History has been dominated by influential figures who have changed the world for the better. From awe-inspiring intellectuals to altruistic activists, these public figures are heralded long after they are gone.
Most of you probably even imagined what your dream dinner party would look like if you could invite anyone in the world. While you might want to talk to the odd movie star and athlete, there's a strong chance you'd also want to talk to some of these incredible people on our list. That said, two historical figures on our list are people you would probably never want to meet, but their influence at one time or other was undeniable.
Here are 33 of the most influential people of all time.
33. Isaac Newton
The British physicist Sir Isaac Newton may not be as famed as one Albert Einstein, but those within the esoteric world of physic have long lobbied Newton as the subject's leading pioneer. A leading figure in the Scientific Revolution, his findings have inspired many other esteemed scientists to conduct their life-changing research, including Einstein himself.
His literary magnum opus, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy set a precedent for classical mechanics as we now know it. Along with Gottfried Leibniz, Newton can also take credit for calculus. A true titan of history, Newton will be remembered for centuries to come.
Displaying outstanding virtuosity from an early age, Mozart's timeless compositions were noticed from an early age, and many historians go so far as to label him the world's first child prodigy.
An esteemed virtuoso by age five, Mozart would write and conduct over 600 pieces of music, many of which still influence the compositions of modern-day music as we now know it.
A pioneer of political philosophy and independent thought, Aristotle was a Greek philosopher born in 384 BCE, who, along with Socrates and Plato, opened up the everyday man and women to new lines of thought never before explored.
These ideas slowly spread throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and eventually into the mind of Alexander the Great. A rarity in that he is revered in both Judaism, Christian theology, and Islam, Aristotle is argubally one of the world's first professors. Muslim intellectuals sometimes call him, The First Teacher.” Research conducted at MIT went one step further in their adulation and named him the most influential human being who ever lived.
30. Barack Obama
Barack Obama became best known to the world as the USA's 44th President and the first African-American to hold the esteemed office and while many are aware of his time as the head of state, fewer know about his life before that.
It's a matter of public record that he was an attorney but outside of that not too much is known. For instance, did you know that one of the most liberal, forward-thinking presidents in recent memory candidly admitted to partaking in recreational drug use in college? Yes, he's one cool cat and remains one of the world's most adored figures.
29. Martin Luther King
A civil rights pioneer and a leading advocate of racial equality, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) is considered one of the most significant American leaders of the 20th century. A leading light in the struggle for black suffrage, King personified a calm and collected approach that gained him respect not only among his fellow dignitaries and supporters but also among those that opposed his opposition.
For many years, the icon led America away from a Jim Crow era and into a world where the world's media were finally paying attention to the abject injustices that engulfed millions of his fellow African Americans. He taught a whole generation to be brave, and stand firm in the face of years of bigotry and racial hatred. He remains, in the words of the first African American president Barack Obama, a "permanent inspiration".
28. Ernest Hemingway
One of American's most significant literary authors, Hemingway's intrepid nature saw him serve as a war reporter and ambulance worker in World War I before his fiction made him a star.
The Farwell to Arms author wasn't as publicity shy as other writers. In fact, he would often let photographers and journalists into his home to document his life, something the likes of F. Scot Fitzgerald and J.D. Salinger never allowed.
27. Oprah Winfrey
Born into a single parent household in rural Mississippi, Oprah Winfrey was initially raised by her teenage mother and was regularly molested by male relatives whenever she was away. But after her father Vernon Winfrey took her into his Nashville home, Oprah's life began to look up.
By her admissions, her father was a strict disciplinarian, but from his guidance, his daughter developed a love for learning, which would lead to Tennesse University offering her a scholarship.
26. George Lucas
England has Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling and America have George Lucas and Star Wars, which I think most Americans are pleased with. But unlike Rowling's prolific novel output, Lucas- despite being around much longer- has only directed 8 films. Despite this, The Star Wars creator has amassed a staggering $5.5bn fortune, a figure that would put most oil barons and Saudi princes to shame. The majority of Lucas's vast wealth comes from the sale of LucasFilm to Disney in 2012 for a reported $4.1 billion in both cash and lucrative stock options.
