Some of the most popular debates and trivial conversations people have, include the topic of global influence and popularity. Don’t tell us you’ve never wondered or never participated in a debate about who are the most influential people in history. This is a topic that usually leads to further discussion and debate on who is the strongest, the smartest, the most beautiful, and a series of unresolved questions that nobody can answer with absolute certainty.
Pantheon, a project developed by the Macro Connections group at the MIT University Media Lab that collected and analyzed data on historical and cultural popularity, tried to give answers to these questions, or at least attempted to. A multiethnic team of decorated designers, engineers, and scientists working collaboratively to quantify, analyze and measure global culture delivered the most academic and enduring list of the most popular and influential human beings in history. Since the top 100 is heavily dominated by philosophers, military personnel, politicians, scientists, and religious figures, we here at List25 decided to deliver a roster of the 25 most famous people in history by profession and attribute.
25 – Bruce Lee, Martial Artist – Overall Rank #229: Kung Fu superstar Bruce Lee was more than just a martial artist, more than just an actor and entertainer. He has influenced the fastest-growing sport in the world more than anyone else and called him the “father of Mixed Martial Arts”.
24 – George Washington, US President – Overall Rank #190: considered by historians to be one of the most significant and prominent American figures in history, was the first president of the United States and one of its founding fathers.
23 – Walt Disney, Business – Overall Rank #168: He holds the record for winning the most Academy Awards with twenty-two, but the most important thing he achieved is a business empire based on the visions of his creative imagination. And since his time his characters have been entertaining millions of people, young and old, all around the world, regardless of their socioeconomic background, religious beliefs, skin color, or nationality.
22 – Louis Pasteur, Chemist – Overall Rank #146: his immense contributions to humankind and how his remarkable discoveries have prevented illness and saved the lives of millions since his day, the “father of microbiology” gets the nod as the most influential chemist in history. He’s best remembered for inventing the process of pasteurization that is named after him and has helped billions of babies around the world to grow up healthy by drinking fresh milk without bacteria.
21 – Marilyn Monroe, Actress – Overall Rank #141: is widely considered to be the most famous sex symbol in the world and one of the very first globally known female celebrities in history. Her legacy and incomparable influence on the entertainment world can be traced to the simple fact that a long list of female celebrities have tried to imitate or impersonate her look and sex appeal.
20 – Elvis Presley, Singer – Overall Rank #117: Elvis, the “King of Rock ’n’ Roll,” is, according to the MIT study (and numerous others), the most famous and influential singer of all time. We might add that he’s also the biggest-selling solo artist in history with estimated sales of over a billion records according to his record company.
19 -Imhotep, Architect – Overall Rank #116: Imhotep was an Egyptian polymath who excelled in various fields of human activity, particularly architecture and engineering. He was the designer and architect of the astonishing Pyramid of Djoser, which was built in the 27th century BCE for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser. According to the available archaeological findings, this is the very first Egyptian pyramid and stood 62 meters (203 ft) tall when first built, an incredibly high architectural creation for its time and after. He was one of very few people in Egyptian history who achieved a divine status after his death though he was born a commoner.
18 – Che Guevara, Social Activist – Overall Rank #72: The handsome Argentine doctor with an aristocratic heritage who ended up a revolutionary, a guerrilla leader, a diplomat, Fidel Castro’s right-hand man, and a dominant figure in the United Party of the Cuban Socialist Revolution.
17 – Charles Darwin, Biologist – Overall Rank #71: Charles Darwin was an English polymath who studied several sciences during his lifetime but it was his theory of evolution by natural selection, the foundation of modern evolutionary studies, which gave him the legacy of being one of history’s most famous scientists ever.
16 – Nefertiti, Companion – Overall Rank #51: Nefertiti’s power and influence on her husband Akhenaten, the Egyptian pharaoh, was immense and many historians believe that she was the one who commanded the ancient Kingdom of Egypt and made every major decision behind the scenes.
15 – Sigmund Freud, Psychologist – Overall Rank #49: was a famous Austrian neurologist, the founding father of psychoanalysis, and without question the most famous figure of the academic and applied discipline of psychology.
14 – Hippocrates, Physician – Overall Rank #48: Hippocrates of Kos, as he is better known in medical circles, was an ancient Greek physician who’s widely considered to be the father of Western medicine and the one who established medicine as a profession. He was the founder of the famous Hippocratic School of Medicine that helped to revolutionize medicine in the ancient world.
13 – Herodotus, Historian – Overall Rank #32: The ancient Greek historian from Halicarnassus was the first historian to gather together his materials consistently and methodically, and then to organize and report them into a historiographical narrative. For this reason he is regarded as the “Father of History” and the one who elevated history as a subject to a social science.
