16th Century Intellectuals & Academics

Find out more about the greatest 16th Century Intellectuals & Academics, including Galileo Galilei, René Déscartes, Nicolaus Copernicus, Thomas Hobbes and Francis Bacon.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 
Niccolò Machiavelli
(Diplomat & Philosopher Best Known for His Political Treatise 'The Prince')

Niccolò Machiavelli
19
Birthdate: May 3, 1469
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Florence, Italy
Died: June 22, 1527
Italian Renaissance philosopher, diplomat, and author Niccolò Machiavelli is remembered for his work The Prince. He believed that the end or the intention behind any action justifies the action. He gave rise to the term Machiavellianism, which signifies the use of deceit and treachery to achieve one’s goals. 

 2 
Francis Bacon
(Philosopher, Politician)

Francis Bacon
10
Birthdate: January 22, 1561
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: York House, London, England
Died: April 9, 1626

Francis Bacon was a Renaissance philosopher and author who was known as the Father of Empiricism, because of his belief in the scientific method and theory that scientific knowledge can only be created through inductive reasoning and experience. He was later knighted and served as the first Queen's counsel.

 3 
Thomas Hobbes
(Philosopher)

Thomas Hobbes
10
Birthdate: April 5, 1588
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Westport, Wiltshire, England
Died: December 4, 1679

Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher. Widely regarded as the co-founder of modern political philosophy, Hobbes is best known for his influential book Leviathan. Apart from political philosophy, Thomas Hobbes also contributed immensely to various other fields, such as ethics, theology, geometry, history, and jurisprudence.

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 4 
Martin Luther
(Father of Protestantism and Church Reformer)

Martin Luther
9
Birthdate: November 10, 1483
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Eisleben, Germany
Died: February 18, 1546

German monk Martin Luther challenged the dogmas of Roman Catholicism and the authority of the pope, in his Ninety-five Theses, and was thus excommunicated. His German translation of the Bible enriched the German culture, and his marriage set an example for clerical marriage. His teachings are now known as Lutherans.

 5 
John Knox
(Theologian)

John Knox
4
Birthdate: 1514 AD
Birthplace: Giffordgate, Haddington, Scotland
Died: November 24, 1572

John Knox was a Scottish minister, writer, and theologian. Knox, who played a major role in the Scottish Reformation, is also credited with founding the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Considered a major contributor to the field of theology, John Knox's statue stands tall at New College in the University of Edinburgh, UK.

 6 
John Calvin
(Theologian)

John Calvin
4
Birthdate: July 10, 1509
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Noyon, France
Died: May 27, 1564

French theologian, pastor, and reformer John Calvin was a major figure during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. He was influential in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he broke from the Roman Catholic Church to embrace Protestantism. As an apologetic writer, he generated much controversy.

 7 
Miyamoto Musashi
(Swordsman & Philosopher)

Miyamoto Musashi
4
Birthdate: March 1, 1584
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Harima Province, Japan
Died: May 19, 1645

Miyamoto Musashi was a Japanese swordsman, writer, strategist, and philosopher. Widely regarded as a Kensei, Musashi became famous through his stories of bravery, which involves his undefeated streak of 61 duels. He is also credited with founding the Niten Ichi-ryū school of swordsmanship. His life has inspired several films, TV series, stage plays, and video games.

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Saint Ignatius of Loyola
5
Birthdate: October 23, 1491
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Azpeitia, Spain
Died: July 31, 1556

Saint Ignatius of Loyola was a  Spanish Basque Catholic priest and theologian in the 16th century. He was one of the founders of the religious order called the Society of Jesus and served as its first Superior General at Paris. He was an inspired spiritual director and the founder of what is today known as "Ignatian spirituality."

 9 
Paracelsus
(Physician, Botanist, Astrologer)

Paracelsus
4
Birthdate: December 17, 1493
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Einsiedeln, Switzerland
Died: September 24, 1541
German-Swiss physician and alchemist Paracelsus, son of a poor chemist, grew up into a key figure of the German Renaissance. Known as the "father of toxicology," he explored the importance of chemistry in medical science. His interest in chemistry was ignited by his stint at the Bergschule in childhood. 

