Who is the most influential person in human history? Why? The only rule is that the person must have unambiguously existed at some point.

This is a fun question to answer, since I love history.

I am going to give my list of the top 100 most influential people in human history IMO, divided into different categories: political leaders/conquerors, scientists/engineers, thinkers, religious leaders since these are the occupations who would most influence human history. There is also an other category for the few who don’t belong in these. Also, these are not going to be in order just because it’s kind of hard to really judge who has more influence than another person, but I am just to going to number them so that we have 100 people total. Putting their birth / death dates so you know they existed.

Political leaders / Conquerors

  1. Julius Caesar (100 BCE – 44 CE) – Roman conqueror who set the stage for the Roman Empire
  2. Augustus (63 BCE – 14 CE) – the first and greatest Roman emperor
  3. Alexander the Great (356 BCE – 323 BCE) – One of the greatest commanders in history, conquered most of the known world at the time
  4. Napoleon (1769 CE – 1821 CE) – military commander, founder of the first French Empire
  5. Genghis Khan (1158 CE – 1227 CE) – founder of the Mongol Empire
  6. Ramesses II (1303 BCE – 1213 BCE) – often regarded as the greatest pharaoh of Ancient Egypt
  7. Cyrus the Great (600 BCE – 530 BCE) – founder of the Persian Empire
  8. Elizabeth I (1533 CE – 1603 CE) – presided over a period of British power
  9. William the Conqueror (1028 CE – 1087 CE) – the first King of England
  10. Charlemagne (742 CE – 814 CE) – the first emperor of reunified Western Europe since the Roman collapse
  11. Emperor Wu of Han (156 BCE – 87 BCE) – one of the greatest Chinese emperors and longest ruling ethnic Han emperor
  12. Qin Shi Huang (259 BCE – 210 BCE) – the first Chinese emperor
  13. Emperor Wen of Sui (541 CE – 604 CE) – the first Chinese emperor of a reunified China
  14. Peter the Great (1672 CE – 1725 CE) – founder of modern Russia
  15. Adolf Hitler (1889 CE – 1945 CE) – ruler of Nazi Germany, instigator of WW2
  16. Joseph Stalin (1878 CE – 1953 CE) – leader of Soviet Union
  17. Mao Zedong (1893 CE – 1976 CE) – founder of modern China
  18. Vladmir Lenin (1870 CE – 1924 CE) – founder of Soviet Union
  19. George Washington (1732 CE – 1799 CE) – first president of the United States, founding father
  20. Abraham Lincoln (1809 CE – 1865 CE) – president of the United States who reunified the country
  21. Ahsoka (304 BCE – 232 BCE) – often considered the greatest Indian emperorB
  22. Timur (1336 CE – 1405 CE) – the last great nomadic conqueror
  23. Simon Bolivar (1783 CE – 1830 CE) – liberator who led Spanish South American nations to independence
  24. Constantine the Great (272 CE – 337 CE) – responsible for spreading Christianity in the Roman Empire
  25. Hernan Cortes (1485 CE – 1547 CE) – Spanish conqueror who conquered Mexico
  26. Umar (583 CE – 644 CE) – one of the most influential Muslim caliphs in history 
  27. Suleiman the Magnificent (1494 CE – 1566 CE) – ruled over the Ottoman Empire at its height

Scientists / Engineers / Inventors

  1. Benjamin Franklin (1706 CE – 1790 CE) – American inventor, philosopher, statesman, founding father
  2. Thomas Edison (1847 CE – 1931 CE) – inventor of the lightbulb and phonograph
  3. Nikola Tesla (1856 CE – 1943 CE) – inventor of the AC induction motor
  4. Henry Ford (1863 CE – 1947 CE) – developed the assembly line method of mass production
  5. Karl Benz (1844 CE – 1929 CE) – inventor of the automobile
  6. Wright Brothers (1871 CE – 1948 CE) – inventor of the airplane
  7. James Watt (1736 CE – 1819 CE) – inventor of the steam engine
  8. Isaac Newton (1642 CE – 1727 CE) – developer of the laws of classical mechanics
  9. James Clerk Maxwell (1831 CE – 1879 CE) – developed theory of electromagnetism
  10. Michael Faraday (1791 CE – 1867 CE) – greatly contributed to chemistry and electromagnetism
  11. Albert Einstein (1879 CE – 1955 CE) – developed theory of relativity
  12. Francis Bacon (1561 CE – 1626 CE) – father of the empirical scientific method
  13. Euclid (325 BCE – 270 BCE) – father of geometry
  14. Archimedes (287 BCE – 212 BCE) – the greatest mathematician and inventor of ancient Greece
  15. Galileo (1564 CE – 1642 CE) – the father of modern physics
  16. Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 CE – 1519 CE) – one of the greatest painters, scientists and inventors
  17. Cai Lun (50 CE – 121 CE) – inventor of paper
  18. Johannes Gutenberg (1400 CE – 1468 CE) – invented the printing press
  19. Guglielmo Marconi (1874 CE – 1937 CE) – invented the radio
  20. Alexander Graham Bell (1847 CE – 1922 CE) – invented the telephone
  21. Louis Pasteur (1822 CE – 1895 CE) – discovered vaccination, pasteurization and fermentation
  22. Alexander Fleming (1881 CE – 1955 CE) – discovered penicillin, the first effective antibiotic
  23. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632 CE – 1723 CE) – father of microbiology
  24. Louis Daguerre (1787 CE – 1851 CE) – father of photography
  25. Antoine Lavoisier (1743 CE – 1794 CE) – father of modern chemistry
  26. Hippocrates (460 BCE – 370 BCE) – father of medicine
  27. Galen (129 CE – 216 CE) – influenced biology and Western medicine for 1,300 years
  28. Ptolemy (100 CE – 170 CE) – influenced astronomy, mathematics and geography for 1,500 years
  29. Gregor Mendel (1822 CE – 1884 CE) – father of modern genetics
  30. Christiaan Huygens (1629 CE – 1695 CE) – father of theoretical physics and inventor of the pendulum clock
  31. Ernest Rutherford (1871 CE – 1937 CE) – father of nuclear physics
  32. Shen Kuo (1031 CE – 1095 CE) – China’s Da Vinci, discovered numerous inventions but most importantly the compass
  33. Alan Turing (1912 CE – 1954 CE) – father of computer science

