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Top 20 World's Most Influential People of All Time

This is a list of the to 20 most influential people of all of human history. This means that the individuals on this list have had a significant effect on how regular people live their lives today and have had a large impact on how modern society works. The names on this list include religious figures, scientists and inventors, and some of the most important leaders in world history.

20- Martin Luther (1483-1546)

Top 20 World's Most Influential People of All Time

Martin Luther was a German friar, priest and professor of theology who was a seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation. Initially an Augustinian friar, Luther came to reject several teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church.

He strongly disputed the claim that freedom from God's punishment for sin could be purchased with money. He confronted indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel, a Dominican friar, with his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517. His refusal to retract 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 excommunication by the Pope and condemnation as an outlaw by the Emperor.

19- Nikola Tesla (1856-1943)

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla was a Serbian-American inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and futurist who is best known for his contributions to the design of the modern alternating current (AC) electricity supply system.

Born and raised in the Austrian Empire, Tesla studied engineering and physics in the 1870s without receiving a degree, and gained practical experience in the early 1880s working in telephony and at Continental Edison in the new electric power industry. He emigrated in 1884 to the United States, where he would become a naturalized citizen. He worked for a short time at the Edison Machine Works in New York City before he struck out on his own.

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With the help of partners to finance and market his ideas, Tesla set up laboratories and companies in New York to develop a range of electrical and mechanical devices. His alternating current (AC) induction motor and related polyphase AC patents, licensed by Westinghouse Electric in 1888, earned him a considerable amount of money and became the cornerstone of the polyphase system which that company would eventually market.

18- Julius Caesar (99 BC-43 BC)

Julius Caesar

Gaius Julius Caesar known by his nomen and cognomen Julius Caesar, was a populist Roman dictator, politician, military general, and historian who played a critical role in the events that led to the demise of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. He also wrote Latin prose.

In 60 BC, Caesar, Crassus and Pompey formed the First Triumvirate, a political alliance that dominated Roman politics for several years. Their attempts to amass power as Populares were opposed by the Optimates within the Roman Senate, among them Cato the Younger with the frequent support of Cicero. Caesar rose to become one of the most powerful politicians in the Roman Republic through a number of his accomplishments, notably his victories in the Gallic Wars, completed by 51 BC. During this time, Caesar became the first Roman general to cross both the English Channel and the Rhine River, when he built a bridge across the Rhine and crossed the Channel to invade Britain.

Caesar's wars extended Rome's territory to Britain and past Gaul. These achievements granted him unmatched military power and threatened to eclipse the standing of Pompey, who had realigned himself with the Senate after the death of Crassus in 53 BC. With the Gallic Wars concluded, the Senate ordered Caesar to step down from his military command and return to Rome. Leaving his command in Gaul meant losing his immunity from being charged as a criminal for waging unsanctioned wars. As a result, Caesar found himself with no other options but to cross the Rubicon with the 13th Legion in 49 BC, leaving his province and illegally entering Roman Italy under arms. This began Caesar's civil war, and his victory in the war put him in an unrivalled position of power and influence.

17- Moses 

Moses

Moses was a prophet according to the teachings of the Abrahamic religions. Scholarly consensus sees Moses as a legendary figure and not a historical person, while retaining the possibility that a Moses-like figure existed.

According to the Hebrew Bible, he was adopted by an Egyptian princess, and later in life became the leader of the Israelites and lawgiver, to whom the authorship of the Torah, or acquisition of the Torah from Heaven, is traditionally attributed. Also called Moshe Rabbenu in Hebrew (מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ, lit. "Moses our Teacher"), he is the most important prophet in Judaism. He is also an important prophet in Christianity, Islam, the Bahá'í Faith, and a number of other Abrahamic religions.

According to the Book of Exodus, Moses was born in a time when his people, the Israelites, an enslaved minority, were increasing in numbers and the Egyptian Pharaoh was worried that they might ally themselves with Egypt's enemies. Moses' Hebrew mother, Jochebed, secretly hid him when the Pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew boys to be killed in order to reduce the population of the Israelites. Through the Pharaoh's daughter (identified as Queen Bithia in the Midrash), the child was adopted as a foundling from the Nile river and grew up with the Egyptian royal family. After killing an Egyptian slavemaster (because the slavemaster was smiting a Hebrew), Moses fled across the Red Sea to Midian, where he encountered The Angel of the Lord, speaking to him from within a burning bush on Mount Horeb (which he regarded as the Mountain of God).

God sent Moses back to Egypt to demand the release of the Israelites from slavery. Moses said that he could not speak eloquently, so God allowed Aaron, his brother, to become his spokesperson. After the Ten Plagues, Moses led the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, after which they based themselves at Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. After 40 years of wandering in the desert, Moses died within sight of the Promised Land on Mount Nebo.

