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Religious Affiliation of History's 100 Most Influential People


Religious Affiliation % in
List
Catholic 31%
Anglican/Episcopalian 13%
Jewish 7%
Atheist 6%
Greco-Roman paganism 6%
Chinese traditional religion/Confucianism 5%
Lutheran 5%
Russian Orthodox 4%
pre-Nicene Christianity 3%
Platonism 3%
Islam 2%
Hindu 2%
Buddhist 2%
Presbyterian 2%
Zoroastrian 2%
Manicheanism 2%
Quaker 2%
Unitarian/Universalist 2%
Calvinist 2%
Jain 1%
Jansenist 1%
United Brethren 1%
Congregationalist 1%
Dutch Reformed 1%
Egyptian paganism 1%
Mongolian shamanism 1%
Taoism 1%
Baptist 1%
Sandemanian 1%
Protestant (denomination unknown) 6%
unknown 5%
The following list of influential figures from world history comes from Michael H. Hart's book The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History. In the book, Hart provides brief biographies of each of the individuals, as well as reasons for their ranking.

Adherents.com takes no position regarding the validity of Hart's rankings. Certainly ranking the relative historical influence of individuals is a subjective process. We welcome and will by happy to post comments from readers suggesting alternative rankings or names of influential individuals who should be included in the "Top 100." (Please send suggestions to webmaster@adherents.com).

This list of names and their ranks are solely the work of Michael H. Hart. The columns "Religious Affiliation" and "Influence" are the work of Adherents.com. We will readily modify notes if there are any inaccuracies.

Note that many influential philosophies (such as Marxist Communism or Confucianism) are not always classified as organized "religions" in the traditional sense, but are classified as such by sociologists because they are a primary motivational worldview for individuals, cultures or subcultures. Also, many founders never considered themselves adherents of philosophies or religions which later bore their name (e.g., Martin Luther and Lutheranism).

In the table below, where there are two religions listed, the first one is the religion the person was born into. The second was the religion or philosophy the person later joined or founded. Comments in the "Influence" column are in bold when the influence is mainly in the realm of religion and philosophy.

