While some of the names on this list you’ve probably been hearing since you were little, most of them are not international rock stars or even close to it. They are ordinary people that were placed in extraordinary situations and somehow managed to shake the world. With everything from generals to rappers, from revolutionaries to news reporters, these are the 25 most influential people in the world.
In 1996, after a Libyan prison uprising, Gaddafi’s regime refused to release the names of the thousands of inmates they had killed. Many family members who questioned Gaddafi ended up in prison themselves. Fathi, aware of the risk, took up their case and was of course arrested not long after. His arrest, however, led to rioting and demonstrations that ended the regime of a brutal dictator.
The subject of much controversy, this Australian born hacker was chosen to be the face of wikileaks from among his peers due to the fact that he had no wife, kids, or even permanent residence, and therefore the least to lose. He willingly filled the role and is now facing the consequences.
As director of the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative (GVFI) Wolfe spends most of his time in remote regions of Africa and Asia taking blood samples and tracking down viruses before they make the jump from animals to humans. It’s not exactly the safest job in the world, but millions of people are glad he does it.
Always one to think outside the box, Larry and his friend Sergey did with Google what most people would never have considered possible – allow people to find anything they want on the web. Its that resolve and willingness on his behalf to think big coupled with his stubborn relentlessness that make him such a powerful innovator.
As hard as being prosecutor general can be, doing it in Afghanistan where the rule of law is borderline non-existent is much worse than that. Maria, however, in spite of being the only female prosecutor general in the country, refuses to bow to the death threats and corrupt law enforcement but rather presses on in her fight for justice in Afghanistan.
His song “Rais Lebled” became the anthem of revolution across the Arab world, inspiring young people, and becoming a driving force in the overthrow of President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali.
He has been sometimes described as the Marco Polo of neuroscience and his discoveries have led to a much deeper understanding of that mysterious mass within our heads that we call our brain.
At 37 years old Kathi learned that she only had 3 years left to live after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Drawing on her previous experience from working in the pharmaceutical industry and with her 18 month old daughter as her motivation, she started the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. 13 years later she is still going strong and pushing for more efficiency in the world of pharmaceutical research.
As the first black president Obama has already proven that goals we may once have thought to be impossible are in fact attainable. Although his presidency has drawn both praise and criticism he has undeniably been responsible for leading a world which has become ever so complicated both politically and economically.
Although being a Japanese politician usually involves being as tame and moderate as possible, after the nuclear crisis threatened the town of Minami Soma Mayor Sakurai forsook the status quo as he posted a 10 minute video to Youtube lashing out against the national government for ignoring the pleas of his village while they starved to death. Not surprisingly, the world took notice.
If you are not addicted to destroying pig infested fortifications with flightless, angry birds then consider yourself lucky, because it is a hard addiction to break. And if you are, blame Peter, he’s the mastermind behind the mayhem.
After releasing her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother Amy Chua struck a chord with American parents everywhere. In it she details her own experience raising her daughters and how she moved away from the traditional, strict Chinese approach. It drew much criticism and praise, forcing parents everywhere to consider their own methods.
Mere weeks after assuming leadership of the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the 2008 bombings in Mumbai brought US-Pakistani relations to a new low. With his country becoming more fundamentalist, nationalistic, and weary of American policies, Pasha has his work cut out for him as he tries to reconcile two opposing forces.
When the tsunami hit Japan Takeshi was on the front line, refusing to be evacuated until all of his patients had been taken to safety. He didn’t make it back home until three days after the earthquake, just in time for his second boy to be born, whom they named Rei. In English it implies “beam of light” and in Japanese, “wisdom to overcome hardship.”
As one of the most influential people in Afghan media, Saad plays an important role in helping to form public opinion within the country. His willingness to speak out against the Karzai government and show women on television (something the Taliban never allowed) has certainly drawn a lot of attention to himself. Of course, he shows no sign of relenting.
He is one of the premier soldier/scholars of our day and after over a decade of war he heads up one of the most experienced and battle-tested generations of military leaders America has ever known.
Its every journalists dream, to be on the front lines of an international conflict as the world watches in anticipation. To Ayman that dream became reality as he boldly took us behind the scenes of a revolution that will surely change the course of history.
In spite of China’s infamous ban on Twitter and other microblogs due to the government’s concern about the rapid proliferation of information, Chao’s microblogging platform managed to find favor with the powers that be due to his keenness on keeping information the government dislikes off the internet. His platform, known as Sina Weibo is now reaching 100 million users (Twitter has 200 million) and in spite of the censorship, Chao has managed to create one of the freest forms of expression in the country.
He was once quoted as saying, “After hitchhiking across Africa with 10 bucks in your pocket starting a business doesn’t seem too intimidating.” This former marine and peace corps worker had the idea for Netflix after losing a rented cassette. On his way to workout he realized that the gym had a better business model than Blockbuster. For about $30 a month you could use their service however much you wanted…and Netflix was born.
While most westerners have probably never heard of him, when it comes time to talk about Chinese-American relations Guanglie is a critical component. As a career military officer, under his command the Chinese military has come out with its first aircraft carrier, stealth fighter, and made rapid advances in cyber-warfare.
Playing a critical role on the international relations scene, Hillary has managed to strengthen American alliances in Asia and Europe while simultaneously engaging emerging powers like Brazil, India, and China. Moreover, she has helped direct an administration that is surprisingly united on foreign policy.
At 27 years old Mark has already managed to completely change the way about 500 million people live their lives. As the founder and CEO of Facebook his estimated worth is somewhere around $17.5 billion and in 2010 he was named TIME person of the year.
A successful google executive, this young Egyptian had lost all hope when it came to changing his homeland. Eventually, though, he came to realize the power of social media in uniting people under a common banner. With this knowledge under his belt he helped catalyze the revolution that ousted Mubarak and initiated revolutions across the Arab world.
The Nigerian Banking Industry is notoriously corrupt so when Sanusi took the reigns in 2009 things were not looking very bright. Without delay, however, he fired 8 of his former colleagues and ordered new legislation to bring accountability and transparency to the industry. In spite of having received death threats he continues to promote reforms.
At 65 years old and having spent most of her life in prison, Kyi is no where near done fighting for democracy. In 1991 she won the Nobel Peace Prize and for years has been fighting for freedom in her country.