People, People Who List People…

We often hear that one person can make a difference.  I suppose that belief underlies the latest meta-list I’ve created: The Most Influential People of All Time.  Individuals whose actions, ideas, and beliefs have made a significant contribution to the world we live in.  In fact, while most of the 20 lists I found were called “Most Important People” or “Most Influential People”, some of them were called “People Who Changed The World.”  (Note that there is no moral judgment here – for better or for worse, the changes led us to where we are now.)  But as I collected the lists of kings, queens, sultans, politicians, generals, scientists, inventors, authors, activists, revolutionaries and philosophers, I began to question this emphasis on the individual.  The general may be a strategic genius, but it is his troops who do most of the fighting and dying.  The scientist may have made a crucial discovery, but only because of the many earlier discoverers that laid down the path where she took the next step.  Then there is the bizarre phenomenon that throughout history, many important discoveries or inventions occurred simultaneously in multiple locations, completely independent of one another.  There are also changes brought about by communities and cultures, the leaderless masses.  Every individual is affected by these amorphous generalities – community, culture, nation – in countless specific ways that affect the products of his or her mind and hands.  I hope you enjoy the list of influential individuals, but before you give them all the credit or blame for their accomplishments, think about the individuals, communities and cultures that influenced them.

Before you click over to the list, here’s a sneak peek.  I’ve organized the big list chronologically by date of birth, with the rankings tucked away in parentheses at the end of each entry.  For those of you more into rank than chronology, I’ve listed the top 28 most influential people below.

  1. Albert Einstein
  2. Karl Marx
  3. Marie Curie
  4. Mohandas K. Gandhi
  5. William Shakespeare
  6. Sir Isaac Newton
  7. Napoleon Bonaparte
  8. Abraham Lincoln
  9. Charles Darwin
  10. Thomas Alva Edison
  11. Adolf Hitler
  12. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  13. Buddha
  14. Confucius
  15. Aristotle
  16. Alexander the Great
  17. Jesus of Nazareth
  18. Christopher Columbus
  19. Leonardo da Vinci
  20. George Washington
  21. Nelson Mandela
  22. Plato
  23. Galileo Galilei
  24. Louis Pasteur
  25. Sigmund Freud
  26. Henry Ford
  27. Winston Churchill
  28. Mao Zedong

Here is the big list: The Most Influential People of All Time

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