16- George Washington (1732-1799)

George Washington

George Washington was an American political leader, military general, statesman, and Founding Father who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Previously, he led Patriot forces to victory in the nation's War for Independence. He presided at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 which established the U.S. Constitution and a federal government. Washington has been called the "Father of His Country" for his manifold leadership in the formative days of the new nation.

Washington received his initial military training and command with the Virginia Regiment during the French and Indian War. He was later elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses and was named a delegate to the Continental Congress, where he was appointed Commanding General of the Continental Army. He commanded American forces, allied with France, in the defeat and surrender of the British during the Siege of Yorktown, and resigned his commission in 1783 after the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

15- Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

Mahatma Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, and political ethicist, who employed nonviolent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India's independence from British Rule, and in turn inspire movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. The honorific Mahātmā (Sanskrit: "high-souled", "venerable"), first applied to him in 1914 in South Africa, is now used throughout the world.

Born and raised in a Hindu family in coastal Gujarat, western India, and trained in law at the Inner Temple, London, Gandhi first employed nonviolent civil disobedience as an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, in the resident Indian community's struggle for civil rights. After his return to India in 1915, he set about organising peasants, farmers, and urban labourers to protest against excessive land-tax and discrimination. Assuming leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns for various social causes and for achieving Swaraj or self-rule.

Gandhi led Indians in challenging the British-imposed salt tax with the 400 km (250 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930, and later in calling for the British to Quit India in 1942. He was imprisoned for many years, upon many occasions, in both South Africa and India. He lived modestly in a self-sufficient residential community and wore the traditional Indian dhoti and shawl, woven with yarn hand-spun on a charkha. He ate simple vegetarian food, and also undertook long fasts as a means of both self-purification and political protest.

14- Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

Charles Darwin

Charles Robert Darwin, was an English naturalist, geologist and biologist, best known for his contributions to the science of evolution. His proposition that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors is now widely accepted, and considered a foundational concept in science. In a joint publication with Alfred Russel Wallace, he introduced his scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection, in which the struggle for existence has a similar effect to the artificial selection involved in selective breeding.

Darwin published his theory of evolution with compelling evidence in his 1859 book On the Origin of Species. By the 1870s, the scientific community and a majority of the educated public had accepted evolution as a fact. However, many favoured competing explanations which gave only a minor role to natural selection, and it was not until the emergence of the modern evolutionary synthesis from the 1930s to the 1950s that a broad consensus developed in which natural selection was the basic mechanism of evolution. Darwin's scientific discovery is the unifying theory of the life sciences, explaining the diversity of life.

13- Muhammad

Muhammad

Muhammad, full name Abū al-Qāsim Muḥammad ibn ʿAbd Allāh ibn ʿAbd al-Muṭṭalib ibn Hāshim, from Mecca, unified Arabia into a single religious polity under Islam. Believed by Muslims and Bahá'ís to be a prophet and messenger of God, Muhammad is almost universally considered by Muslims as the last prophet sent by God to mankind.

While non-Muslims generally regard Muhammad as the founder of Islam, Muslims consider him to have restored the unaltered original monotheistic faith of Adam, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets in Islam. Born approximately in 570 CE in the Arabian city of Mecca, Muhammad was orphaned at an early age; he was raised under the care of his paternal uncle Abu Talib.

12- Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was an American statesman and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the nation through the American Civil War, its bloodiest war and its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis. He preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the U.S. economy.

Born in Kentucky, Lincoln grew up on the frontier in a poor family. Self-educated, he became a lawyer, Whig Party leader, Illinois state legislator and Congressman. In 1849, he left government to resume his law practice, but angered by the success of Democrats in opening the prairie lands to slavery, reentered politics in 1854. He became a leader in the new Republican Party and gained national attention in 1858 for debating national Democratic leader Stephen A. Douglas in the 1858 Illinois Senate campaign. He then ran for President in 1860, sweeping the North and winning. Southern pro-slavery elements took his win as proof that the North was rejecting the constitutional rights of Southern states to practice slavery. They began the process of seceding from the union. To secure its independence, the new Confederate States of America fired on Fort Sumter, one of the few U.S. forts in the South. Lincoln called up volunteers and militia to suppress the rebellion and restore the Union.

Died: April 15, 1865 (aged 56) Washington, D.C., U.S.
Cause of death: Assassination (gunshot)

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States, was assassinated by well-known stage actor John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865, while attending the play Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. Shot in the head as he watched the play, Lincoln died the following day at 7:22 am, in the Petersen House opposite the theater. He was the first U.S. president to be assassinated, and Lincoln's funeral and burial marked an extended period of national mourning.

