alain Connes

1947 - Present (74 years)

#6501 person's overall influence

Connes is currently Professor at the Collège de France, IHÉS, in France, as well as at Ohio State University and Vanderbilt University. Connes’ work focuses on algebra, or what is known as “operator algebra,” an important area in functional analysis. Born in France, Connes received his undergraduate degree in Mathematics from the prestigious École normale supérieure in Paris and his Ph.D. from the University Pierre et Marie Curie.

Maxim Kontsevich
# 26
Maxim Kontsevich

1964 - Present (57 years)

#9582 person's overall influence

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

# 27
Hartry Field

1946 - Present (75 years)

#8916 person's overall influence

Hartry H. Field is an American philosopher. He is Silver Professor of Philosophy at New York University; he is a notable contributor to philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, epistemology, and philosophy of mind.

Timothy Gowers
# 28
Timothy Gowers

1963 - Present (58 years)

#12105 person's overall influence

Gowers is Royal Society Research Professor at the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics at the University of Cambridge, UK. He also holds the Rouse Ball Chair in Mathematics at Cambridge (Roger Penrose holds this Chair at the other granting institution, Oxford), and is a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Gowers received his early training at King’s College and Eton, where he was a King’s Scholar. He received his Ph.D. from Trinity College, Cambridge University in 1990.

Alexander Grothendieck
# 29
Alexander Grothendieck

1928 - 2014 (86 years)

#15726 person's overall influence

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

Richard S. Hamilton
# 30
Richard S. Hamilton

1943 - Present (78 years)

#15336 person's overall influence

Richard Streit Hamilton is Davies Professor of Mathematics at Columbia University.

Marcus du Sautoy
# 31
Marcus du Sautoy

1965 - Present (56 years)

#13616 person's overall influence

Du Sautoy holds a Title of Distinction Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford. (A “Title of Distinction” is an honor for faculty who have served with distinction. A “Chair” is an honor which is funded by an endowment. Oxford grants the “Title of Distinction” for full professors with distinguished records. It also grants Chairs.) Du Sautoy received a first class honors degree in Mathematics from Wadham College, Oxford as well as his Ph.D. in Mathematics, the latter awarded by Wadham in 1991.

David Mumford
# 32
David Mumford

1937 - Present (84 years)

#6643 person's overall influence

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

Benoit Mandelbrot
# 33
Benoit Mandelbrot

1924 - 2010 (86 years)

#2030 person's overall influence

Benoit B. Mandelbrot was a Polish-born French and American mathematician and polymath with broad interests in the practical sciences, especially regarding what he labeled as "the art of roughness" of physical phenomena and "the uncontrolled element in life". He referred to himself as a "fractalist" and is recognized for his contribution to the field of fractal geometry, which included coining the word "fractal", as well as developing a theory of "roughness and self-similarity" in nature.

Stephen Smale
# 34
Stephen Smale

1930 - Present (91 years)

#5124 person's overall influence

Stephen Smale is an American mathematician, known for his research in topology, dynamical systems and mathematical economics. He was awarded the Fields Medal in 1966 and spent more than three decades on the mathematics faculty of the University of California, Berkeley .

Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck
# 35
Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck

1942 - Present (79 years)

#14695 person's overall influence

Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck is an American mathematician and a founder of modern geometric analysis. She is a professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of Texas at Austin, where she held the Sid W. Richardson Foundation Regents Chair. She is currently a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study and a visiting senior research scholar at Princeton University.

Eugene Wigner
# 36
Eugene Wigner

1902 - 1995 (93 years)

#320 person's overall influence

Eugene Paul "E. P." Wigner was a Hungarian-American theoretical physicist and also contributed to mathematical physics. He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963 "for his contributions to the theory of the atomic nucleus and the elementary particles, particularly through the discovery and application of fundamental symmetry principles".

Ronald Graham
# 37
Ronald Graham

1935 - 2020 (85 years)

#7082 person's overall influence

Graham is Irwin and Joan Jacobs Professor in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). He also holds the title of Chief Scientist at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology. He received his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1962, and went into research in industry, working at Bell Labs and then AT&T Labs.

