18th Century Intellectuals & Academics

Find out more about the greatest 18th Century Intellectuals & Academics, including Immanuel Kant, Adam Smith, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, David Hume and Jeremy Bentham.

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 Voltaire

Voltaire
13
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 20, 1694
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 30, 1778
18th-century historian, author, philosopher, and advocate of freedom of speech Voltaire was a leading figure of the French Age of Enlightenment. He often ran into trouble for his criticism of the French nobility and the Roman Catholic Church. He once went to Britain on voluntary exile, fearing imprisonment in France.

 2 Adam Smith

Adam Smith
15
Famous As: Economist and Philosopher
Birthdate: June 16, 1723
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kirkcaldy, Scotland
Died: July 17, 1790

Widely considered The Father of Economics, Adam Smith was a Scottish philosopher and economist. A pioneer of political economy, Adam Smith played a major role during the Scottish Enlightenment. His book The Wealth of Nations is regarded as the first modern work of economics and a forerunner of today's academic discipline of economics.

 3 Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant
10
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: April 22, 1724
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Königsberg, Germany
Died: February 12, 1804

Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher whose works in fields like aesthetics and metaphysics have made him an important and influential personality in Western philosophy. His views continue to influence contemporary philosophy. Kant has had a major influence on prominent philosophers like Hegel, Schelling, Reinhold, and Fichte. Kant's work on mathematics is cited by Albert Einstein as an early influence.

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 4 Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
6
Famous As: Philosopher, Writer, & Composer
Birthdate: June 28, 1712
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Geneva, Switzerland
Died: July 2, 1778

Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, composer, and writer. His political philosophy influenced aspects of the French Revolution. He also helped develop modern economic, political, and educational thought. His writing inspired a transformation in French drama and poetry. His works also influenced such writers around the world as Tolstoy. His works as a composer were acknowledged by composers like Mozart.

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 5 David Hume

David Hume
5
Famous As: Philosopher & Historian
Birthdate: April 26, 1711
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Edinburgh, Scotland
Died: August 25, 1776

Scottish Enlightenment philosopher, historian, and economist, David Hume, is considered one of the most important philosophers to write in English. His book, A Treatise of Human Nature, is counted among the most influential works in the history of philosophy. His works have influenced numerous thinkers, including German philosopher Immanuel Kant and Christian philosopher Joseph Butler.

 6 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
9
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: August 27, 1770
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Stuttgart, Germany
Died: November 14, 1831
German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel worked on ideas such as absolute idealism; the philosophy of spirit, or Geist; and the master–slave dialectic. His views influenced later thinkers and intellectuals, such as Karl Popper and Karl Marx, with the latter using Hegel’s views on the civil society.
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 7 Montesquieu

Montesquieu
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: January 18, 1689
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: La Brède, France
Died: February 10, 1755

French Enlightenment political philosopher, historian, judge, and man of letters Montesquieu remains the main source of the separation of powers system that is followed in many constitutions across the globe. His treatise The Spirit of the Laws on political theory greatly influenced work of many others, including drafting of the U.S. Constitution by the founding fathers of the United States.

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 8 John Wesley

John Wesley
4
Famous As: Anglican Cleric and Christian Theologian
Birthdate: June 17, 1703
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Epworth, England
Died: March 2, 1791

John Wesley was an English cleric, evangelist, and theologian. He is best remembered for leading a revival movement called Methodism within the Church of England. He is credited with founding societies that eventually became the dominant form of the Methodist movement, which remains relevant today. He continues to be the main theological influence on Methodists all over the world.

 9 Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: February 15, 1748
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Spitalfields
Died: June 6, 1832
Philosopher and jurist Jeremy Bentham is remembered as the pioneer of modern utilitarianism. He believed in economic freedoms, women’s rights, animal rights, the separation of the church and the state, and freedom of expression. Bentham wished for his body to be dissected and then to be displayed as an auto-icon.

