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 Martin Luther

Martin Luther
Famous As: Father of Protestantism and Church Reformer
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.

 2 Niccolò Machiavelli

Niccolò Machiavelli
Famous As: Political Philosopher
Birthdate: May 3, 1469
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Florence, Italy
Died: June 21, 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. 

 3 Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: January 22, 1561
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Strand, 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.

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 4 Thomas Hobbes

Thomas Hobbes
Famous As: Philosopher
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.

 5 John Calvin

John Calvin
Famous As: Protestant Reformer, Theologian, Pastor
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.

 6 Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Saint Ignatius of Loyola
Famous As: Priest
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."

 7 John Knox

John Knox
Famous As: Protestant Leader
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.

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 8 Nicolaus Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus
Birthdate: February 19, 1473
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Torun, Poland
Died: May 24, 1543

Nicolaus Copernicus was a mathematician and astronomer. He is credited with formulating Heliocentrism, which led to the Copernican Revolution. Although Aristarchus of Samos had formulated Heliocentrism 18 centuries earlier, Copernicus was responsible for popularizing it. Copernicus is also credited with formulating an economic principle, which was later called Gresham's law.

 9 Kabir

Famous As: Saint and Mystic Poet
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.

 10 Paracelsus

Famous As: Physician, Botanist, Astrologer
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. 

 11 John Dee

John Dee
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher
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.

 12 Bartolomé de las Casas

Bartolomé de las Casas
Famous As: Historian, Priest
Birthdate: November 11, 1474
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.

 13 Michel de Montaigne

Michel de Montaigne
Famous As: Philosopher
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.

 14 Giordano Bruno

Giordano Bruno
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 1548 AD
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.

 15 Virginia Dare

Virginia Dare
Famous As: Colonist
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.

 16 Philip Melanchthon

Philip Melanchthon
Famous As: Theologian
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.

 17 Saint Teresa of Avila

Saint Teresa of Avila
Famous As: Saint
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.

 18 Giorgio Vasari

Giorgio Vasari
Famous As: Painter
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.

 19 Cesare Beccaria

Cesare Beccaria
Famous As: Jurist
Birthdate: March 15, 1738
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Milan
Died: November 28, 1794

Cesare Beccaria was an 18th-century Italian criminologist, philosopher, jurist, and politician. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment. He is still remembered for his treatise On Crimes and Punishments (1764), a pioneering work in the field of penology. He is considered the father of modern criminal law. 

 20 Hugo Grotius

Hugo Grotius
Famous As: Jurist
Birthdate: April 10, 1583
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Delft
Died: August 28, 1645

 21 Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa

Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: September 14, 1486
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Cologne, Germany
Died: February 18, 1535

Sixteenth-century German scholar Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa was known for his expertise in philosophy and the occult. He also taught at the universities of Pavia and Dôle. His De occulta philosophia suggested magic as a way to reach God. He was eventually branded a heretic and imprisoned.

 22 Richard Hooker

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

 23 Saint John Fisher

Saint John Fisher
Famous As: English Priest
Birthdate: November 30, 1469
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Beverley, England
Died: June 22, 1535

 24 William Brewster

William Brewster
Famous As: Preacher
Birthdate: 1568 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.

 25 Piri Reis

Piri Reis
Famous As: Ottoman Admiral, Geographer, Cartographer.
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.  

 26 Gerardus Mercator

Gerardus Mercator
Famous As: Geographer
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.”

 27 Michael Servetus

Michael Servetus
Famous As: Theologian
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.

 28 Leo Africanus

Leo Africanus
Famous As: Diplomat
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 Pope Adrian VI

Pope Adrian VI
Famous As: Pope
Birthdate: March 2, 1459
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Utrecht, Netherlands
Died: September 14, 1523

Sixteenth-century pope Adrian VI remains the only Dutch to have been a pope and was the last non-Italian pope till John Paul II’s election after over 400 years. He wished to reform the Church but wasn’t able to do much, as he was strongly opposed by many, including Italian cardinals.

 30 Robert Bellarmine

Robert Bellarmine
Famous As: Theologian, Writer, Librarian, University teacher, Catholic priest
Birthdate: October 4, 1542
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Montepulciano
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. 

 31 John Winthrop

John Winthrop
Famous As: Politician, Theologian
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.

 32 Purandara Dasa

Purandara Dasa
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: 1484 AD
Birthplace: Shimoga, Karnataka, India
Died: January 2, 1564

 33 Jean Bodin

Jean Bodin
Famous As: jurist, philosopher, economist, historian, political scientist
Birthdate: 1529 AD
Birthplace: Angers
Died: 1596 AD

 34 Isaac Luria

Isaac Luria
Famous As: Rabbi
Birthdate: 1534 AD
Birthplace: Jerusalem, Israel
Died: July 25, 1572

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.  

 35 Mulla Sadra

Mulla Sadra
Famous As: philosopher, writer
Birthdate: 1571 AD
Birthplace: Shiraz
Died: 1636 AD

 36 Al-Suyūṭī

Famous As: Scholar
Birthdate: October 3, 1445
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Cairo, Egypt
Died: October 18, 1505

 37 Sen Rikyū

Sen Rikyū
Famous As: Historical Figure
Birthdate: 1522 AD
Birthplace: Sakai, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
Died: April 21, 1591

 38 Shaykh Aḥmad Sirhindī

Shaykh Aḥmad Sirhindī
Famous As: Islamic scholar
Birthdate: June 26, 1564
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Sirhind, India
Died: December 10, 1624

Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi was an Indian Islamic scholar. A member of the famous Naqshbandī Sufi order, Sirhindi was widely known as a reviver for his work in resurrecting Islam during Mughal Emperor Akbar's reign. He is also remembered for his contributions to Sufi practices and epistemology. There is a shrine named Rauza Sharif dedicated to Sirhindi in Sirhind, Punjab, India.

 39 Jacobus Arminius

Jacobus Arminius
Famous As: Theologian, University teacher
Birthdate: October 10, 1560
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Oudewater
Died: October 19, 1609

 40 Thomas Müntzer

Thomas Müntzer
Famous As: Preacher
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.

 41 Giambattista della Porta

Giambattista della Porta
Famous As: Scholar, Polymath
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. 

 42 Wang Yangming

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

 43 John Foxe

John Foxe
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: 1516 AD
Birthplace: Boston, Lincolnshire, England
Died: April 30, 1587

 44 Marin Mersenne

Marin Mersenne
Famous As: Philosopher, Theologian, Mathematician, Musicologist, Music theorist, Physicist
Birthdate: September 8, 1588
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Oizé
Died: September 1, 1648

 45 Francisco de Vitoria

Francisco de Vitoria
Famous As: philosopher, writer, religious, university teacher, economist
Birthdate: 1483 AD
Birthplace: Burgos
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. 

 46 Nicholas Ridley

Nicholas Ridley
Famous As: Martyr
Birthdate: 1500 AD
Birthplace: South Tynedale, England
Died: October 16, 1555

 47 Francisco Suárez

Francisco Suárez
Famous As: Philosopher
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.

 48 Conrad Gessner

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

 49 Tommaso Campanella

Tommaso Campanella
Famous As: Philosopher
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. 

 50 Johannes Trithemius

Johannes Trithemius
Famous As: Cryptographer
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.