Top Influential People

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Johannes Gutenberg

Johannes Gutenberg created the printing press, which spread literature to the masses in the most efficient way possible at that time. This invention widened the public’s access to literature and science, which helped bring about the Renaissance and stimulated literacy levels in Europe.

Desiderius Erasmus

Erasmus was a Dutch humanist and great scholar of the Northern Renaissance. Erasmus was the first editor of the New Testament, and challenged both the powers claimed by the papacy and Luther’s predestination ideas. Erasmus’ works influenced humanism and the Reformation.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli was an Italian politician who was more of a realist than an idealist. Machiavelli justified realpolitik as a means for people in power to stay in power. He also wrote many guides for leaders and monarchs such as “The Prince.”

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

Palestrina, an Italian composer, composed a piece for the Council of Trent in 1545 in order to convince cardinals, bishops, and the Pope to allow polyphonic music in the Church, which they had been against at the time. Palestrina’s piece was embraced by these Church leaders, and now sacred polyphony is the official music for Roman Catholic Mass.

Elizabeth I

Elizabeth I of England ruled from 1558-1603 during the Reformation. Elizabeth became Protestant, and though hated by both Catholics and puritans, Elizabeth had saved England from Spain, colonized and stabilized England, making her a beloved figure.

Jean Jacques Rousseau

Rousseau, a Swiss, was a genius who hated society. He believed the evil in the world existed because of the I even distribution of property, and stressed the importance of a social contract and general will. Rousseau also felt women should be intellectually equal to men and is known as one of the founding fathers of democracy.

Rousseau, Voltaire, and Montesquieu

Rousseau, Voltaire, and Montesquieu were intellectual and influential writers. Rousseau wrote The Social Contract, which stated society and uneven distribution of wealth corrupts men. Voltaire wrote and lectured about the freedom of speech. Montesquieu wrote The Spirit of the Laws which explains what an effective governmental system looks like. These writers influenced the French Revolution.

Claude Monet

Monet experimented and studied the effect the daylight and sun’s position had on objects with his art. Because many fail to see this in Monet’s art, he is sometimes underestimated. His art, however, is a prelude of sorts into the art of the 20th century, due to his experiments.

John Locke

Locke was an advocate for liberal democracy. He argued that the government’s right to rule should be based on the conclave of the people; in other words, a social contract, or power sanctioned by people. Locke also stressed that all men were equal, which was an unpopular opinion in his time. Locke influenced enlightenment thinkers.

Konrad Adenauer

Adenauer was the first chancellor of Germany after World War 2. He wanted closer ties with France, the US and the rest of Europe. Adenauer is important because he helped reintegrate Germany into European Affairs.

Karl Marx

Marx is known as the Father of Communism. Without his Communist Manifesto, communism would not have taken root in parts of Europe. Max was also a major critic of the Industrial Revolution and wrote a deep analysis on how capitalism deforms human society.

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare, famous playwright, transformed European Theatre by expanding the expectations of what theatre should accomplish. He did this by innovating characterization, plot, language, gesture, etc. in his plays. Many of Shakespeare’s phrases from his plays are still used today.

Winston Churchill

Churchill was a British statesman who led Britain throughout most of World War II and planned many allied campaigns. Churchill predicted an iron curtain that would separate Communist Europe from the rest of the West.

Olympe de Gouges

Olympe de Gouges, a proponent in democracy, demanded equal rights for French women that French men were demanding for themselves. In her Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen, she challenged the practice of male authority and the idea of male-female inequality.

Albert Einstein

Einstein was German physicist who formulated the special theory of relativity and the general theory of relativity. Einstein revolutionized the way scientists thought about space, time, and matter through his theory of relativity.

Alexander II

Alexander II was the son of Nicholas I, and as czar of Russia, he made reforms that included limited emancipation of the serfs. While these reforms weren’t greatly appreciated, Alexander II’s attempt at reform is notable.


Mazzini was an Italian nationalist whose writings encouraged the movement for a unified and independent Italy. Mazzini was the first person that tried to unify all of Italy. He wanted a centralized democratic republic based on universal male suffrage and the will of the people, and his different democratic republicanism seemed too radical for the people.


Garibaldi was an Italian patriot whose conquest of Sicily and Naples led to the formation of the Italian states. Garibaldi was also leader of the Red Shirts.


Descartes, a French philosopher, discovered analytical geometry. He saw Algebra and Geometry as having a direct relationship and he often reduced everything to spiritual or physical. His famous quote is “I think, therefore I am”.

Otto Van Bismarck

Bismarck was once Prime Minister of Prussia. He wanted a greater, unified Germany. Bismarck also preferred ‘iron and blood’ kind of ruling over diplomacy. He led the unification of Germany in 1871.

Charles Darwin

Darwin, an English naturalist, studied the plants and animals of South America and the Pacific islands, and in his book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, he shares his theory of evolution and natural selection.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith, a Scottish economist, believed in capitalism. Smith advocated private enterprise and free trade and in 1776 wrote Wealth of Nations instigated laissez-faire capitalism

Peter the Great

Peter the Great was the czar of Russia who introduced ideas from western Europe to reform the government. He was an absolutist and limited the power of the Strelsky and the Boyars. Peter is responsible for the westernization of Russia.

Sigmund Freud

Freud was an Austrian neurologist who originated psychoanalysis. Freud believed that human behavior is irrational and is the outcome of conflict between the id (irrational unconscious driven by sexual, aggressive, and pleasure-seeking desires) and ego (rationalizing conscious) and superego (ingrained moral values). This encouraged deeper thinking.

Louis XIV

Louis XIV was king of France from 1643 to 1715. His lengthy reign was marked by the expansion of French influence in the splendor of Versailles. Being an absolutist, he utilized versailles to keep checks on the nobility and to limit their power.

Cite this paper

Top Influential People. (2021, Nov 11). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/top-influential-people/

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