 10 Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards
5
Famous As: Preacher, Theologian, Philosopher
Birthdate: October 5, 1703
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: East Windsor, Connecticut, United States
Died: March 22, 1758

Jonathan Edwards was an American philosopher, revivalist preacher, and Congregationalist Protestant theologian. Considered one of America's most prominent and influential philosophical theologians, Jonathan Edwards played a major role in shaping the Evangelical Revival of the 1730s and 1740s. His theological work is credited with paving the way for a new school of theology called the New England theology.

 11 Thomas Robert Malthus

Thomas Robert Malthus
7
Famous As: Political Economist
Birthdate: February 13, 1766
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Surrey, England
Died: December 23, 1834

Thomas Robert Malthus was an English economist and demographer, who viewed poverty as man’s unavoidable destiny. Author of An Essay on the Principle of Population; he believed that increase in national food production results in feeling of well-being, leading to population growth, which in turn results in poverty. Commonly referred as Malthusianism, it made immediate impact on British social policy.

 12 Denis Diderot

Denis Diderot
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 5, 1713
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Langres, France
Died: July 31, 1784

Denis Diderot revolutionized the Age of Enlightenment as the co-founder of Encyclopédie, which was banned for questioning religion. He had flirted with the idea of joining the theater and becoming a priest, and even studied law, but later devoted himself to languages, literature, and philosophy.

 13 Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: December 4, 1795
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Ecclefechan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland
Died: February 5, 1881
Initially a math teacher, Thomas Carlyle later abandoned the profession when a sudden spiritual awakening led him to writing. His parents wanted him to become a clergy, but he ended up becoming one of the greatest Victorian essayists and authors ever, known for works such as Sartor Resartus.

 14 George Berkeley

George Berkeley
4
Famous As: philosopher
Birthdate: March 12, 1685
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: County Kilkenny, Ireland
Died: January 14, 1753

George Berkeley was an Anglo-Irish philosopher who is credited with popularizing a theory called immaterialism, which claims that material substance like tables and chairs can't exist without being perceived by the mind. Berkeley influenced several philosophers like David Hume. Also remembered for his humanitarian work, George Berkeley worked towards creating homes for abandoned children in London.

 15 Edward Gibbon

Edward Gibbon
5
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: April 8, 1737
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London, England
Died: January 16, 1794

Eighteenth-century historian and author Edward Gibbon is best remembered for his 6-volume historical work The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a narrative that charted events from the 2nd century to the Fall of Constantinople. He had also been an MP, representing Lymington and Liskeard.

 16 Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin
5
Famous As: Founding Father of the United States
Birthdate: January 17, 1706
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Milk Street, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: April 17, 1790

Benjamin Franklin is considered one of the founding fathers of the United States as he was a signer of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. He was a writer, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, an accomplished diplomat and much more. He is a key figure in the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity.

 17 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
4
Famous As: Poet, Playwright, Novelist
Birthdate: August 28, 1749
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Goethe House, Frankfurt, Germany
Died: March 22, 1832

Regarded as the greatest literary figure in Germany's modern era, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a statesman and writer. Apart from writing poetry and prose, he also wrote treatises on color, anatomy, and botany. Thanks to his literary genius, Goethe was made part of the Duke's privy council in Weimar and he implemented several reforms at the University of Jena.

 18 Gottfried W. Leibniz

Gottfried W. Leibniz
4
Famous As: Polymath, Mathematician
Birthdate: July 1, 1646
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Leipzig, Germany
Died: November 14, 1716
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was a significant logician, mathematician, and philosopher of the Enlightenment era. He laid down his own concepts of differential and integral calculus. He was behind the invention of the mass-produced mechanical calculator and modified the binary number system. He also laid down a separate library cataloging system.

 19 Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft
4
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: April 27, 1759
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: London, England
Died: September 10, 1797

Mary Wollstonecraft was an English writer, advocate of women's rights, and philosopher. Wollstonecraft, who attracted a lot of attention for her unconventional personal relationships, is widely considered a founding feminist philosopher. Although her unorthodoxy initially attracted criticisms, her advocacy of women's equality became increasingly important during the 20th century. Modern-day feminists cite her works and her life as important influences.