RankNameReligious AffiliationInfluence
1 Muhammad Islam Prophet of Islam; conqueror of Arabia; Hart recognized that ranking Muhammad first might be controversial, but felt that, from a secular historian's perspective, this was the correct choice because Muhammad is the only man to have been both a founder of a major world religion and a major military/political leader. More
2 Isaac Newton Anglican (rejected Trinitarianism, i.e.,
Athanasianism; believed in the Arianism
of the Primitive Church)
physicist; theory of universal gravitation; laws of motion
3 Jesus Christ * Judaism; Christianity founder of Christianity
4 Buddha Hinduism; Buddhism founder of Buddhism
5 Confucius Confucianism founder of Confucianism
6 St. Paul Judaism; Christianity proselytizer of Christianity
7 Ts'ai Lun Chinese traditional religion inventor of paper
8 Johann Gutenberg Catholic developed movable type; printed Bibles
9 Christopher Columbus Catholic explorer; led Europe to Americas
10 Albert Einstein Jewish physicist; relativity; Einsteinian physics
11 Louis Pasteur Catholic scientist; pasteurization
12 Galileo Galilei Catholic astronomer; accurately described heliocentric solar system
13 Aristotle Platonism / Greek philosophy influential Greek philosopher
14 Euclid Platonism / Greek philosophy mathematician; Euclidian geometry
15 Moses Judaism major prophet of Judaism
16 Charles Darwin Anglican (nominal); Unitarian biologist; described Darwinian evolution, which had theological impact on many religions
17 Shih Huang Ti Chinese traditional religion Chinese emperor
18 Augustus Caesar Roman state paganism ruler
19 Nicolaus Copernicus Catholic (priest) astronomer; taught heliocentricity
20 Antoine Laurent Lavoisier Catholic father of modern chemistry; philosopher; economist
21 Constantine the Great Roman state paganism; Christianity Roman emperor who completely legalized Christianity, leading to its status as state religion. Convened the First Council of Nicaea that produced the Nicene Creed, which rejected Arianism (one of two major strains of Christian thought) and established Athanasianism (Trinitarianism, the other strain) as "official doctrine."
22 James Watt Presbyterian (lapsed) developed steam engine
23 Michael Faraday Sandemanian physicist; chemist; discovery of magneto-electricity
24 James Clerk Maxwell Presbyterian; Anglican; Baptist physicist; electromagnetic spectrum
25 Martin Luther Catholic; Lutheran founder of Protestantism and Lutheranism
26 George Washington Episcopalian first president of United States
27 Karl Marx Jewish; Lutheran;
Atheist; Marxism/Communism
founder of Marxism, Marxist Communism
28 Orville and Wilbur Wright United Brethren inventors of airplane
29 Genghis Khan Mongolian shamanism Mongol conqueror
30 Adam Smith Liberal Protestant economist; philosopher; expositor of capitalism; author: The Theory of Moral Sentiments
31 Edward de Vere
a.k.a. William Shakespeare
Catholic; Anglican literature; also wrote 6 volumes about philosophy and religion
32 John Dalton Quaker chemist; physicist; atomic theory; law of partial pressures (Dalton's law)
33 Alexander the Great Greek state paganism conqueror
34 Napoleon Bonaparte Catholic (nominal) French conqueror
35 Thomas Edison Congregationalist; agnostic inventor of light bulb, phonograph, etc.
36 Antony van Leeuwenhoek Dutch Reformed microscopes; studied microscopic life
37 William T.G. Morton ?? pioneer in anesthesiology
38 Guglielmo Marconi Catholic and Anglican inventor of radio
39 Adolf Hitler Nazism; born/raised in, but rejected Catholicism conqueror; led Axis Powers in WWII
40 Plato Platonism / Greek philosophy founder of Platonism
41 Oliver Cromwell Puritan (Protestant) British political and military leader
42 Alexander Graham Bell Unitarian/Universalist inventor of telephone *
43 Alexander Fleming Catholic penicillin; advances in bacteriology, immunology and chemotherapy
44 John Locke raised Puritan (Anglican);
Liberal Christian
philosopher and liberal theologian
45 Ludwig van Beethoven Catholic composer
46 Werner Heisenberg Lutheran a founder of quantum mechanics; discovered principle of uncertainty; head of Nazi Germany's nuclear program
47 Louis Daguerre ?? an inventor/pioneer of photography
48 Simon Bolivar Catholic (nominal); Atheist National hero of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia
49 Rene Descartes Catholic Rationalist philosopher and mathematician
50 Michelangelo Catholic painter; sculptor; architect
51 Pope Urban II Catholic called for First Crusade
52 'Umar ibn al-Khattab Islam Second Caliph; expanded Muslim empire
53 Asoka Buddhism king of India who converted to and spread Buddhism
54 St. Augustine Greek state paganism; Manicheanism; Catholic Early Christian theologian
55 William Harvey Anglican (nominal) described the circulation of blood; wrote Essays on the Generation of Animals, the basis for modern embryology
56 Ernest Rutherford ?? physicist; pioneer of subatomic physics
57 John Calvin Protestant; Calvinism Protestant reformer; founder of Calvinism
58 Gregor Mendel Catholic (Augustinian monk) Mendelian genetics
59 Max Planck Protestant physicist; thermodynamics
60 Joseph Lister Quaker principal discoverer of antiseptics which greatly reduced surgical mortality
61 Nikolaus August Otto ?? built first four-stroke internal combustion engine
62 Francisco Pizarro Catholic Spanish conqueror in South America; defeated Incas
63 Hernando Cortes Catholic conquered Mexico for Spain; through war and introduction of new diseases he largely destroyed Aztec civilization
64 Thomas Jefferson Episcopalian; Deist 3rd president of United States
65 Queen Isabella I Catholic Spanish ruler
66 Joseph Stalin Russian Orthodox; Atheist; Marxism revolutionary and ruler of USSR
67 Julius Caesar Roman state paganism Roman emperor
68 William the Conqueror Catholic laid foundation of modern England
69 Sigmund Freud Jewish; atheist; Freudian psychology/psychoanalysis founded Freudian school of psychology/psychoanalysis (i.e., the "religion of Freudianism")
70 Edward Jenner Anglican discoverer of the vaccination for smallpox
71 Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen ?? discovered X-rays
72 Johann Sebastian Bach Lutheran; Catholic composer
73 Lao Tzu Taoism founder of Taoism
74 Voltaire raised in Jansenism;
later Deist
writer and philosopher; wrote Candide
75 Johannes Kepler Lutheran astronomer; planetary motions
76 Enrico Fermi Catholic initiated the atomic age; father of atom bomb
77 Leonhard Euler Calvinist physicist; mathematician; differential and integral calculus and algebra
78 Jean-Jacques Rousseau born Protestant;
converted as a teen to Catholic;
later Deist
French deistic philosopher and author
79 Nicoli Machiavelli Catholic wrote The Prince (influential political treatise)
80 Thomas Malthus Anglican (cleric) economist; wrote Essay on the Principle of Population
81 John F. Kennedy Catholic U.S. President who led first successful effort by humans to travel to another "planet"
82 Gregory Pincus Jewish endocrinologist; developed birth-control pill
83 Mani Manicheanism founder of Manicheanism, once a world religion which rivaled Christianity in strength
84 Lenin Russian Orthodox;
Atheist; Marxism/Communism
Russian ruler
85 Sui Wen Ti Chinese traditional religion unified China
86 Vasco da Gama Catholic navigator; discovered route from Europe to India around Cape Hood
87 Cyrus the Great Zoroastrianism founder of Persian empire
88 Peter the Great Russian Orthodox forged Russia into a great European nation
89 Mao Zedong Atheist; Communism; Maoism founder of Maoism, Chinese form of Communism
90 Francis Bacon Anglican philosopher; delineated inductive scientific method
91 Henry Ford Protestant developed automobile; achievement in manufacturing and assembly
92 Mencius Confucianism philosopher; founder of a school of Confucianism
93 Zoroaster Zoroastrianism founder of Zoroastrianism
94 Queen Elizabeth I Anglican British monarch; restored Church of England to power after Queen Mary
95 Mikhail Gorbachev Russian Orthodox Russian premier who helped end Communism in USSR
96 Menes Egyptian paganism unified Upper and Lower Egypt
97 Charlemagne Catholic Holy Roman Empire created with his baptism in 800 AD
98 Homer Greek paganism epic poet
99 Justinian I Catholic Roman emperor; reconquered Mediterranean empire; accelerated Catholic-Monophysite schism
100 Mahavira Hinduism; Jainism founder of Jainism