But Lucas isn't only making money. He has also been at the forefront of a charitable foundation responsible for giving away more than $1 billion.
25. Abraham Lincoln
John Wilkes Booth's killing of Abraham Lincoln was the first time a president was successfully assassinated. Others had tried with previous presidents, but their efforts were to no avail.
All trivia aside, Abraham Lincoln takes the top spot for many reasons, but it was no doubt his sweeping reforms that led to the emancipation of slavery in the South that gave Lincoln the personal accolade of America's Greatest President.
The 16th President of the United States, Lincoln served as president from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. A bright light in the dark doldrums of the American Civil War effort, Lincoln took America by the reigns and steered it through one of its most challenging political crises of the 1800s. A true icon.
24. George Washington
As the first President of the United States, it is hardly surprising that George Washington polled second in the list of the most important presidents in the history of America. Not only a political leader, Washington was also a military general, statesman, freemason and most importantly of all, a Founding Father who debuted the presidency.
Washington also held the highest rank in the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War and was a leading light in overcoming resilient British forces and helping his fellow comrades to victory in the American Revolution.
23. Marylin Monroe
An enduring icon, Marylin Monroe's legacy has lived on long after her death, with the star considered America's first global sex symbol.
A starlet in every sense of the word, Monroe's image has been immortalized on everything from mugs and cups to T-shirts and shower curtains.
22. Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley is argubally popular music's most enduring figure and is up there with the likes of The Beatles and Michael Jackson as one of the all-time greats. However, his legacy extended beyond music. Between 1958- 1960, Presley undertook his military service as a regular soldier after his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, refused to let him join the Special Services.
The logic behind Parker's counsel, was, of course, purely financial. By forgoing six weeks basic training to partake in two years military service instead, Presley would be exempt from performing to the troops. Performing to his fellow comrades wasn't an issue for Elvis, but the fact that it would be recorded and thereby become the property of Uncle Sam riled both Presley and his manager and convinced them that 2 years military service was a better alternative for his career which would eventually culminate in record sales of well over 1 billion. Parker, it seems, was right on the money with his decision.
21. Charlie Chaplin
In 1916, Charlie Chaplin's fame had skyrocketed, and he was considered by most to be the most famous man on Earth and was argubally the first working man to ammas a multi-million dollar fortune in the entertainment business. Captured in the same year, this photo sees Chaplin pose in his Easy Street costume with fellow performers, including the Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, who performed in Los Angeles during an American tour.
Nijinsky was also a global star, and the photo, which is essentially a celebrity snapshot, gives us a greater insight into the fame and fandom these two leading figures and early pioneers of Hollywood stardom experienced.
20. Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee was an iconic martial artist and actor who passed away at only 33-years-old, and his reputation and legacy have lived on ever since, yet few know of the legendary teacher he trained with during his illustrious career.
Ip Man, also known as Yip Man, was a Chinese martial artist and specialized in the teaching of Wing Chun, a close combat form of martial arts native to Southern China. Under Man's guidance, several students would become martial arts masters in their own right, including his most famous student, Bruce Lee.
19. Karl Marx
Karl Marx wrote the book Kapital which described the origins of capitalism and predicted its meteoric rise and its eventual overthrow.
He also wrote the Communist Manifesto with his friend Friedrich Engels. This led to the rise of Marxism and other forms of communism and deeply impacted the 20th century and beyond.
18. Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler would lead the Nazi party for 11 years, and in that time, his racist, lawless and authoritarian regime would be responsible for millions of deaths, with those of the Jewish faith suffering most.
However, the ruthless dictator was born into a middle-class family and had an upbringing far removed from the brutal antics that would characterise his reign as leader of the Third Reich. In fact, as well as singing in his local choir, an 8-year-old Hitler is even reported to have dabbled with the idea of priesthood.
17. Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin didn't persecute members of a single religion, but he did adopt a nihilistic approach to his rule and killed anyone who disagreed with him and is believed to have claimed more than 50m people according to the British historian Norman Davies.
Like Hitler, Stalin also entertained the idea of priesthood and even trained as one before converting to atheism in his last year.
Why: A behemoth of the hip-hop scene, Tupac Shakur made his name as 2pac in the early nineties. Amazingly adept at turning out both touchingly relevant songs about street life and the struggles of African-Americans on tracks such as Keep Ya Head Up and Ghetto Gospel and poundingly harsh diss tracks like 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted and Hit 'em Up.
A social critic as well as a talented musician, the rapper produced an astounding amount of work before his death in which include five solo albums.
15. Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix was one of the most talented guitarists of all time, but on September 18th, 1970, the world lost one of its most colorful and talented musicians. Jimi Hendrix took the world by storm during the 60s with his wild guitar playing and psychedelic lyrics.
Within four years, Hendrix became a household name with his trademark guitar sound. He was found dead in a hotel room. The cause was specified as asphyxiation due to an over-intake of barbiturates. He was also aged 27.
14. Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain died aged 27 in 1994. Kurt was lead singer and guitarist of the era-defining grunge band Nirvana. Always a bit shy, Kurt was thrust into an uncomfortable spotlight as the leader of a new generation.
This had a great impact on deep-seated mental problems that he had had since childhood. Kurt Cobain committed suicide by shooting himself with a shotgun. High traces of heroin were found in his blood.
13. Jean-Michel Basquiat
One of the first African American artists to gain worldwide attention after catching the eye of Andy Warhol, the icon intially started his career as a carefree graffiti artist in New York City during the 1970s.
A decade later, and under the tutelage of Warhol, Basquiat transformed himself into a prodigy and was exhibiting his neo-expressionist paintings in the world's most beautiful galleries. Sadly, the enigmatic artist passed away from a drug overdose at 27.
12. Notorious B.I.G.
Christopher Wallace, better known by his stage name, the Notorious B.I.G., was pronounced lifeless at 24 following a suspected gang fight. A hip-hop pioneer, BIGGIE was one of the first East Coast rappers, along with Puff Daddy, to achieve international fame.
Despite only releasing two albums, Wallace's total album sales stand at over 13m units in the United States alone.
11. Che Guevara
Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, was an Argentinian medical student who joined the Cuban revolution and became the right-hand man of Fidel Castro. This photo of him was taken in 1960 at a memorial service for the victims of the La Coubre explosion in Havana. His steely gaze of determination has been recreated and distributed in many prints and forms of art as it became associated with his revolutionary spirit.
Going on to try and encourage and support further Socialist revolutions in South America, he was later captured and killed by U.S agents. Alberto Korda took this picture and never asked for payment for distribution of the image as he supported Guevara's revolutionary ideas.
10. Michael Jackson
Last, but certainly not least, any list mentioning solo stars who left bands wouldn't be complete without profiling the late King of Pop. In a career that spanned the best part of 45 years, Michael Jackson would begin his entertainment career as one-fifth of the Jackson 5, a group known to be one of the first African-American bands to achieve a crossover appeal to other markets.
But it was Michael's famous exploits after he left the band that set the world alight and cemented his reputation as the most significant musical performer of all time. And with 750m records sold worldwide, and his iconic album Thriller selling more copies than any other original album, Jackson's legacy is one that will only grow.
9. Billie Jean King
Billie Jean King was a major pioneer in women's sport ever since the 39-time Grand Slam winner set up and won the infamous 1973 'battle of the sexes' match against the notoriously pugnacious tennis player, Bobby Riggs. Watched by a global television audience of over 100m people, King went on to beat Riggs in straight sets, and many have since viewed the match as a watershed in not only the game of tennis but the whole of women's sport.