Occurring near the end of the American Civil War, the assassination was part of a larger conspiracy intended by Booth to revive the Confederate cause by eliminating the three most important officials of the United States government. Conspirators Lewis Powell and David Herold were assigned to kill Secretary of State William H. Seward, and George Atzerodt was tasked with killing Vice President Andrew Johnson. Beyond Lincoln's death, the plot failed: Seward was only wounded and Johnson's would-be attacker lost his nerve. After a dramatic initial escape, Booth was killed at the climax of a 12-day manhunt. Powell, Herold, Atzerodt and Mary Surratt were later hanged for their roles in the conspiracy.

11- Plato

Plato

Plato was a philosopher, as well as mathematician, in Classical Greece. He is considered an essential figure in the development of philosophy, especially the Western tradition, and he founded the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his teacher Socrates and his most famous student, Aristotle, Plato laid the foundations of Western philosophy and science. Alfred North Whitehead once noted: "the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.

Plato was the innovator of the written dialogue and dialectic forms in philosophy. Plato is also considered the founder of Western political philosophy. His most famous contribution is the theory of Forms known by pure reason, in which Plato presents a solution to the problem of universals known as Platonism (also ambiguously called either Platonic realism or Platonic idealism. He is also the namesake of Platonic love and the Platonic solids.

His own most decisive philosophical influences are usually thought to have been along with Socrates, the pre-Socratics Pythagoras, Heraclitus and Parmenides, although few of his predecessors' works remain extant and much of what we know about these figures today derives from Plato himself. Unlike the work of nearly all of his contemporaries, Plato's entire body of work is believed to have survived intact for over 2,400 years. Although their popularity has fluctuated over the years, the works of Plato have never been without readers since the time they were written.

10- Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)

Martin Luther King, Jr

Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. Born in Atlanta, King is best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, tactics his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi helped inspire.

King led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and in 1957 became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). With the SCLC, he led an unsuccessful 1962 struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, and helped organize the nonviolent 1963 protests in Birmingham, Alabama. He helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

Died: April 4, 1968 (aged 39) Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Cause of death: Assassination

Martin Luther King Jr., an American clergyman and civil rights leader, was fatally shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968, at 6:01 p.m. CST. He was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he died at 7:05 p.m. He was a prominent leader of the Civil Rights Movement and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was known for his use of nonviolence and civil disobedience.

9- Alexander the Great (355 BC-322 BC)

Alexander the Great

Alexander III of Macedon commonly known as Alexander the Great was a king of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon and a member of the Argead dynasty. He was born in Pella in 356 BC and succeeded his father Philip II to the throne at the age of 20. He spent most of his ruling years on an unprecedented military campaign through Asia and northeast Africa, and by the age of thirty he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from Greece to northwestern India. He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of history's most successful military commanders.

During his youth, Alexander was tutored by Aristotle until age 16. After Philip's assassination in 336 BC, he succeeded his father to the throne and inherited a strong kingdom and an experienced army. Alexander was awarded the generalship of Greece and used this authority to launch his father's pan-Hellenic project to lead the Greeks in the conquest of Persia. In 334 BC, he invaded the Achaemenid Empire (Persian Empire) and began a series of campaigns that lasted 10 years. Following the conquest of Anatolia, Alexander broke the power of Persia in a series of decisive battles, most notably the battles of Issus and Gaugamela. He subsequently overthrew Persian King Darius III and conquered the Achaemenid Empire in its entirety. At that point, his empire stretched from the Adriatic Sea to the Indus River.

8- Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

Galileo Galilei

Galileo Galilei was an astronomer, physicist and engineer, sometimes described as a polymath from Pisa. Galileo has been called the "father of observational astronomy", the "father of modern physics", the "father of the scientific method", and the "father of modern science".

Galileo studied speed and velocity, gravity and free fall, the principle of relativity, inertia, projectile motion and also worked in applied science and technology, describing the properties of pendulums and "hydrostatic balances", inventing the thermoscope and various military compasses, and using the telescope for scientific observations of celestial objects. His contributions to observational astronomy include the telescopic confirmation of the phases of Venus, the observation of the four largest satellites of Jupiter, the observation of Saturn's rings, and the analysis of sunspots.

7- William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon". His extant works, including collaborations, consist of some 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna and twins Hamnet and Judith. Sometime between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men. At age 49 (around 1613), he appears to have retired to Stratford, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare's private life survive; this has stimulated considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearance, his sexuality, his religious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others. Such theories are often criticised for failing to adequately note that few records survive of most commoners of the period.

6- Socrates

Socrates

Socrates was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and as being the first moral philosopher of the Western ethical tradition of thought. An enigmatic figure, he made no writings, and is known chiefly through the accounts of classical writers writing after his lifetime, particularly his students Plato and Xenophon. Other sources include the contemporaneous Antisthenes, Aristippus, and Aeschines of Sphettos. Aristophanes, a playwright, is the main contemporary author to have written plays mentioning Socrates during Socrates' lifetime, though a fragment of Ion of Chios' Travel Journal provides important information about Socrates' youth.

