History, Uncategorized

History's 100 Greatest Men


100 greatest men

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;

9         Christopher Columbus                  explorer;  led Europe to Americas

10       Albert Einstein                                 physicist; relativity; Einsteinian Physics

11       Louis Pasteur                                     scientist; pasteurization

12       Galileo Galilei                                   astronomer; accurately described heliocentric solar system

13       Aristotle                                              influential Greek philosopher

14       Euclid                                                    mathematician; Euclidian geometry

15       Moses                                                    major prophet of Judaism

16       Charles Darwin                                     biologist

17       Shih Huang Ti                                     Chinese emperor

18       Augustus Caesar                                 ruler

19       Nicolaus Copernicus                           astronomer, proponent of heliocentricity

20       Antoine Laurent Lavoisier                   father of modern chemistry; philosopher;

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 and 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; expositor of  capitalism;

31       William Shakespeare                           literature;

32       John Dalton                                        chemist; physicist; atomic theory; law of partial pressures   (Dalton’s law)

33       Alexander the Great                            conqueror

34       Napoleon Bonaparte                           French conqueror

35       Thomas Edison                                   inventor

36       Antony van Leeuwenhoek                   invented microscope; studied microscopic life

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; advances in bacteriology, immunology and chemotherapy

44       John Locke                                         philosopher and liberal theologian

45       Ludwig van Beethoven                        composer

46       Werner Heisenberg                             a founder of quantum mechanics; discovered principle of uncertainty

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                                   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 reformer; founder of Calvinism

58       Gregor Mendel                                   Mendelian genetics

59       Max Planck                                        physicist; thermodynamics

60       Joseph Lister                                      principal 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                                    discoverer of the 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       Nicoli Machiavelli                               wrote The Prince (influential political treatise)

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 around Cape Of Good Hope

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                                              philosopher; 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                                       Holy Roman Empire created with his baptism in 800 AD

98       Homer                                                    epic poet

99       Justinian I                                            Roman emperor; re-conquered Mediterranean empire;

100     Mahavira                                            founder of Jainism


The Runners-up:

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 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.

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