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11 Most Influential People In History By Occupation

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, and the results are quite fascinating.
Written by Theodoros II


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. One way or another, Columbus is widely regarded as the founder of what we know and define today as the United States of America and his influence on history, good or bad, is unquestionable since he had the most significant role in the European exploration, conquest, and colonization of America.


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.


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. However, most of us know him as one of the greatest painters who ever lived, if not the greatest, and rightfully when one considers that the Sistine Chapel ceilingThe Crucifixion of St. Peter, and The Conversion of Saul among other masterpieces are his creations.


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 and another great composer of the classical period, Joseph Haydn, wrote that posterity will not see such a talent again for 100 years, a false statement after all, since posterity hasn’t seen such a talent for over 220 years since the death of the great Amadeus Mozart.


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, a mix that produced the foundations of hydrostatics, statics, and the explanation of the principle of the lever as well as many innovative machines, including siege engines and the screw pump that is named after him.


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. The ancient Greek poetic giant, who made the “immortal” figures Achilles, Paris, and Odysseus famous through his epics, ranks ahead of William Shakespeare and Dante Alighieri as the greatest writer who ever lived according to MIT.


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. Although he was of aristocratic origin, he fought for the lowest social classes and the poor of Rome, which was the main reason behind his assassination.


Polymath/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. He was without a doubt the most diversely talented man of his time and many historians believe that a mind and personality like his comes only once every thousand years. Because of the multiple interests that spurred him to pursue various fields of knowledge, da Vinci is widely considered the archetype of the term genius and the greatest inventor who ever lived.


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. He founded over twenty cities which were named after him, most notably Alexandria in Egypt, and he is one of the very few human beings who managed to start and mark a whole era of human history: the Hellenistic period. He became the absolute standard and measure of greatness for many military leaders who followed and his name remains synonymous with dominance.


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.


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.” According to MIT’s research, he is the most influential human being who ever lived, while his teachings and theories are considered the most effective on a global scale regardless of religion, location, sex, class, or race.

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