Source of list of names: Hart, Michael H. The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, Revised and Updated for the Nineties. New York: Carol Publishing Group/Citadel Press; first published in 1978, reprinted with minor revisions (reflected above) in 1992.

In the afterword to his book The 100, Michael H. Hart listed 100 runners-up, all of which are listed here. The book's afterword also included brief discussions about ten of these runners-up (about one page each). These discussions include notes about their influence and about they they were not included in the top 100. Hart states that these ten individuals should not be thought of as numbers 101-110 on the list. The ten runners-up discussed are: St. Thomas Aquinas; Archimedes; Charles Babbage; Cheops; Marie Curie; Benjamin Franklin; Mohandas Gandhi ; Abraham Lincoln; Ferdinand Magellan; Leonardo da Vinci. The other runners-up are simply listed, without further details or discussion.

Webmaster's Comments about this Webpage

This list is compiled only for fun and reference. Certainly no theological or sociological inferences should be drawn from a subjectively chosen list of only 100 people from throughout human history. These individuals clearly transcend statistical sociological analysis. Nevertheless, it is fascinating to consider the varied ways in which the lives and contributions of nearly all of them were profoundly influenced by their religious background and personal beliefs. ("Contribution" may not be the best word to describe the influence of some of these individuals, such as Hitler, Stalin, etc.)

Also, the "Influence" column in the table is very brief. It is only provided only to refresh one's memory about the identity of the historical person - not to encapsulate or summarize their career.

The most-represented religious group on this list is obviously Catholicism. This should be expected, given the many centuries that the most technologically and economically advanced Western world was synonymous with the Catholic world.

The most obscure faith group represented on this list is the Sandemanians, who were never very numerous. The physicist Michael Faraday (23rd on this list and history's 9th most influential scientist, according to Hart) was a devout member of this now-extinct group. Other small minority religious groups represented here are Jansenists (Voltaire) and some Quakers.

It is worth noting that many of the individuals on this list were the founders, major propagators, or reformers of major world religions: Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Buddha, St. Paul, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Mencius, Mani, Mahavira, Marx, Plato, Calvin, Martin Luther, Zoroaster, Mao. Many would include Freud among these. Other philosophers on this list made contributions which had an impact on religion but are not founders of a religion or branch of religion.

