Who do you consider the most inspirational person of all time? Martin Luther King Jr.? Nelson Mandela? There have been many great historical figures that have shaped the world down the ages, and it would be very difficult (if not impossible) to pick those whose impact on the happenings in the world was greatest. Yet, we gave it a try and compiled this post with some of most inspirational people of all time. Some of them are famous, some of them are rather unknown, but all of them have one thing in common – they changed the world. From Charles Darwin to Dalai Lama, here are 25 Unbelievable People Who Changed The World.
A renowned English naturalist, geologist, and biologist, Charles Darwin came up with a theory that made us rethink our place in the world. Know as evolution by natural selection, his idea that all species of life (including humans) have evolved from common ancestors shook the whole world. Darwin published his theory of evolution with compelling evidence in his revolutionary book On the Origin of Species in 1859.
Born in 1955, Tim Berners-Lee is an English engineer and computer scientist, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web. Sometimes also referred to as the “Father of the Internet,” Berners-Lee designed and built the first Web browser, editor, and server. The widely adopted technologies changed the way information is created and consumed forever.
Nicholas Winton was a British humanitarian who is best known for organizing the rescue of 669 children, most of them Jewish, from former Czechoslovakia on the eve of the Second World War. Winton brought the children to Britain, battling bureaucracy at both ends, saving them from certain death. He organized a total of 8 trains from Prague, with some other forms of transport also set up from Vienna. Winton died in 2015 at the ripe old age of 106.
Also known as Siddhartha Gautama, Gautama Buddha was a spiritual leader on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. Buddha was born as a prince into luxury in the 6th century BC. However, when he grew up, he embarked on a journey of self-discovery. After years of rigorous contemplation and meditation, he found Enlightenment and became the Buddha. Through Buddhism, he has influenced lives of millions people all over the world.
Also known as “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement,” Rosa Parks was a pioneer of civil rights in a racially segregated Alabama in 1950’s. In 1955, the African-American civil rights activist refused to give away her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, thereby, disobeying the bus driver’s orders. Her rebellious act triggered what later became known as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, one of the key events in the African-American Civil Rights Movement.
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A successful Swiss businessman and devoted social activist, Henry Dunant is remembered as the very first recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901. During a business trip in 1859, Dunant saw the horrible aftermath of the Battle of Solferino in Italy (Napoleon’s French Army vs. Franz Joseph I’s Austrian Army). In response to the cruelties he witnessed, he founded the Red Cross in 1863. The Geneva Convention (adopted in 1864) was also based on his humanitarian ideas.
Known as El Libertador, Simon Bolivar was a prominent Venezuelan military and political leader who played a key role in freeing six South and Central American countries – Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama from the Spanish rule. Bolivar was born into a wealthy aristocratic family, but he devoted most of his life to military campaigns and liberation efforts. The country of Bolivia was named in honor of this inspirational man.
Albert Einstein is generally considered one the most respected and influential scientists of all time. Throughout his life, he came up with a number of interesting and revolutionary concepts, ideas, and theories. It was the Theory of Relativity, though, that made him one of the greatest historical figures to change the world. Even now, a century later, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is still reshaping how the modern scientific community thinks as they search for a grand Theory of Everything.
Leonardo da Vinci
It is really difficult to describe all of the ways in which Leonardo da Vinci shaped the world; this Italian Renaissance genius mastered so many things during his lifetime, from sculpture and painting to architecture, music, mathematics, and anatomy to engineering etc. Considered one of the most diversely talented men who have ever lived on Earth, da Vinci is also credited with numerous revolutionary inventions including the parachute, helicopter, tank, and scissors.
A famous Italian explorer, navigator, and colonizer, Christopher Columbus was not the first European to reach the Americas (having been preceded by the Vikings); however, his voyages started a period of unprecedented exploration, conquest, and colonization that lasted several centuries. Columbus’ travels to the New World also had a significant impact on the geography at the time as it was thought that the Earth was flat and that there was nothing beyond Europe.
Martin Luther King Jr.
One of the most influential figures of the 20th century, Martin Luther King Jr. is best known for his nonviolent campaign against racism (for which he received the 1964 Peace Prize). His vision of society in which race was not important in how people were treated has inspired millions all over the world. MLK Jr. also played a key role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs and Gandhi’s philosophy.
The founder of Microsoft, the iconic technology company, Bill Gates has been the richest person in the world for more than two decades. Recently, though, he has been known more as a devoted philanthropist than a businessman. Gates made computers more accessible for all by spurring the rise of the home-computing market, and he is now determined to get everyone in the world access to the internet. He has been also working on projects focused on fighting global warming and gender inequality.
Widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language, William Shakespeare influenced a number of writers as well as millions of readers all over the world through his work. In fact, he changed the world in several other ways, too. Shakespeare coined about 2,000 new words (many of which are still used), and he also inspired many other famous artists – from music composers to painters and film producers.