By 2007, for instance, grand slam prize money in tennis was the same for both men and women while other sports where female participation is prevalent have strived for similar equality, with many governing boards asking for King's advice on how best they can further the careers of their female stars.
8.The Williams Sisters
Sisters and all-round megastars Venus and Serena Williams changed female tennis in ways perhaps only the legendary Billy Jean King has the moment they first came onto the scene in the late 1990s
Potent forces in both doubles and singles, the world, has become accustomed to seeing their opponents blown away by their macho-like aggression and breathtaking athleticism which has led the sisters to win almost every title out there. But the feared duo is as much a force in tennis as they are in the women's game, and in recent years, Serena's domination and hogging of the number 1 ranking have seen her become of one the highest-earning athletes in the world, surpassed by only a handful of males.
7. Stan Lee
A leading pioneer in the comic book genre, Stan Lee, along with co-creators Jack Kirby and artist Steve Ditko, would create some of the world's best-known superhero characters under their esteemed entertainment and media company, Marvel Universe. These included X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, Black Panther, and perhaps most famously of all, Spiderman, all of which have been adapted into lucrative films.
While Lee made a series of famous cameos in Marvel's adaptations, the legendary comic book writer valued his privacy, and in his later years, became somewhat of a recluse. Despite his increasing anonymity, Lee's impact on the entertainment world only grew, as reflected in the glowing tributes by fellow entertainers, many of whom worked on the Marvel movies.
From the creator of one pop culture phenomenon to another, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series has captivated an entire generation of children and made her one of the leading faces of the age-old rags-to-riches story.
While Forbes has calculated her career royalties to be well over $1bn, Rowling's generosity over the years has seen her part way with over $160m of that figure to invest in many charitable causes.
5. F.Scott Fitzgerald
"An absurd story as romance, melodrama or record of New York high life" read one of many rejections sent to F.Scott Fitzgerald. Years later, the novel has become the best-selling classic, The Great Gatsby.
A literary genius whose work has now been translated around the world, F. Scott. Fitzgerald is now considered one of the greatest American writers of the 20th Century.
4. Steven Spielberg
From one legend to another, Steven Spielberg's achievements in the world of quality, big-budget moviemaking are unrivalled ever since the groundbreaking success of his aquatic nightmare, Jaws.
Only his second film following his debut, The Sugarland Express, the movie proved an unexpected global smash, grossing nearly $500m worldwide. This made Spielberg an overnight millionaire and a household name and allowed the directing superstar greater autonomy for future projects despite still being in his 20s.
This was evidenced three years later with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, one of the rare films he both wrote and directed. Other films the four-time Oscar winner directed include E.T., Lincoln, Catch Me If You Can, Jurassic Park, Shindler's List and Saving Private Ryan.
3. Charles Darwin
An English Natural scientist whose genius spawned the modern-day theory of evolution, Charles Darwin's extensive research into man and how it evolved from centuries of life eroded years of secular control in society and replaced it with a more rational framework.
Whilst his research and publications continue to attract controversy- particularly in areas with high religious belief- his theory of natural selection has now become a staple part of the scientific community.
2. Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci is a name synonymous with innovation and genius. He's the original Renaissance Man who mastered an array of crafts, from sculpture and painting to architecture, mathematics, and engineering.
A talented, forward-thinking visionary who taught man what it meant to think and be different, many historians have described him as a once in a century personality. However, it is his famous painting of the Mona Lisa that the Italian icon is perhaps most famous for among today's generation.
Buddha, otherwise known as The Enlightened One, was a prince who sought solace and comfort in the mystical trappings of a palace in a bid to reclaim his sense of self and explore the true meaning of life in the Northeastern part of Ancient India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BC.
It was after much more soul-searching and self-discovery that he found spiritual bliss through Nirvana. Upon this enlightenment, he devoted his life to passing on his spiritual knowledge to others in a bid to break the dangerous monotony that so often disrupts the time between birth and death.