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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Isaac Luria was a rabbi and Jewish mystic in the community of Safed in Ottoman Syria, now Israel. He is considered the father of contemporary Kabbalah, and his teachings are referred to as Lurianic Kabbalah. He wrote only a few poems and was known to deliver his lectures spontaneously. The Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue was built in his memory.
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.
Military adventurer, conquistador, and colonist settler Bernal Díaz del Castillo is best known for his participation in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire under Hernán Cortés and for his memoirs, The True History of the Conquest of New Spain. He was part of three Mexican expeditions, that of Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, Juan de Grijalva and Cortés respectively.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
English Protestant martyr and bishop Nicholas Ridley had an illustrious career as a scholar at Cambridge. Named a master of Pembroke Hall, he converted Cambridge into a Reformist seminary for Protestantism. He ended up being accused of heresy and was burned at the stake at Oxford, thus becoming one of the Oxford Martyrs.
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.
French Catholic priest and astronomer Pierre Gassendi is remembered for his efforts to reconcile atomism with Christian ideals and for his anti-Aristotelianism. His studies included research on Epicurean philosophy. Apart from observing the transit of Mercury, he also studied the speed of sound and horizontal momentum.
Martin Bucer was a German Protestant reformer in the Reformed tradition who was active in the 16th century. He is credited to have deeply influenced Lutheran, Calvinist, and Anglican doctrines and practices. His work resulted in his excommunication from the Roman Catholic Church, and he was exiled to England. He is considered an early pioneer of ecumenism.