The Most Influential People

The Most Influential People

Key Takeaways

  • Today and throughout history, great minds spur both welcomed innovation and challenging paradigm shifts in their respective fields.

  • Given the difficulty of charting lesser known but highly influential academic achievement, we developed a comprehensive influence ranker to give credit to academics where credit is due.

  • Academic Influence’s ranking technology employs innovative machine learning to evaluate billions of constantly updated data points in order to discover which academics exert the most influence.

Searching for the Most Influential Academics

While we provide dozens of rankings of influential people organized into categories, we also provide you with the tools to search using your own criteria.

To use the influential people search function, you’ll need to first choose your desired search criteria.

Specifically, you’ll be able to input the following factors:

  • Name
  • Gender
  • School
  • Discipline & Sub-Discipline
  • School
  • Country
  • Time frame: Start date and end date

With this search tool you can explore fascinating rankings like the most influential female literary figures during the Middle Ages, find the most prodigious physicists in Canada today, or explore which academics have had the biggest impact through history (going back as far as 4,000 BC.)

You can also use this tool to explore the most influential alumni of a particular college or university! This is a great option for students who want to explore the success stories of their school.

The Bottom Line: This innovative search tool allows you to explore the most influential scholars and academic figures throughout time and place.

Our Rankings of the Most Influential People by Discipline

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If you’re not sure what to search, we offer many pre-made rankings of the most influential people by field of study.

Whether you’re a prospective student or an established academic, these rankings can help you determine the ‘who’s who’ of your field. Whether you agree with their perspectives however, will be another issue entirely.

The truth is this: real influence isn’t always popular or well-received!

Most Influential Academics in the Humanities and Social Sciences

The humanities field requires study of the societal and humanistic realities of our world. Specifically, those in the humanities will study language, history, art, and philosophy. Online and on-campus humanities programs typically build on a strong foundation in the liberal arts.

The social sciences represent a more specialized focus of study in fields such anthropology, sociology, and political science.

Because of the distinctly human element of these fields, academics who work within them often impart influential wisdom in their works. As such, the most influential academics in the humanities and social sciences are often remembered most keenly for their contributions to society and the way we think.

As an example, the minds behind critical race theory have had tremendous impact on changes in thought and behavior in recent years.


The most influential anthropologists have traveled far and wide to explore the fundamental questions of why humans behave the way that they do.

Specifically, anthropologists explore the variables of culture and belief so that we might better understand who we are, where we come from, and where we are going.


The most influential philosophers throughout history have shaped the way we think about–and interact with–our world.

Given the tremendous challenge of philosophical pursuits, the most influential philosophers often demonstrate a towering intellect that inspires reverence and admiration.

Political Scientists

The most influential political scientists work as arbiters of change at the highest levels of governance–from the local to the federal.

As such, those who wield the most influence often have the greatest impact on history.

Influential individuals in legal scholarship also tend to make an impact on politics and societal governance.


The most influential sociologists work to elucidate the inner-workings of social interactions and societal structure.

Sociologists work to leverage their findings to better inform our decisions regarding policy, health, and societal improvement. As such, the work of influential sociologists lies at the foundation of many of mankind’s most impactful paradigms.

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Most Influential Women in the Humanities and Social Sciences

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Unfortunately, the achievements of history’s most influential female scholars often go unnoticed. Academic Influence’s ranking methodology however, provides recognition without bias.

As such, we have organized several rankings to acknowledge the most influential women in the humanities and social sciences:

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Most Influential Black Scholars in the Humanities

Similarly, the achievements of black scholars often go without the recognition that they deserve. As such, we have compiled rankings of the most influential black scholars to provide credit where credit is due:

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Most Influential Academics in STEM Fields

Man in front of a math equations

STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Each of these fields of study is considered to be part of the STEM Field.

The most influential scholars in the STEM fields work at the cutting edge of innovation. Scholars in the STEM fields are responsible for some of the greatest accomplishments of our species.


The Most Influential Biologists work to understand the constituent parts of the human body and other lifeforms. The most well-known biologists have developed life changing procedures, medicines, and research methods.


The Most Influential Chemists work to better understand the natural world. Specifically, the most accomplished chemists explore the world’s natural resources at the molecular level to develop new substances and approaches to research methods.

Computer Scientists

The Most Influential Computer Scientists develop innovative techniques for leveraging computer technology in the modern day. The most accomplished computer scientists have contributed landmark achievements in the design and implementation of new software and technology.


The Most Influential Criminologists have contributed their work to the fields of criminal justice and law enforcement. Their work allows professionals in these fields to better understand the minds and motivations of criminals, so as to follow more effective protocols and strategies in the field.

Earth Scientists

The Most Influential Earth Scientists urge both the public and policy makers to consider the Earth as a living organism with urgent needs and fragile ecosystems. Their work informs the actions of countless industries and academics in other disciplines.


The Most Influential Economists develop comprehensive theories to inform our understanding of the world’s financial systems and how they interact with one another.

The work of Dr. Krugman for example, informs our understanding of America’s financial markets today, specifically for his contributions to New Trade Theory and New Economic Geography.


The Most Influential Engineers contribute innovations in design and procedures in construction that have enabled some of the world’s greatest structural and architectural achievements.


The Most Influential Mathematicians use their mastery of numbers and calculation to create theories with vast implications. The work of mathematicians informs the practices of virtually any field with quantitative interests.

For example, Terrence Tao is often referred to as the Mozart of Mathematics and is known for his prodigious contributions to harmonic analysis, partial differential equations, and analytic number theory.


The Most Influential Physicists are responsible for developing the theories that serve as foundation for our understanding of the physical world around us. Physicists have made vital contributions to the invention of automobiles, planes, and space travel.

For example, Steven Weinberg’s work in theoretical physics broadened our understanding of electromagnetic energy and the behavior of elementary particles.


The Most Influential Psychologists provide insights into the deepest nature of humans, our actions, and the motivations behind them.

For example, Jordan Peterson’s work provides a comprehensive vision for a traditional approach to live that honors the simple truths of family, honor, and achievement.

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Most Influential Women in STEM Fields

Woman in a lab

Much like with the case of women scholars in the humanities and social sciences, women in STEM fields often receive less recognition than deserved.

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Most Influential Black Scholars in STEM Fields

Influential black scholars have contributed amazing achievements and innovations to the STEM fields both throughout history and in the modern day. In these rankings, you’ll find the most influential black scholars in each field:

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