Our Heroes: Who’s the most influential in world history?

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Our Heroes
Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore. Photo for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

Abraham Lincoln on Mount Rushmore. Photo for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

This week, we’ve considered the latest Gallup survey of the most-admired man and woman living in the world. We expanded our focus to consider the most-admired man and woman since Gallup started polling about this topic in the 1940s. Today, we widen our focus to maximum view:

Who’s the most influential person in history?

Sitting American presidents usually take #1 in Gallup’s annual poll, and so it was no surprise to learn that Obama nabbed the top spot in the latest results. But as we discussed, Clint Eastwood also made the top-ten list for most-admired man. Hillary Clinton is, once again, the most-admired woman; and German Chancellor Angela Merkel made the top-ten list of women, as well. But “nobody”—that is, “none” or “no opinion,” actually took first space, getting more mentions than either Obama or Clinton. Looking over the past 60 years or so, Rev. Billy Graham is the most-admired man, and Queen Elizabeth II the most-admired woman.

But who’s the most influential in world history?

This seems like an impossible question to answer, and any attempted answer is certain to be controversial. But I did find two attempts: The 100: A Ranking Of The Most Influential Persons In History by Michael H. Hart, and Who’s Bigger? Where Historical Figures Really Rank by Steven Skiena and Charles Ward.

Hart’s top five are Muhammed, Isaac Newton, Jesus, Buddha, and Confucious. Skiena and Ward’s top five are Jesus, Napoleon, Muhammed, Williams Shakespeare, and Abraham Lincoln.

What’s your reaction to these lists of top-five most influential people in world history?

Do you agree with their lists, in whole or in part?

Is there anyone else you would have in the top five?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Series Navigation<< Our Heroes: All-time top 10?


  1. Daniel Buttry says

    Michael Hart’s book is a fun read. He rates people according to “influence” or impact, and interestingly 5 of the top 10 are religious leaders. Jesus is #3 in Hart’s list because his most distinctive ethical teaching is largely ignored even by his followers: “Love your enemies”! Gandhi doesn’t make Hart’s top 100, but I think his impact has been phenomenal, global in scope, still growing and expanding, turning People Power into one of the biggest forces in global politics.