The successes achieved by humanity are often spoken of as a collective feat of teamwork. It is considered that without that group component many historical events and inventions would not have been possible individually.

However, in my view, this is still a half-truth. There are hundreds of illustrious and famous people who have influenced the world in a decisive way, be it with their ideas, inventions, actions or discoveries.

The most important historical figures

Below you can find a list of the most important and influential historical figures , mentioning and highlighting their most relevant characteristics and successes.

1. Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882)

It was this famous English naturalist who postulated that all species of living beings have evolved over time from a common ancestor through a process called “natural selection”. His theory of evolution forms the basis of modern evolutionary synthesis and constitutes a logical explanation that unifies observations on the diversity of life.

2. Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC)

He is considered by the academic world as the first scientist and researcher of all times , whose influence has lasted for two thousand years. He was a scholar, a sage, an eminence in different fields of science and humanities: politician, philosopher, logician and scientist in Ancient Greece. He is recognized as the first founder of logic and biology.

3. Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821)

Ambition, will, courage, intelligence, pride, cruelty, greatness… are names that could perfectly describe this character in the story. He is underestimated by some, magnified by others, exalted, vilified, contradictory spirits that can be read and heard about him. With his military intelligence he was able to conquer Eastern and Western Europe , reaching as far as North Africa.

4. Julius Caesar (100 B.C. – 44 B.C.)

Political and military leader of the great Roman Empire, resulting in him being the first living Roman leader whose face appeared on a circulating coin . Apart from his political and military career, this historical figure stood out as an orator and writer on subjects such as the Roman Republican religion, astronomy and Latin.

5. Plato (427 BC – 347 BC)

Together with Socrates and Aristotle, he is considered one of the most influential philosophers in the thought of modern Europe . Unlike Socrates, Plato wrote and preserved all his works, introducing a new style for the time: dialogue. The contraposition of different points of view and the psychological characterization of the interlocutors was an alternative tool to poetic or oracular expression.

6. Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955)

“The mind is like a parachute, it only works if we have it open.” German physicist is considered the most important and popular scientist of the 20th century . In 1905, while still a young unknown researcher, he published his theory of spatial relativity. Ten years later, he would present the theory of general relativity, which completely reformulated the concept of gravity.

  • You may be interested in: “125 sentences by Albert Einstein on science and life”

7. George Washington (1723 – 1799)

He was the first president of the United States between 1789 and 1797, Commander-in-Chief of the revolutionary Continental Army in the American War of Independence against England (1775-1783) and one of the authors of the American Constitution . In the United States he is considered the Father of the Country.

8. William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616)

English poet, playwright and actor, recognized as the most important writer of the English language and one of the most illustrious authors of world literature. His reputation did not achieve worldwide success until well into the 19th century. Already in the 20th century, all his works were adapted on many occasions and on all kinds of stages: cinema, books and theatre.

9. Christopher Columbus (1436 – 1506)

His greatest achievement and success was the discovery of America by the West on October 12, 1492, when he landed on Guanahani Island, now known as the Bahamas. Before this, he was a navigator, cartographer, admiral, viceroy and Governor General of the West Indies in the service of the Crown of Castile.

10. Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727)

English mathematician, philosopher, alchemist, theologian and physicist. Author of “the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Matemàtica”, more commonly known as Principia, where describes the law of universal gravitation and established the basis of classical mechanics through the laws that bear his name.

11. Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939)

Of Jewish origin, this controversial historical figure was a neurologist, considered the founder of psychoanalysis . Despite his controversial psychological theories, having sex as a central theme, Freud is considered one of the most influential figures of the 20th century, despite his addiction to cocaine which led to his death in 1939.

12. Louis Pasteur (1822 – 1895)

He was a French chemist whose discoveries had an enormous impact on the various fields of the natural sciences. He is credited with the technique of “pasteurization”. Furthermore, he categorically rejected the theory of spontaneous generation and developed the germ theory of infectious diseases.

13. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791)

Austrian-born composer and pianist, master of Classicism, he is considered to be one of the most influential figures in the world of music of all times. His music has been used in films, series, theatre and even video games. Mozart’s work covers all musical genres and includes around 700 works.