12 – Galileo Galilei, Astronomer – Overall Rank #31: They called him the “Father of Modern Science,” the “Father of Modern Physics,” and ultimately the “Father of Modern Observational Astronomy,” but Galileo Galilei was more than just a great scientist and astronomer; he was a rebel. He is best remembered for saying one of the most iconic quotes in history during his trial: “And yet it moves,” referring to the Earth.
11 – Christopher Columbus, Explorer – Overall Rank #24: To some people Christopher Columbus is a hero, the greatest explorer who ever lived, and the major figure who started the European colonization of the New World, while other people consider him nothing but an invader who spread the Christian religion to the indigenous tribes of America at any cost. Is unquestionable since he had the most significant role in the European exploration, conquest, and colonization of America.
10 – Isaac Newton, Physicist – Overall Rank #22: Sir Isaac Newton has surpassed Albert Einstein as the most influential physicist of all time outranking him by one place. The great English scientist is globally considered the key figure in the Scientific Revolution and his revolutionary scientific discoveries influenced many other great scientists including Einstein. Most experts and historians agree that his book Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy laid the foundation for classical mechanics and he also shares credit with Gottfried Leibniz for inventing calculus.
9 – Michelangelo, Painter – Overall Rank #19: Even though most people consider Michelangelo just a painter, the truth is that the second-most-influential artist of the Renaissance behind Leonardo da Vinci was also an excellent sculptor and architect with the ultimate masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture, David, to his name.
8 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Composer – Overall Rank #16: The most famous child prodigy in history is also, according to MIT research, the most influential and popular composer in history. He started making music and composing at the age of five and by the time of his death, only thirty years later, he had already composed over 600 works. His compositions continue to influence Western music even today, since posterity hasn’t seen such a talent for over 220 years since the death of the great Amadeus Mozart.
7 – Archimedes, Mathematician – Overall Rank #11: Archimedes was a Greek mathematician and inventor among other things, who is rightfully considered one of the most brilliant minds of all time and the “godfather of invention.” His contributions to geometry revolutionized the subject and his methods influenced every mathematician and inventor who followed including Leonardo da Vinci, Newton, and Leibniz. He combined a genius for mathematics with insights into the nature of the physical universe.
6 – Homer, Writer – Overall Rank #9: The immense influence and impact of Homer on the world can be traced to the simple fact that his two masterpieces, The Iliad and The Odyssey, have been read, studied, and spread by countless millions of people throughout the centuries in schools, universities, and Hollywood films and TV shows.
5 – Julius Caesar, Politician – Overall Rank #8: Julius Caesar was, according to most historians and political analysts, the most important figure in Roman history. He was a great strategist and general but also a charismatic politician who changed the form of government in Rome while his conquests laid the foundation for the development of European and Western culture.
4 – Leonardo da Vinci, Inventor – Overall Rank #6: Leonardo da Vinci’s name is equated with genius and the cultural movement of the Renaissance, from where he got the nickname “Renaissance Man.” However, it’s really hard to define da Vinci’s actual profession since he mastered way too many things during his lifetime from sculpture to painting, architecture to music, mathematics to anatomy, and engineering among others.
3 – Alexander the Great, Military Personnel – Overall Rank #5: Alexander the Great is without a doubt one of the greatest military generals who ever lived and his empire was one of the biggest the ancient world ever knew. He remained undefeated on the battlefield until his death and he was the man who spread Greek culture and civilization to the biggest part of the then-known world.
2 – Jesus Christ, Religious Figure – Overall Rank #3: Jesus Christ is not the most influential or popular figure in history according to MIT but, with a global population of over 7 billion, only 2 billion of which are Christian, this shouldn’t surprise us. Still Jesus is the most famous religious figure in history ahead of Moses and Muhammad but third overall behind Aristotle and Plato, who seem to have influenced more people throughout the centuries mainly because their ideas and lessons were not restricted by religious faith.
1 – Aristotle, Philosopher – Overall Rank #1: Aristotle was a Greek philosopher from Stagirus, northern Greece, who was born in 384 BCE. He’s widely considered one of the three greatest philosophers of all time, along with Socrates and Plato, while his teachings and theories migrated across Africa, Asia, and the Middle East through the conquests of his most famous student, Alexander the Great. He’s one of the very few historical figures who enjoys great respect and immense popularity on every continent and has been revered in Judaism, Christian theology, and Islam, where most Muslim intellectuals refer to him as “The First Teacher
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