 10 
Desiderius Erasmus
(Philosopher)

Desiderius Erasmus
4
Birthdate: October 28, 1466
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Rotterdam, Netherlands
Died: July 12, 1536

Born as an illegitimate child of a priest from Rotterdam, Desiderius Erasmus later grew up to be a significant figure of the northern Renaissance. He is remembered for his research on free will and for being the first to edit the New Testament, replacing traditional elements with new-age humanism.

 11 
Giordano Bruno
(Philosopher & Mathematician Known For His Cosmological Theories)

Giordano Bruno
4
Birthdate: October 28, 1466, 1548
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Nola, Italy
Died: February 17, 1600

Giordano Bruno was an Italian philosopher, friar, mathematician, cosmological theorist, poet, and Hermetic occultist. Best remembered for his cosmological theories, Bruno insisted that the universe could have no center as it is infinite. In 2004, Herbert Steffen founded the Giordano Bruno Foundation in Bruno's honor.

 12 
John Dee
(Mathematician, Philosopher)

John Dee
4
Birthdate: July 13, 1527
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Tower Ward, London
Died: February 29, 1609

Anglo-Welsh mathematician, occultist, astronomer, teacher, astrologer and alchemist John Dee is best-remembered as advisor to Queen of England, Elizabeth I. Dee coined the term British Empire and advocated its formation by founding of English colonies in the New World. He had one of the largest libraries in England at the time and wrote on astrology, geography, trigonometry, navigation and calendar reform.

 13 
Bartolomé de las Casas
(The First Resident Bishop of ‘Chiapas’, and the First Officially Appointed "Protector of the Indians")

Bartolomé de las Casas
4
Birthdate: November 11, 1484
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Seville, Spain
Died: July 18, 1566
Known for works such as Historia de las Indias, Spanish historian Bartolomé de las Casas is remembered as the first to have focused on the exploitation of the indigenous community in the Americas. His life-long struggle to end slavery brought about significant changes in the treatment of colonized people.

 14 
Virginia Dare
(Colonist)

Virginia Dare
5
Birthdate: August 18, 1587
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Roanoke Island, North Carolina, United States

Virginia Dare was born in a New World English colony and is believed to be the first English child to have taken birth in the colony. Although Virginia's disappearance along with other colonists remains a mystery, she has become a popular figure in American folklore over the last 400 years. She has also been featured as a character in films.

 15 
Michel de Montaigne
(Philosopher)

Michel de Montaigne
4
Birthdate: February 8, 1533
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Château de Montaigne, France
Died: September 3, 1592

French philosopher Michel de Montaigne was a significant figure of the French Renaissance in the 16th century. He is credited for popularizing the essay as a literary genre. His massive collection of essays was published in the volume Essais. His work had a direct influence on Western writers, including René Descartes, Francis Bacon, Blaise Pascal, and Voltaire.

 16 

Giorgio Vasari
4
Birthdate: July 30, 1511
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Arezzo, Italy
Died: June 27, 1574

Giorgio Vasari was an Italian architect, painter, writer, engineer, and historian. He is best remembered for his work The Lives, a series of artist biographies, which is regarded as the art-historical writing's ideological foundation. Vasari is also credited with the formulation of the term Renaissance as it was first suggested by Jules Michelet based on Giorgio Vasari's text.

 17 
John Winthrop
(Politician, Theologian)

John Winthrop
4
Birthdate: January 12, 1588
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Edwardstone, Suffolk, England
Died: March 26, 1649

John Winthrop was a British Puritan lawyer who played a major role in the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The colony was the second major settlement after Plymouth Colony in New England. A respected political figure, Winthrop has been cited by many modern-day politicians like Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, and Sarah Palin.