14. Martin Luther King (1929 – 1968)

He was an American pastor of the Baptist church who developed a crucial work in the United States leading the Civil Rights Movement for African Americans and also participated as an activist against general poverty and the Vietnam War.

15. Muhammad Ali (1942 – 2016)

He is probably the most famous character of the 20th century, as magazines such as The Times and The Esquire have condemned him on numerous occasions. He changed the rules of the game in the boxing world by breaking ties with the mafia that controlled the business in order to impose his fight not only inside the ring but also outside it by being the spokesperson against universal racial segregation and refusing to go to the Vietnam War, which led to his entry into prison.

16. Pythagoras (569 BC – 475 BC)

Greek philosopher and mathematician, he is considered the father of pure mathematics . He contributed significantly to the advancement and development of Hellenic mathematics, geometry and arithmetic, derived mainly from numerical relations, applied to the theory of weights and measures, music or astronomy.

17. Genghis Khan (1162 – 1227)

At the beginning of the 13th century, the Mongolian armies led by Genghis Khan, played a leading role in one of the most important military expansions in history . In little more than twenty years, they conquered a large part of northern China, then occupied by King Xi Xia and the Yurchen empire, and destroyed the Muslim empire in Juarezm, located in Central Asia.

18. Karl Marx (1818 – 1883)

Socialist thinker and revolutionary activist of German origin . Rarely has the work of a philosopher had such vast and tangible historical consequences as those of Karl Marx: from the Russian Revolution of 1917 until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, almost half of humanity lived in countries maintained by political governments that declared themselves heirs to his thought.

19. Lenin (1870 – 1924)

Known as Lenin, his original name is Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. Influenced directly by Marxism, he was a political theorist, revolutionary and communist of Russian origin . Being part of the most radical core of the socialist movement, he became the main leader of the Russian Revolution of 1917.

20. Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945)

As a low-profile soldier in the German army during World War I, his frustration and anger led Adolf Hitler to rule Germany from 1933 to 1945, causing World War II , 17 million deaths and being the main responsible for the Jewish Holocaust. He remains the most enigmatic historical figure of the 20th and 21st centuries.

21. Bill Gates (1955)

An American computer scientist and entrepreneur, he is the founder of the computer company Microsoft. The fortune of this precocious programmer, who at the age of 31 was already a multimillionaire, comes from the success of his overwhelming operating system, MS-DOS (1981) which would evolve into the ubiquitous Windows system. Interestingly, Gates would never finish his studies.

22. Jesus of Nazareth (1-33)

Also known as Jesus, Christ or Jesus Christ, is the central figure of Christianity and one of the most influential characters in Western culture. He is probably the most studied theological entity in the whole history of mankind. The religious movement that he initiated, was transformed into Christianity, which currently has more than 2100 million parishioners.

23. Muhammad (570 – 632)

He was the prophet and founder of the last monotheistic religion: Islam. Muhammad or also known as Muhammad, is called the “seal of the prophets” because he is considered the last of a long chain of messengers sent by God to convey and update his message. It is estimated that currently some 1.2 billion followers practice Islam .

24. Michelangelo (1475 – 1564)

He was an Italian architect, sculptor and painter of the Renaissance style . He is considered one of the greatest artists in history since he triumphed in each and every one of the arts in which he dedicated his time and work, since his main characteristic was perfectionism.

25. Nikola Tesla (1856 – 1943)

Inventor, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer and physicist of Serbian origin living in the United States. He is considered as the most illustrious promoter of the birth of commercial electricity . He is also famous for his many revolutionary achievements in the field of electromagnetism, developed in the early 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, one of the best manufacturers of electric cars bears his name (Tesla Motors).

26. Thomas Alva Edison (1847 – 1931)

This is perhaps the most paradoxical of all the historical figures mentioned. Thomas Edison, famous for being the creator of more than a thousand inventions such as the light bulb, the incandescent lamp, the phenograph or the film projector, was only able to attend school for a period of three months .