Thinkers

(note: Homer and Socrates are semi-legendary and not confirmed to exist so are not listed here)

  1. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473 CE – 1543 CE) – developed the model of heliocentrism
  2. Charles Darwin (1809 CE – 1889 CE) – developed the theory of evolution
  3. Thomas Jefferson (1743 CE – 1826 CE) – founding father, philosopher, US president, author of the declaration of independence
  4. Voltaire (1694 CE – 1778 CE) – writer, philosopher
  5. Rene Descartes (1596 CE – 1650 CE) – father of analytical geometry and modern philosophy
  6. Leonard Euler (1707 CE – 1783 CE) – father of modern mathematics
  7. Aristotle (384 BCE – 322 BCE) – the father of nearly every scientific field of his day and influenced Western thought for 2000 years
  8. Plato (428 BCE – 348 BCE) – father of Western philosophy
  9. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712 CE – 1778 CE) – highly influenced modern political and social thought
  10. John Locke (1632 CE – 1704 CE) – highly influential philosopher and father of liberalism
  11. Adam Smith (1723 CE – 1790 CE) – father of economics and capitalism
  12. Karl Marx (1818 CE – 1883 CE) – father of communism
  13. Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 CE – 1527 CE) – father of political science
  14. St Thomas Aquinas (1225 CE – 1274 CE) – greatly influential philosopher
  15. Sun Tzu (544 BCE – 496 BCE) – father of military strategy
  16. Cicero (106 BCE – 43 BCE) – highly influential Roman philosopher and statesman, father of the Renaissance
  17. Virgil (70 BCE – 19 BCE) – highly influential Roman poet
  18. Pythagoras (570 BCE – 495 BCE) – influential Ancient Greek mathematician and philosopher
  19. Sigmund Freud (1856 CE – 1939 CE) – founder of psychoanalysis
  20. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 CE – 1832 CE) – highly influential German writer
  21. Gottfried Leibniz (1646 CE – 1716 CE) – influential mathematician, scientist and philosopher, co-developed calculus

Religious Leaders

(note: although Jesus is regarded as historically existing by modern scholars, there is no concrete evidence of semi-mythological figures such as Moses, Abraham, Zoroaster, Yu the Great, Rishabhanatha etc existing so they are not listed here)

  1. Jesus (4 BCE – 33 CE) – founder of Christianity, the world’s largest religion
  2. St Paul (5 CE – 67 CE) – most influential apostle who spread Christianity across the world
  3. Muhammed (570 CE – 632 CE) – founder of Islam, the second largest religion in the world
  4. Gautama Buddha (563 BCE – 483 BCE) – founder of Buddhism
  5. Laozi – (571 BCE – 5th century BCE) – founder of Taoism
  6. Confucius (551 BCE – 479 BCE) – founder of Confucianism
  7. Mani (216 CE – 274 CE) – founder of Manichaeism a popular medieval religion
  8. Martin Luther (1483 CE – 1546 CE) – central figure in Protestant reformation
  9. John Calvin (1509 CE – 1564 CE) – founded Calvinism
  10. St Augustine (354 CE – 430 CE) – highly influential Christian disciple

Other

  1. William Shakespeare (1564 CE – 1616 CE) – father of the modern English language
  2. Michelangelo (1475 CE – 1564 CE) – highly influential Renaissance artist and architect
  3. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 CE – 1827 CE) – influential Western composer
  4. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 CE – 1791 CE) – influential Western composer
  5. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 CE – 1750 CE) – influential Western composer
  6. Christopher Columbus (1451 CE – 1506 CE) – paved the way for European colonization of the Americas
  7. Florence Nightingale (1820 CE – 1910 CE) – founder of modern nursing
  8. Marco Polo (1254 CE – 1324 CE) – traveler who was the first to describe in detail Asia to the Western world
  9. Vasco Da Gama (1460 CE – 1524 CE) – first European to reach India by sea