A renowned Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud changed the way we all think about ourselves through his unique research of the mysterious world of the subconscious. By introducing new techniques to probe the unconscious mind, Freud provided useful tools for understanding the secret desires of the masses.
Oskar Schindler was an opportunistic German businessman, member of the Nazi Party, and spy known for womanizing and excessive drinking, which looks like anything but a background of a hero. Yet, despite all of his flaws, he proved to be a truly inspirational character as he is credited with saving the lives of about 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. Schindler’s heroic story has been documented and celebrated in many books and films, most notably in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film Schindler’s List.
A Roman Catholic nun and devoted missionary, Mother Teresa dedicated almost all her life to helping poor, ill, and disabled people and orphans. She founded the Missionaries of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious congregation which is now active in most countries of the world. The winner of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, Mother Teresa was canonized in 2016 (19 years after her death) by Pope Francis.
The 16th President of the US, Abraham Lincoln is known for many great things such as preserving the Union during the American Civil War, strengthening the federal government, and modernizing the American economy, but it was his anti-slavery efforts that earned him the reputation of a truly remarkable and inspirational historical figure. As a devoted emancipator of slaves, he created a legacy that endures.
One of the most famous and respected modern scientists, Stephen Hawking has made a stunning contribution to the world of science (particularly to cosmology). What makes his credits even more impressive is the fact that he has been suffering from a rare, slow-progressing disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that has left him completely paralyzed. Despite the horrible disease, Hawking is still continuing his research in order for us to better understand the world.
Also known as the Unknown Protester or Unknown Rebel, the Tank Man is the nickname of an unknown man who stood in front of a column of tanks to block their way after the Chinese military had brutally suppressed the Tiananmen Square Protests in June 1989. It is not known who the man was or what happened to him, but the photo of him has become an international and very powerful symbol of brave, non-violent resistance.
Born in 570 in Mecca (modern Saudi Arabia), Muhammad was the prophet and founder of the religion of Islam. He united Arabian nations into a single Muslim political entity and ensured that his teachings, practices, and the Quran formed the basis of Islamic religious belief. Muhammad had few early followers, but he managed to make most of the Arabian Peninsula convert to Islam before his death in 632. Islam has expanded immensely over the centuries and now is the second largest religion in the world with over 1.8 billion followers.
The 14th Dalai Lama
The winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, the 14th Dalai Lama is known for his Buddhist peace philosophy based on reverence for all living things and the idea of a universal responsibility that embraces both man and nature. The current Tibetan leader has been always willing to compromise and seek reconciliation despite brutal violations. He has also been a keen supporter of women’s rights, inter-faith dialogues, and environmentalism to name a few things.
Nicknamed “The People’s Princess,” Princess Diana won hearts of millions of people all over the world through her hard charity work. She devoted much of her short life (she died in a car accident at the age of just 36) to helping poor people in developing countries. A leader of a Nobel Peace Prize-winning campaign to ban landmines, Princess Diana was involved with dozens of charities and non-profit organizations including the London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, The Red Cross, and AIDS research.
The South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, philanthropist, and former President of South Africa (1994 to 1999), Nelson Mandela was truly a transformative force in the history of South Africa and the world. Despite having been imprisoned for almost 26 years, Mandela never lost faith in winning freedom for the South African people. His tireless work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime and democracy has inspired millions all over the world and earned him the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.
Joan of Arc
Also known as the Maid of Orleans, Joan of Arc is the greatest heroine of French history and one of the most famous and inspirational female figures. Born as a poor farm girl in 1412, she believed she was chosen to lead France to victory in the Hundred Years’ War against England. She died before the end of the war (she was burned at the stake in 1431), but her courage and dedication (particularly during the Siege of Orleans) significantly boosted the morale of the French army and paved the way for the ultimate French victory.
Jesus of Nazareth
The central figure of Christianity, Jesus of Nazareth has changed the world in so many ways that he is often considered the most influential and inspirational figure of all time. These days, over 2.4 billion Christians follow his ideas and teachings. Jesus’s compassion and universal concern for suffering, his humility, and forgiveness were in contrast with what was considered virtuous by most ancient civilizations of his time.
Photos: 25. wikimedia commons (public domain), 24. Paul Clarke, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, CC BY-SA 4.0, 23. cs:User:Li-sung, Nicholas Winton in Prague, CC BY-SA 3.0, 22. Max Pixel (public domain), 21. wikimedia commons (public domain), 20. ICRC, Henry Dunant 1855, CC BY-SA 2.0, 19. wikimedia commons (public domain), 18-15. wikimedia commons (public domain), 14. DFID – UK Department for International Development, Bill Gates July 2014, CC BY 2.0, 13-9. wikimedia commons (public domain), 8. Lwp Kommunikáció via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 7. HiMY SYeD via flickr, CC BY 2.0, 6-5. wikimedia commons (public domain), 4. Auguel, Princess Diana at Accord Hospice colorized, CC BY-SA 4.0, 3. Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science via wikimedia commons, no known copyright. 2-1. wikimedia commons (public domain)