Of the twelve "classical world religions", the founders of eight are represented on this list (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism). Shinto and Hinduism have no founder. Sikhism and the Bahai Faith (the youngest of the "classical world religions") have founders (Guru Nanak Dev and Baha'u'llah, respectively), but Hart did not include them on his list.

Comments from Readers of this Website about the Ranking of Jesus on this List

Jesus Christ
It is not uncommon for people to wonder why Jesus is not ranked first on this list. As far as the way the list appears on this web page, the answer is simple: We have reproduced Hart's list in exactly the order he wrote it. But it is true that many people, both Christians and secular historians, would have ranked Jesus first on a list of the world's most influential people. Hart said that he himself would have ranked Jesus first, if all the people who today identify themselves as Christians actually followed Jesus's teachings more substantially. He considers contemporary Muslims more influenced by Muhammad than contemporary Christians are by Jesus.

Also, Hart's outlook was essentially secular in outlook. He did consider the doctrinal role of Jesus in human salvation as taught by Christianity. Muhammad, on the other hand, carved out an actual, geographic empire during his lifetime. Christians as well as historians agree that Jesus himself conquered no lands and led no armies during his lifetime.

John H. Kerr, an elder in the Presbyterian Church of Canada wrote us on this topic. His ideas, echoed by many and presented here with his permission are below:

In my opinion no one has come near to Jesus Christ with respect to His influence on so many aspects of our world and society. Most schools of higher learning in the English speaking world and many in the non-English speaking world exist because of Christ. Women and children throughout this world, with the exception of a few countries have a much better way of life because of what Christ taught and people accepted. The peace, good will and renewal that result each year from the celebration of His birth is astounding. Many of the internalional charities that exist today are Christian based. The Christian work ethic has spurred inventions of all sorts that have benefited mankind enormously. Just think of the influence Christians have had down through the centuries, every bit of their influence is either directly or indirectly associated with the influence Christ had on them. Many of these Christians are on Hart's list.

Even Karl Marx owed his fanatical promotion of communism to the revenge he sought for being bounced out of a Christian Seminary, by a misdirected priest.

To a point the creation of such a list is as you point out subjective, and subject to the bias of the individual or group that prepare it. But, for the life of me, I cannot conceive how any well read individual with eyes to see and ears to hear, would not place Jesus Christ at the top of such a list, so far ahead of the next most influential person that one would leave at least the subsequent 9 spaces on the list vacant, to emphasize this point.

All of the creation wouldn't exist if it were not for Jesus Christ. When one begins to dwell on what would or would not have been, had Christ not existed in the beginning, let alone had He not come to earth 2000 years ago it boggles the mind. When I think of the thousands of prayers answered, lives changed, wars ended or avoided, I can't help but thank such a benevolent Lord. Was it not the influence of a Christian mother on her son, the leader of the Soviet Union, and a Christian American President, working with Mikhail Gorbachev that brought an end to the cold war. When we look at the cause and effect of so many major positive events in our history, we see the hand of Christ working on one or more of His servants.

John McDonagh (22 July 2005), who identifies himself as an informal proponent of freethought (a secular movement dedicated to reasoning independently of authority, especially religious dogma and revelation), wrote in response to John H. Kerr's statements:

John Kerr's comment may seem puzzling to the uniniated reader when he says that "All of the creation wouldn't exist if it were not for Jesus Christ. When one begins to dwell on what would or would not have been, had Christ not existed in the beginning". To the uninitiated reader, Jesus was born within the last 3000 years, so they may feel baffled as to how he could have participated in the creation of the universe billions of years ago. In fact, Mr. Kerr has let slip in the Gospel of John idea that Jesus eternally preexisted as the cosmic Logos.

Mr. Kerr would do well to read this quote:

"Muslims believe that Jesus did not die on the cross (Koran 4:157), but this does not mean that historians (even Muslim historians) can use this belief as historical evidence that Jesus was not crucified. What one believes and what one can demonstrate historically are usually two different things."

-Robert J. Miller, Bible scholar, (Bible Review, December 1993, Vol. IX, Number 6, p. 9)

[John Kerr also wrote:] "Most schools of higher learning in the English speaking world and many in the non-English speaking world exist because of Christ."

[John McDonagh responds:] As shown by Joseph McCabe in his Rationalist Encyclopedia, education in the Roman Empire suffered upon the acceptance of Trinitarian Christianity.