 18 
Richard Hooker
(Theologian)

Richard Hooker
3
Birthdate: March 25, 1554
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Heavitree, England
Died: November 3, 1600

 19 
Saint John Fisher
(English Priest)

Saint John Fisher
3
Birthdate: November 30, 1469
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Beverley, England
Died: June 22, 1535

 20 
Kabir
(Saint and Mystic Poet)

Kabir
9
Birthdate: 1440 AD
Birthplace: Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India
Died: 1518 AD

Kabir was an Indian saint and mystic poet whose works influenced Hinduism's Bhakti movement, which in turn played a key role in the formation of Sikhism, the fifth-largest organized religion in the world. Kabir is an important figure in both Hinduism and Islam and his legacy continues to live through a religious community known as the Kabir panth.

 21 
William Brewster
(Preacher and Mayflower Passenger in 1620)

William Brewster
4
Birthdate: 1566 AD
Birthplace: Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, England
Died: April 10, 1644

William Brewster was an English official. He was among the passengers that traveled in Mayflower from England to the New World. When the ship landed at Plymouth Colony, William Brewster was accepted as the senior elder and hence became the religious leader of the colony. Eventually, he ended up serving as an adviser to Governor William Bradford.

 22 
Piri Reis
(Ottoman Admiral, Geographer, Cartographer.)

Piri Reis
3
Birthdate: 1465 AD
Birthplace: Gelibolu, Turkey
Died: 1553 AD

Piri Reis was an Ottoman navigator, admiral, cartographer, and geographer. He is best remembered for his Book of Navigation, which contains maps and charts and information on navigational techniques. He gained international recognition in 1929 when a portion of his first world map was discovered at the Topkapı Palace in Turkey. Piri Reis finds mention in several popular video games.  

 23 
Gerardus Mercator
(Geographer)

Gerardus Mercator
5
Birthdate: March 5, 1512
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Rupelmonde, Kruibeke, Belgium
Died: December 2, 1594

Son of a shoemaker, Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator was initially supposed to be a priest. His 1569 world map paved the path for the Mercator projection, which helped people ascertain the exact ratio of latitude and longitude of a particular place. He also coined the term “atlas.”

 24 
Jakob Böhme
(Philosopher)

Jakob Böhme
3
Birthdate: April 24, 1575
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Stary Zawidów, Poland
Died: November 17, 1624

German mystic and philosopher Jakob Böhme is best remembered for his works such as On the Election of Grace and Mysterium Magnum. While he was initially a shoemaker’s apprentice, he later focused on studies on mysticism and free will. He inspired both German idealism and romanticism greatly.

 25 
Michael Servetus
(Theologian)

Michael Servetus
3
Birthdate: September 29, 1509
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Villanueva de Sigena, Spain
Died: October 27, 1553

Michael Servetus was a Spanish physician, Renaissance humanist, cartographer, and theologian. In 1553, he published a book titled Christianismi Restitutio in which he described the function of pulmonary circulation, becoming the first European to describe it accurately. A polymath, Michael Servetus was well-versed in many fields, such as mathematics, geography, meteorology, astronomy, human anatomy, pharmacology, medicine, poetry, jurisprudence, and translation.

 26 
William Laud
(Archbishop of Canterbury (1633–1645))

William Laud
3
Birthdate: October 7, 1573
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Reading, Berkshire, England, United Kingdom
Died: January 10, 1645

 27 
Philip Melanchthon
(Theologian)

Philip Melanchthon
3
Birthdate: February 16, 1497
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Bretten, Germany
Died: April 19, 1560

German theologian Philip Melanchthon had a major role in establishing public schools in Germany. A friend of Protestant Reformation theologian Martin Luther, he is remembered for penning the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, a significant confession of Lutheranism. He had also served as a professor at the University of Wittenberg.

 28 
Leo Africanus
(Diplomat)

Leo Africanus
3
Birthdate: 1494 AD
Birthplace: Granada, Spain
Died: 1554 AD

Spanish Islamic scholar Leo Africanus is best remembered for his Description of Africa, which served as a relevant treatise on the geography of Africa. Educated in Morocco, he had traveled through places such as Aswan and Timbuktu. He was later captured and converted to Christianity as Giovanni Leone.

