The brouhaha over Sam Becile’s movie, purportedly titled Innocence of Muslims, reminded me of the book of Michael H. Hart. It was first published in the 1970s and was even featured in TIME magazine. Hart considered the Muslim prophet as the greatest man ever. This is a stark contrast from the idiotic movie of (im)Becile who portrayed the prophet as the worst man ever.
From Michael H. Hart’s 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 in 1992.)
Rank Name Influence
1 Muhammad 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
2 Isaac Newton physicist;
theory of universal gravitation;
laws of motion
3 Jesus Christ founder of Christianity
4 Buddha founder of Buddhism
5 Confucius founder of Confucianism
6 St. Paul proselytizer of Christianity
7 Ts’ai Lun inventor of paper
8 Johann Gutenberg developed movable type printing;
9 Christopher Columbus explorer; led Europe to Americas
10 Albert Einstein physicist; relativity;
11 Louis Pasteur scientist; pasteurization
12 Galileo Galilei astronomer; heliocentric solar system
13 Aristotle influential Greek philosopher
14 Euclid mathematician; Euclidian geometry
15 Moses major prophet of Judaism
16 Charles Darwin biologist, evolution theory
17 Shih Huang Ti first Chinese emperor
18 Augustus Caesar Roamn emperor
19 Nicolaus Copernicus astronomer, heliocentricity
20 Antoine Laurent Lavoisier father of modern chemistry
21 Constantine Roman emperor
22 James Watt developed steam engine
23 Michael Faraday physicist; chemist; discovery of magneto-electricity
24 James Clerk Maxwell physicist; electromagnetic spectrum
25 Martin Luther founder of Protestantism / Lutheranism
26 George Washington first president of United States
27 Karl Marx founder of Marxism, Marxist Communism
28 Wright Brothers inventors of airplane
29 Genghis Khan Mongol conqueror
30 Adam Smith economist; capitalism;
31 William Shakespeare literature;
32 John Dalton chemist; physicist; atomic theory
33 Alexander the Great conqueror
34 Napoleon Bonaparte French conqueror
35 Thomas Edison inventor
36 Antony van Leeuwenhoek invented microscope
37 William T.G. Morton pioneer in anesthesiology
38 Guglielmo Marconi inventor of radio
39 Adolf Hitler conqueror; led Axis Powers in WWII
40 Plato founder of Platonism
41 Oliver Cromwell British political and military leader
42 Alexander Graham Bell inventor of telephone
43 Alexander Fleming penicillin; bacteriology and immunology
44 John Locke philosopher and liberal theologian
45 Ludwig van Beethoven composer
46 Werner Heisenberg quantum mechanics;
47 Louis Daguerre an inventor/pioneer of photography
48 Simon Bolivar National hero of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia
49 Rene Descartes Rationalist philosopher and mathematician
50 Michelangelo painter; sculptor; architect
51 Pope Urban II called for First Crusade
52 ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab Second Caliph; expanded Muslim empire
53 Asoka king of India who converted and spread Buddhism
54 St. Augustine Early Christian theologian
55 William Harvey circulation of blood; modern embryology
56 Ernest Rutherford physicist; pioneer of subatomic physics
57 John Calvin Protestant reformer; founder of Calvinism
58 Gregor Mendel Mendelian genetics
59 Max Planck physicist; quantum dynamics
60 Joseph Lister discoverer of antiseptics
61 Nikolaus August Otto built first four-stroke internal combustion engine
62 Francisco Pizarro Spanish conqueror in South America; defeated Incas
63 Hernando Cortes conquered Mexico for Spain; destroyed Aztec civilization
64 Thomas Jefferson 3rd president of United States
65 Queen Isabella I Spanish ruler
66 Joseph Stalin revolutionary and ruler of USSR
67 Julius Caesar Roman emperor
68 William the Conqueror laid foundation of modern England
69 Sigmund Freud founded Freudian school of psychology /psychoanalysis
70 Edward Jenner vaccination for smallpox
71 Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen discovered X-rays
72 Johann Sebastian Bach composer
73 Lao Tzu founder of Taoism
74 Voltaire writer and philosopher
75 Johannes Kepler astronomer; planetary motions
76 Enrico Fermi initiated the atomic age; father of atom bomb
77 Leonhard Euler physicist; mathematician;
78 Jean-Jacques Rousseau French philosopher and author
79 Nicolo Machiavelli wrote The Prince
80 Thomas Malthus economist; wrote Essay on the Principle of Population
81 John F. Kennedy U.S. President
82 Gregory Pincus endocrinologist; developed birth-control pill
83 Mani founder of Manicheanism,
84 Lenin Russian ruler
85 Sui Wen Ti unified China
86 Vasco da Gama navigator; discovered route from Europe to India
87 Cyrus the Great founder of Persian empire
88 Peter the Great forged Russia into a great European nation
89 Mao Zedong Ruler of modern China
90 Francis Bacon philosopher , scientist
91 Henry Ford developed automobile;
92 Mencius founder of a school of Confucianism
93 Zoroaster founder of Zoroastrianism
94 Queen Elizabeth I British monarch;
95 Mikhail Gorbachev Russian premier who helped end Communist power in USSR
96 Menes unified Upper and Lower Egypt
97 Charlemagne created Holy Roman Empire in 800 AD
98 Homer epic poet
99 Justinian I Roman emperor; re-conquered Mediterranean empire;
100 Mahavira founder of Jainism
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.