[John Kerr also wrote:] "Women and children throughout this world, with the exception of a few countries have a much better way of life because of what Christ taught and people accepted."

[John McDonagh responds:] Mr. Kerr seems ignorant of the worldwide history of ethics. In fact, many of the helpful ideas espoused by Jesus were espoused by the Buddha, Confucius, etc. hundreds of years before Jesus allegedly lived and were common knowledge internationally already. Jesus' relatively original ideas, such as his emphasis on eternal damnation, his discouragement of intellectualism and critical thinking, his authoritarian leadership style, and his childish intolerance have not contributed to the improvement of social conditions.

Timothy W. Foutz (28 June 2002) also wrote to us about the ranking of Jesus on Hart's list:

Hart's criteria is clearly biased. His list is supposed to be about the most influential people, but he put Muhammad first because he was both a religious and military leader. Apparently one has to have a diverse resume to make the list. But there is a huge difference between what a person did themselves and how much of an influence they were. When Jesus ascended into heaven, there were only 120 people he could call his followers, so personally he was not very influential. But the movement he started is undoubtedly the most influential of all human history. I think Hart's list has value, but why make such a list if he wasn't going to be honest with the data? My suspicion is that Hart didn't want Jesus to be first on the list for personal reasons regardless of what history has clearly shown.

Alan Thibideau wrote (9 October 2002):

Aside from my religious affiliations and the present climate (after 9/11), it makes more sense that Christ sit atop the list of most influential individuals simply because history turned on his life more so than it did any other single figure. No one else can claim that history turned on a dime after his life.

The fact that someone was both a spiritual and national leader is not relevant in this sense. That is a personal accomplishment and might make that person more successful in his lifetime but does not make him necessarily a more influential person in history. So whoever did this ranking is simply incorrect if their criteria was the most influential person in history.

The Rev. Anthony J. Felich, (Pastor of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian Church in America) in Overland Park, Kansas; www.redeemer-pca.org) offered the following comments (9 April 2004):

While I appreciate the idea that Muhammad was both a founder of religion and a political/military leader, he should not displace Jesus Christ. Newton should be third at best. My obvious religious convictions aside:

1. Our dating system is based on Christ
2. 80% of the people in your top 100 were Christian or some sect thereof, not Islamic.
3. For good or bad, many wars have been fought over Christianity.
4. Christianity has mingled with "the state" in hundreds of countries for centuries.

Technically, Muhammad invented a religion somewhat based on Zoroastrianism. It was not very unique, when analyzed. Jesus Christ is the forecasted Jewish Messiah and the founder of the Christian Church. Hard to get more influential than that.


John F. Kennedy over FDR? Seriously? Other than the Cuban Missle Crisis, what did he really do? Cultural icon maybe, but over FDR? Even Truman was more influential.

Whoever invented the television [Philo Farnsworth] should be way up near the top. It has forever changed communication... probably not for the better.

Rev. Felich wrote (above): "Technically, Muhammad invented a religion somewhat based on Zoroastrianism. It was not very unique, when analyzed. Jesus Christ is the forecasted Jewish Messiah and the founder of the Christian Church. Hard to get more influential than that."

John McDonagh (22 July 2005) wrote in response to this statement (and another item on this page):

Mr. Felich steps into matters beyond the ambit of the historian. A historian would have to discount Jesus as the forecasted Jewish messiah, since 99.999999999% of all rabbis would not accept Jesus as the forecasted messiah. For that matter, Christianity, as with Islam, remains quite derivative.

Also, most historians would credit Paul with the establishment of the Christian Church.

Partially as a response to Rev. Felich's comments (and other comments shown here), M. S. Abdullah has written a list of 16 Reasons why Muhammad (not Jesus) should be ranked first on the list of history's most influential people.

Churchiaya@aol.com, an Evangelical Christian, said he agreed with Mr. Hart's choice for the top 2 spots, and that Jesus should be listed even lower. His explanation is here.

Mark Aubart expressed the opinion that Jesus should not even be on a list of mortal men. You can read his explanation here.

Musa Raza's response to Aubart, and his reasons why Muhammad should be at the top of the list are here.

Patrick Egbuchunam of Lagos, Nigeria wrote this thoughtful and detailed essay explaining why Jesus should be ranked #1 on the list of history's most influential people.