 29 
Robert Bellarmine
(Jesuit and a cardinal of the Catholic Church)

Robert Bellarmine
3
Birthdate: October 4, 1542
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Montepulciano, Italy
Died: September 17, 1621

Robert Bellarmine was an Italian Jesuit and cardinal of the Catholic Church. One of the most important figures in the Counter-Reformation, he has been named a Doctor of the Church. He has also been canonized as a saint. He was a  professor of theology at the Roman College and later became its rector. He became Archbishop of Capua in 1602. 

Saint Teresa of Avila
2
Birthdate: March 28, 1515
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Gotarrendura
Died: October 4, 1582

Teresa of Ávila, also known as Saint Teresa of Jesus, was a Spanish noblewoman who later turned into a Carmelite nun. She was posthumously named a Doctor of the Church. She co-established the Discalced Carmelite Order. Her written works include The Interior Castle and her own autobiography.

 31 
Jean Bodin
(Philosopher)

Jean Bodin
4
Birthdate: 1530 AD
Birthplace: Angers, France
Died: 1596 AD

 32 
Mulla Sadra
(philosopher, writer)

Mulla Sadra
3
Birthdate: 1571 AD
Birthplace: Shiraz
Died: 1636 AD

Mulla Sadra was a Persian Twelver Shi'i Islamic mystic and philosopher. He was also an Alim who led the Iranian cultural renaissance in the 17th century. He is considered one of the most influential philosophers in the Muslim world in the last four hundred years. He tried to prove the idea of Unity of Existence through his works.

 33 
Al-Suyūṭī
(Scholar)

Al-Suyūṭī
3
Birthdate: October 3, 1445
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Cairo, Egypt
Died: October 18, 1505

 34 
Sen Rikyū
(Historical Figure)

Sen Rikyū
3
Birthdate: 1522 AD
Birthplace: Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
Died: April 21, 1591

 35 
Thomas Müntzer
(Preacher)

Thomas Müntzer
3
Birthdate: 1489 AD
Birthplace: Stolberg, Südharz, Germany
Died: May 27, 1525

Remembered as a radical reformer, Thomas Müntzer was a major force in the German Peasants' War of 1525. Initially a priest and a linguistic specialist, he gradually began representing the middle class and worked toward church reforms. He was eventually executed, and his head wad displayed as a warning.

 36 

Purandara Dasa
4
Birthdate: 1484 AD
Birthplace: Shimoga, Karnataka, India
Died: January 2, 1564

 37 
Jacobus Arminius
(Theologian, University teacher)

Jacobus Arminius
3
Birthdate: October 10, 1560
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Oudewater
Died: October 19, 1609

Dutch theologian and professor Jacobus Arminius opposed the orthodox Calvinism of his time and introduced a new system, known as Arminianism, in response. He is remembered for his Opera theologica, published posthumously, and for paving the path for the growth of Methodism in the West.

 38 
Wang Yangming
(Calligrapher)

Wang Yangming
3
Birthdate: October 26, 1472
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Yuyao, Zhejiang Province
Died: January 9, 1529

 39 
Giambattista della Porta
(Scholar, Polymath)

Giambattista della Porta
3
Birthdate: November 1, 1535
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Vico Equense, Italy
Died: February 4, 1615

Giambattista della Porta was an Italian scholar, polymath, and playwright. He was active in Naples at the time of the Scientific Revolution and Reformation in the 16th century. He was knowledgeable in different fields, including occult philosophy, astrology, meteorology, alchemy, mathematics, and natural philosophy. In his later years, he collected rare specimens and grew exotic plants. 