I have read Hart’s book a long time ago. If I remember correctly, the foremost criterion he used was the IMPACT of the man on humanity.
The Prophet Muhammad’s impact on 1 billion Muslims is quite obvious.
Jesus Christ was only number 3 because he has to share the glory with St. Paul (Saul of Tarsus), whose persistent proselytization spread the Christian faith all over the Middle East, Asia Minor and Rome. Constantine (No. 21), through the Council of Nicaea, has made Paulinian Christianity the dominant form of Christianity today.
From the list, one can infer that Religion (Muhammad, Jesus, Moses, etc.), Science (Newton, Einstein, Galileo, etc.) and War (Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler, etc.) have the greatest impact on humanity.
Mr. Hart obviously relied heavily on Western history. If he knew more of the Islamic civilization, he would have included Ali ibn Abu Talib, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad. He is not only the 4th Caliph, he is also the “Great Martyr” and Symbol of the Shi’a people – the people of Iran and millions more in Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.
There are also the philosophers Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes). Without Ibn Sina and the other Muslim philosophers, the philosophy of Aristotle would have been forever lost to the Europeans.
Ibn Sina’s (Avicenna’s) magnum opus The Book of Healing is considered the largest work of its kind ever written by one man. It covered Mathematics, Logic, Psychology, Natural Sciences, Astronomy and Music. His Canon of Medicine re-introduced the scientific works of ancient Greek and Roman philosophers-physicians to Medieval Europe, which eventually paved the way for Europe’s Renaissance. These Muslims brought back Greek thought to Europe which ended the 1000 years of European Dark Ages and ushered in the Enlightenment.
It must be duly noted that after the fall of the Roman Empire, the barbarians and the Christians were against Science and Learning and closed down Plato’s Academy and all schools of learning in Europe. The Muslims, whom the Christians used to call Heathens and Infidels, were the ones who re-introduced ancient Greco-Roman thought to medieval Europe.
And there is Ibn Khaldun whose masterpiece The Muqaddimah , his introduction to his main book Universal History, laid down the foundations of modern sociology.
Of course, everyone would have his/her idea of the Top 100 Great Men. I would have a very different list.
I would put Leonardo da Vinci equal to or greater than Michelangelo (No. 50). And I certainly would put more literary writers. Their ideas filter down to the people much more than the philosophers’.
Also, I think Copernicus (No. 19) is highly over-rated. First, he was not the original proponent of a heliocentric solar system. Second, and more importantly, he did not fight for it. He was so afraid of the Catholic Church that he refused to have his book published until after his death.
Unlike Copernicus, Galileo fought for his beliefs.
And so did Rene Descartes (no. 49), who deserves a higher rating. He introduced the basics of the “Scientific Method”, which is still considered as scriptural by many social scientists in the world. The Cartesian worldview – ontology, epistemology and axiology – still predominates.
We still live in a materialist (Cartesian) world even though 20th century Physics had already made Galileo (No. 12) and Newton (No.2) passé.
The great importance given to the 17th-century gentlemen (Newton, Galileo, Copernicus and Descartes) means that 20th century humans still live under centuries-old beliefs and ideas. But Science had already advanced way beyond these thoughts.
Hopefully, in the 21st century, the ideas of Einstein (No. 10), Heisenberg (No. 46), Planck (No. 59), and Fermi (No. 76) would take root and take over the ideas of the 17th-century gentlemen named above. By taking root, I mean that the people’s concept of the nature of reality, of an individual’s relationship to the Universe, etc. would be based on scientific principles like Relativity Theory, Quantum Mechanics, Uncertainty Principle and even beyond like Super strings theory and M-theory.
Lastly, for the 21st century, three men have the greatest impact on a more practical level. Steven Jobs (Apple) brought the computer to people’s homes. Before Jobs, people (including those at IBM, HP, etc.) thought that computers were made for big corporations and universities and not for individuals. Jim Clark (Netscape) made the Internet and World Wide Web accessible to everyone. And of course, the world’s richest man, Bill Gates. His Microsoft is simply indispensable to almost everyone using a computer.