Other Suggested Revisions, Additions to the List

Michael McConnell (25 Sept. 2001) also suggests that some revisions to Hart's list are in order:
I just glanced at your list of the 100 most influential people and their religion and all I can say is this list is terrible at best. Jesus would have to be number one, Marx/Muhammad tie for number 2... Issac Newton was put above Marx who influences social-economic policy to this day.

Aki Nestori Vainio, a self-described atheist from Finland, does not believe that Moses existed (9 June 2003):

The book [The 100] is indeed very subjective, as you remark on your page. My main problem with it is the fact that Moses is seated at 15. I would've omitted him completely. He probably did not exist. He is a mythological character, just like Sankara, who did not make it into the book.
[Most people would probably disagree with Vainio, simply because the existence of the books attributed to Moses -- books which are the mostly widely published texts in human history -- strongly suggest that somebody had to write them. That person (or persons) would clearly be highly influential on human history, regardless of the particulars of his life.]

Steve Petersen [steve_petersen@msn.com] made the following suggestion (27 April 2002:

Yes, indeed, I think you need to add another person to your list! What about Ellen G. White of the Seventh Day Adventist Church? She wrote more books than any other woman in history!

On 6 August 2002, Jukka Vatanen of Finland wrote with the following suggestion:

My vote for the list of "Top 100" is NICOLA TESLA, who was the actual inventor of the radio. Marconi was most successiful in capitalizing the usage of it, but TESLA was first. He also invented the Tesla turbine that powered the Niagara Falls alternating current generators. The alternating current being propably his greatest invention, making it possible to transfer high voltage current long distances. This invention alone would make him of same importance as Marconi etc...

Charles Benedetti wrote:

I predict that the most influential person of all time will be L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Church of Scientology (1954). It may take 10 years, or 25 or 50, but that day will surely come. I make this statement after 20 years of experiencing and drawing from the deep reservoir of this spiritual philosophy and Wisdom. Only those who have experienced Scientology would understand these words, and therefore I would not expect others to understand or agree with me. For those who may seek to know more about Scientology, see my website: www.our-home.org/charliebenedetti.


- Dean Knoblauch of Canada made many suggestions, including the suggestion to add Philo Farnsworth and Miguel de Cervantes to the list. His detailed suggestions are here.
- Dr. M. A. Hafeez suggested that Ibn Nafis replace William Harvey on the list. More.
- Mark Soakai suggested Joseph Smith, Jr. should be on the list. More.
- Dragon Atma explained why he felt Columbus isn't so influential, and discussed who should really be #1. More.

Of course, the most ridiculous ommission of all from Hart's list is Philo Farnsworth, the inventor of the television. His invention came relatively late in history, and so he had no impact on humanity during the first thousands of years of civilization. But today television has so completely transformed human culture, values, beliefs, etc. that its inventor is easily one of the most influential people in history with regards to people now living.


Muhammad

Many Muslims have written to us about this webpage. All that have written to us are in agreement with Hart's assessment of Muhammad's top-ranked place on this list, but many have written to disagree with parts of Hart's description of Muhammad. In particular, a number of correspondents have written to point out that Muhammad is not the author of the Qu'ran, but is in fact the Prophet through whom Allah delivered the Qu'ran to humanity. Hamzah Jaradat's notes on this are representative of this discussion: Mohammad is the not the author of the Qu'ran.

Excerpt from Hart's book:

My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world's most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels...

Muhammad founded and promulgated one of the world's great religions, and became an immensely effective political leader. Today, thirteen centuries after his death, his influence is still powerful and pervasive... Like all religions, Islam exerts an enormous influence upon the lives of its followers. It is for this reason that the founders of the world's great religions all figure prominently in this book. Since there are roughly twice as many Christians as Moslems in the world, it may initially seem strange that Muhammad has been ranked higher than Jesus. There are two principal reasons for that decision. First, Muhammad played a far more important role in the development of Islam than Jesus did in the development of Christianity. Although Jesus was responsible for the main ethical and moral precepts of Christianity (insofar as these differed from Judaism), St. Paul was the main developer of Christian theology, its principal proselytizer, and the author of a large portion of the New Testament.