 40 
John Foxe
(Historian)

John Foxe
3
Birthdate: 1516 AD
Birthplace: Boston, Lincolnshire, England
Died: April 30, 1587

 41 
Bernardino de Sahagún
(Franciscan friar, missionary priest and pioneering ethnographer who participated in the Catholic evangelization of colonial New Spain)

Bernardino de Sahagún
3
Birthdate: 1499 AD
Birthplace: Sahagún, Spain
Died: February 5, 1590

A pioneer of modern anthropology and a renowned ethnographer, 16th-century Spanish priest and missionary Bernardino de Sahagún remains one of the greatest resources of the history of ancient Mexico. Best remembered for compiling Historia General and its manuscript the Florentine Codex, he developed the Aztec language Nahuatl.

 42 
Marin Mersenne
(Mathematician)

Marin Mersenne
3
Birthdate: September 8, 1588
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Oizé, France
Died: September 1, 1648

 43 
Francisco de Vitoria
(Spanish Roman Catholic philosopher, theologian, and jurist of Renaissance Spain)

Francisco de Vitoria
3
Birthdate: 1483 AD
Birthplace: Burgos, Spain
Died: August 12, 1546

Francisco de Vitoria was a Spanish Roman Catholic theologian, philosopher, and jurist of Renaissance Spain. He founded the School of Salamanca, a tradition in philosophy. He made tremendous contributions to the theory of just war and international law. His works have been interpreted by various scholars to support contrary policies. He taught at the universities of Valladolid and of Salamanca. 

 44 

Nicholas Ridley
3
Birthdate: 1500 AD
Birthplace: South Tynedale, England
Died: October 16, 1555

 45 
Martin Waldseemüller
(Cartographer)

Martin Waldseemüller
5
Birthdate: 1470 AD
Birthplace: Schallstadt, Germany
Died: March 16, 1520

Martin Waldseemüller was a German humanist scholar and cartographer whose work is considered influential and important among contemporary cartographers. Along with Matthias Ringmann, Martin Waldseemüller is credited with recording the usage of the word America, which they used to refer to a part of the New World; the name America was used to honor Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. 

 46 
Francisco Suárez
(Leading Theological and Philosophical Light of Spain’s Golden Age)

Francisco Suárez
3
Birthdate: January 5, 1548
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Granada, Spain
Died: September 25, 1617

Spanish Jesuit priest, philosopher, and theologian Francisco Suárez was born to an affluent lawyer and had initially studied law. However, he joined the Jesuits later, following which he taught philosophy and theology. Known for writing Disputationes Metaphysicae, he was a prime figure of the School of Salamanca movement.

 47 
Conrad Gessner
(Physician)

Conrad Gessner
3
Birthdate: March 26, 1516
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Zürich, Switzerland
Died: December 13, 1565

Born to a poor fur dealer, Conrad Gessner was sent to study under an uncle who dealt in medicinal herbs. He then studied theology but later grew up to become a Renaissance polymath, excelling in subjects such as natural history and medicine. His Bibliotheca universalis remains a major work in bibliography.

 48 
Tommaso Campanella
(Philosopher Known for His Work 'la Città Del Sole' an Important Early Utopian Work)

Tommaso Campanella
3
Birthdate: September 5, 1568
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Stilo, Italy
Died: May 21, 1639

Tommaso Campanella was an Italian Dominican friar, philosopher, astrologer, and poet. His heterodox views often brought him into conflict with the authorities, and he was imprisoned for several years. In prison, he wrote The City of the Sun, a utopia describing an egalitarian theocratic society. He also defended astronomer Galileo Galilei in his first trial. 

 49 
Johannes Trithemius
(Cryptographer)

Johannes Trithemius
3
Birthdate: February 1, 1462
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Trittenheim, Germany
Died: December 13, 1516

Considered one of the most significant of German scholars, Johannes Trithemius made a major contribution to German Renaissance and was a cryptographer, a magician, and a lexicographer at the same time. He ran away from home at 17 and took shelter at a Benedictine abbey, where he began the life of an abbot.

 50 

Inca Garcilaso de la Vega
3
Birthdate: April 12, 1539
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Cusco, New Castile (current Peru)
Died: April 23, 1616