André Weil
# 38
André Weil

1906 - 1998 (92 years)

#3429 person's overall influence

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

Béla Bollobás
# 39
Béla Bollobás

1943 - Present (78 years)

#18885 person's overall influence

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

# 40
Helaman Ferguson

1940 - Present (81 years)

#26600 person's overall influence

Helaman Rolfe Pratt Ferguson is an American sculptor and a digital artist, specifically an algorist. He is also well known for his development of the PSLQ algorithm, an integer relation detection algorithm.

René Thom
# 41
René Thom

1923 - 2002 (79 years)

#2014 person's overall influence

René Frédéric Thom was a French mathematician. He made his reputation as a topologist, moving on to aspects of what would be called singularity theory; he became world-famous among the wider academic community and the educated general public for one aspect of this latter interest, his work as founder of catastrophe theory . He received the Fields Medal in 1958.

Stephen Wolfram
# 42
Stephen Wolfram

1959 - Present (62 years)

#2529 person's overall influence

Stephen Wolfram is a British-American computer scientist, physicist, and businessman. He is known for his work in computer science, mathematics, and in theoretical physics. In 2012, he was named an inaugural fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

Clifford Taubes
# 43
Clifford Taubes

1954 - Present (67 years)

#20100 person's overall influence

Clifford Henry Taubes is the William Petschek Professor of Mathematics at Harvard University and works in gauge field theory, differential geometry, and low-dimensional topology. His brother, Gary Taubes, is a science writer.

Andrei Okounkov
# 44
Andrei Okounkov

1969 - Present (52 years)

#14407 person's overall influence

Okounkov is Professor of Mathematics at Columbia University, where he works on representation theory and its applications. Representation theory is a branch of mathematics concerned with abstract algebraic structures and their representation. It has applications to a number of disciplines, including geometry, physics, and probability theory.

Ivor Grattan-Guinness
# 45
Ivor Grattan-Guinness

1941 - 2014 (73 years)

#8723 person's overall influence

Ivor Owen Grattan-Guinness was a historian of mathematics and logic.

# 46
Gregory Chaitin

1947 - Present (74 years)

#6403 person's overall influence

Gregory John Chaitin is an Argentine-American mathematician and computer scientist. Beginning in the late 1960s, Chaitin made contributions to algorithmic information theory and metamathematics, in particular a computer-theoretic result equivalent to Gödel's incompleteness theorem. He is considered to be one of the founders of what is today known as algorithmic complexity together with Andrei Kolmogorov and Ray Solomonoff. Along with the works of e.g. Solomonoff, Kolmogorov, Martin-Löf, and Leonid Levin, algorithmic information theory became a foundational part of theoretical computer scien

Nigel Hitchin
# 47
Nigel Hitchin

1946 - Present (75 years)

#16675 person's overall influence

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

Raoul Bott
# 48
Raoul Bott

1923 - 2005 (82 years)

#16607 person's overall influence

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

Willard Van Orman Quine
# 49
Willard Van Orman Quine

1908 - 2000 (92 years)

#474 person's overall influence

Willard Van Orman Quine was an American philosopher and logician in the analytic tradition, recognized as "one of the most influential philosophers of the twentieth century." From 1930 until his death 70 years later, Quine was continually affiliated with Harvard University in one way or another, first as a student, then as a professor. He filled the Edgar Pierce Chair of Philosophy at Harvard from 1956 to 1978.

Thomas Callister Hales
# 50
Thomas Callister Hales

1958 - Present (63 years)

#16721 person's overall influence

Thomas Callister Hales is an American mathematician working in the areas of representation theory, discrete geometry, and formal verification. In representation theory he is known for his work on the Langlands program and the proof of the fundamental lemma over the group Sp . In discrete geometry, he settled the Kepler conjecture on the density of sphere packings and the honeycomb conjecture. In 2014, he announced the completion of the Flyspeck Project, which formally verified the correctness of his proof of the Kepler conjecture.