Plato's dialogues are among the most comprehensive accounts of Socrates to survive from antiquity, from which Socrates has become renowned for his contributions to the fields of ethics and epistemology. It is this Platonic Socrates who lends his name to the concepts of Socratic irony and the Socratic method, or elenchus. However, questions remain regarding the distinction between the real-life Socrates and Plato's portrayal of Socrates in his dialogues.

Socrates exerted a strong influence on philosophers in later antiquity and in the modern era. Depictions of Socrates in art, literature and popular culture have made him one of the most widely known figures in the Western philosophical tradition.

5- Aristotle (383 BC-321 BC)

Aristotle

Aristotle was a Greek philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, the founder of the Lyceum and the Peripatetic school of philosophy and Aristotelian tradition. Along with his teacher Plato, he has been called the "Father of Western Philosophy".

His writings cover many subjects – including physics, biology, zoology, metaphysics, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, theatre, music, rhetoric, psychology, linguistics, economics, politics and government. Aristotle provided a complex synthesis of the various philosophies existing prior to him, and it was above all from his teachings that the West inherited its intellectual lexicon, as well as problems and methods of inquiry.

As a result, his philosophy has exerted a unique influence on almost every form of knowledge in the West and it continues to be a subject of contemporary philosophical discussion.

4- Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci more commonly Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian polymath of the Renaissance whose areas of interest included invention, drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, paleontology, and cartography. He is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time, despite perhaps only 15 of his paintings having survived.

The Mona Lisa is the most famous of his works and the most popular portrait ever made. The Last Supper is the most reproduced religious painting of all time and his Vitruvian Man drawing is regarded as a cultural icon as well. Leonardo's paintings and preparatory drawings—together with his notebooks, which contain sketches, scientific diagrams, and his thoughts on the nature of painting—compose a contribution to later generations of artists rivalled only by that of his contemporary Michelangelo.

3- Isaac Newton (1643-1727)

Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author (described in his own day as a "natural philosopher") who is widely recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time, and a key figure in the scientific revolution. His book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), first published in 1687, laid the foundations of classical mechanics. Newton also made seminal contributions to optics, and shares credit with Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz for developing the infinitesimal calculus.

In Principia, Newton formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation that formed the dominant scientific viewpoint until it was superseded by the theory of relativity. Newton used his mathematical description of gravity to prove Kepler's laws of planetary motion, account for tides, the trajectories of comets, the precession of the equinoxes and other phenomena, eradicating doubt about the Solar System's heliocentricity. He demonstrated that the motion of objects on Earth and celestial bodies could be accounted for by the same principles. Newton's inference that the Earth is an oblate spheroid was later confirmed by the geodetic measurements of Maupertuis, La Condamine, and others, convincing most European scientists of the superiority of Newtonian mechanics over earlier systems.

2- Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics). His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He is best known to the general public for his mass–energy equivalence formula {\displaystyle E=mc^{2}}E = mc^2, which has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation". He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect", a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory.

Near the beginning of his career, Einstein thought that Newtonian mechanics was no longer enough to reconcile the laws of classical mechanics with the laws of the electromagnetic field. This led him to develop his special theory of relativity during his time at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern (1902–1909). However, he realized that the principle of relativity could also be extended to gravitational fields, and he published a paper on general relativity in 1916 with his theory of gravitation. He continued to deal with problems of statistical mechanics and quantum theory, which led to his explanations of particle theory and the motion of molecules. He also investigated the thermal properties of light which laid the foundation of the photon theory of light. In 1917, he applied the general theory of relativity to model the structure of the universe.

1- Jesus Christ 

Jesus Christ

Jesus also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth and Jesus Christ, was a first-century Jewish preacher and religious leader. He is the central figure of Christianity. Most Christians believe he is the incarnation of God the Son and the awaited Messiah (Christ) prophesied in the Old Testament.

Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus existed historically, although the quest for the historical Jesus has produced little agreement on the historical reliability of the Gospels and on how closely the Jesus portrayed in the Bible reflects the historical Jesus. Jesus was a Galilean Jew who was baptized by John the Baptist and began his own ministry.

He preached orally and was often referred to as "rabbi". Jesus debated with fellow Jews on how to best follow God, engaged in healings, taught in parables and gathered followers. He was arrested and tried by the Jewish authorities, turned over to the Roman government, and crucified on the order of Pontius Pilate, the Roman prefect. After his death, his followers believed he rose from the dead, and the community they formed eventually became the early Church.
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