Muhammad, however, was responsible for both the theology of Islam and its main ethical and moral principles. In addition, he played the key role in proselytizing the new faith, and in establishing the religious practices of Islam. Moreover, he is the author of the Moslem holy scriptures, the Koran, a collection of certain of Muhammad's insights that he believed had been directly revealed to him by Allah. Most of these utterances were copied more or less faithfully during Muhammad's lifetime and were collected together in authoritative form not long after his death. The Koran therefore, closely represents Muhammad's ideas and teachings and to a considerable extent his exact words. No such detailed compilation of the teachings of Christ has survived. Since the Koran is at least as important to Moslems as the Bible is to Christians, the influence of Muhammed through the medium of the Koran has been enormous It is probable that the relative influence of Muhammad on Islam has been larger than the combined influence of Jesus Christ and St. Paul on Christianity. On the purely religious level, then, it seems likely that Muhammad has been as influential in human history as Jesus.

Furthermore, Muhammad (unlike Jesus) was a secular as well as a religious leader. In fact, as the driving force behind the Arab conquests, he may well rank as the most influential political leader of all time... the Arab conquests of the seventh century have continued to play an important role in human history, down to the present day. It is this unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history.
M. S. Abdullah has written a list of 16 Reasons why Muhammad (not Jesus) should be ranked first on the list of history's most influential people.

Musa Raza's his reasons why Muhammad should be at the top of the list are here.


Additional Notes about the Religious Affiliation and Religious Beliefs of History's 100 Most Influential People

NOTE: Adherents.com presents this list, and Hart's arguments, for informational purposes. We do not take any stand on the validity of Hart's statements. We welcome (and will post online) alternative viewpoints.


Is Alexander Graham Bell really the inventor of the telephone?: There is some dispute over whether or not Bell is "the inventor" of the telephone. A helpful document is: Who is credited as inventing the telephone? Was it Alexander Graham Bell, Elisha Gray, or Antonio Meucci?, a page sponsored by the Science Reference Services of U.S. The Library of Congress. This page states that "Alexander Graham Bell was the first to patent the telephone," but also points out that Gray and Meucci played important roles in the development of the telephone. On the other hand, the Italian Society of America has an article about Antonio Meucci that casts the Italian inventor as the true father of the telephone, and takes a dim view of Bell.


Time Magazine's Person of the Century Poll

"While Time deliberated on its Person of the Century, the magazine's Web site invited readers to vote. [Source: The King of the Century" in the San Jose Mercury News, 27 Dec. 1999.; URL: http://www7.mercurycenter.com:80/premium/nation/docs/timebox27.htm]

Elvis Presley Assemblies of God624,574
Yitzhak Rabin Jewish599,557
Adolf Hitler Nazism516,408
Billy Graham Presbyterian, Baptist470,477
Albert Einstein Jewish443,630
Martin Luther King Jr. Baptist381,462
Pope John Paul II Catholic372,015
Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley Latter-day Saint255,026
Mohandas Gandhi Hindu, Jain163,940
Ronald Reagan Presbyterian81,262
Source:  Time Web site: www.pathfinder.com/time/
*Hinckley is president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
 

In choosing their Person of the Century, Time did not use the poll results, but made their own decision. They chose Albert Einstein (Jewish).

The runners-up for Time's Person of the Century were Franklin Roosevelt (an Episcopalian) and Mohandas Gandhi (a devout Hindu whose mother was a Jain and whose beliefs and practices were partially Jain).

Most Influential Asians of the 20th Century

  • Hirohito
  • Ho Chi Minh
  • Pol Pot
  • Issey Miyake
  • Daisuke Inoue
  • Rabindranath Tagore
  • Sun Yat-sen
  • Mohandas Gandhi
  • Sukarno
  • Mao Zedong
  • Lee Kuan Yew
  • Deng Xiaoping
  • Corazon Aquino
  • Park Chung Hee
  • Eiji Toyoda
  • King Rama
  • Swaminathan
  • Akira Kurosawa
  • Dalai Lama
  • Akio Morita

[Source: Nisid Hajari. "Asians of the Century" in Time Asia, August 23-30, 1999 Vol. 154 No. 7/8; URL: http://www.cnn.com/ASIANOW/time/asia/magazine/1999/990823/cover1.html]


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Our thanks to Jason Quartarone for assistance with some Voltaire, Marconi and Copernicus facts. Thanks to Joe Rowe for assistance with Johann Gutenberg info. Thanks to Ann Rodgers-Melnick of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for additional Edison information.

Copyright © 2005 by Adherents.com. Please send comments, suggestions, questions, etc. to webmaster@adherents.com.
Web page created 16 September 1999. Last modified 31 May 2007.