Which individuals have been the most significant, and influential, people in history? While this question is obviously up for debate, and does have some room for interpretation, historians have attempted to come up with the answer. They ranked the top 100 most significant people in history for their overall affect, good or bad, on human history. After weighting for a factor of time, Justin Bieber may be more popular than Aristotle today but weighting for the fact that Aristotle’s ideas are still popular after thousands of years, he comes out ahead. This process led to a very strong list of arguably the most significant people in history. Here are the top 20.

Christopher Columbus

Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, thus launching European colonization of the Americas that would take place for over 400 years following his voyage. Columbus comes in at number 20 on our list due to this massive exodus he essentially started when he sought a new trade route to India.

Albert Einstein

Long associated with genius the world over, theoretical physicist Albert Einstein was the German-born creator of what has become known as the Theory of Relativity. His ideas have influenced our understanding of the entire universe and, if that weren’t enough, have yielded inventions like the atomic bomb.


Joseph Stalin

One of history’s great tyrants, Joseph Stalin’s significance is derived from his status as the leader of the Soviet Union from the 1920 until his death in 1953. Not only did he lead the Soviet Union with an iron fist during its rise to power as a nation, he was also a key player in World War II, thus setting up his nations rivalry with the United States in the decades following the second World War.

Martin Luther

By nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the wall of a local church, Luther set in motion what has become known as the Protestant Reformation. This movement, which began in the 1517, was the first real challenge to the authority of the Catholic Church which had, in Luther’s view, become corrupt. Regardless of your own beliefs, Luther’s significance cannot be disputed as he essentially founded the Lutheran and Protestant denominations of Christianity.

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