 20 Charles Wesley

Charles Wesley
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: December 18, 1707
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Epworth, Lincolnshire, England
Died: March 29, 1788

One of the leaders of the Methodist revival movement, Charles Wesley is better known as the author numerous hymns and carols. Love Divine, All Loves Excelling and Christ the Lord Is Risen Today being some of his more popular works.  Averaging ten poetic lines per day for fifty years, he published more than 4,500 hymns, leaving some 3,000 in manuscript.

 21 Samuel Adams

Samuel Adams
4
Famous As: Founding Father of the United States
Birthdate: September 27, 1722
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Died: October 2, 1803
Samuel Adams, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, also served as the governor of Massachusetts. Samuel formed the Boston Tea Party and also played a major role in drafting the Articles of Confederation and the Massachusetts Constitution. He was a second cousin of President John Adams.

 22 Raja Ram Mohan Roy

Raja Ram Mohan Roy
9
Famous As: Socio-religious Reformer
Birthdate: May 22, 1772
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Radhanagore, West Bengal, India
Died: September 27, 1833

Raja Ram Mohan Roy was an Indian social and religious reformer. He is credited with co-founding the Brahmo Sabha, a social-religious reform movement. Often referred to as the Father of the Bengal Renaissance, Roy has had an influential role in fields like politics, education, and religion. In 2004, he was ranked 10th in BBC's Greatest Bengali of all time poll.

 23 Johnny Appleseed

Johnny Appleseed
4
Famous As: Missionary
Birthdate: September 26, 1774
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Leominster, Massachusetts, United States
Died: March 18, 1845
Nurseryman John Chapman, better known to people as Johnny Appleseed, is remembered for introducing apple trees in areas across the American states of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois, and West Virginia. His aim as a missionary of The New Church was to help local settlers make cider.

 24 George Whitefield

George Whitefield
4
Famous As: Evangelist, Theologian
Birthdate: December 16, 1714
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Gloucester, England
Died: September 30, 1770

George Whitefield was an Anglican evangelist and cleric. He is credited with co-founding the evangelical movement and Methodism. Whitefield's teachings of a series of revivals in North America became an important component of the First Great Awakening. Thanks to his ability to captivate large audiences, George Whitefield preached to millions of listeners during his ministry.

 25 Johann Gottfried Herder

Johann Gottfried Herder
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: August 25, 1744
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Morąg, Poland
Died: December 18, 1803

German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder is best remembered as a significant figure of the Sturm und Drang literary movement. Born into poverty and largely self-educated till 17, he later became a disciple of Immanuel Kant and was associated with Enlightenment and Weimar Classicism. He was eventually ennobled.

 26 Samuel Coleridge

Samuel Coleridge
4
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: October 21, 1772
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Ottery St Mary, Devon, Great Britain, United Kingdom
Died: July 25, 1834

Samuel Coleridge was an English poet, philosopher, theologian, and literary critic. He is credited with co-founding the Romantic Movement in England along with his friend William Wordsworth. Despite struggling from bouts of depression and anxiety throughout his adult life, Samuel Coleridge had a major influence on American transcendentalism and writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson.

 27 Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: January 27, 1775
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Leonberg, Germany
Died: August 20, 1854

 28 Johann Gottlieb Fichte

Johann Gottlieb Fichte
3
Famous As: Philosopher, University teacher
Birthdate: May 19, 1762
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rammenau
Died: January 29, 1814

 29 Friedrich Schiller

Friedrich Schiller
4
Famous As: Poet, Playwright
Birthdate: November 10, 1759
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Marbach am Neckar, Germany
Died: May 9, 1805

Friedrich Schiller was a German poet, physician, philosopher, playwright, and historian. Schiller is best remembered for his friendship with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and the two discussed issues concerning aesthetics. Schiller's discussions with Goethe paved the way for a period, which came to be known as Weimar Classicism. Friedrich Schiller is also widely regarded as Germany's most prominent classical playwright.

 30 Joseph Priestley

Joseph Priestley
4
Famous As: Discoverer of Oxygen
Birthdate: March 24, 1733
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Birstall
Died: February 6, 1804

Best remembered for his contribution to the chemistry of gases, Joseph Priestley was an English scientist, clergyman, political theorist and educator, who has been credited with discovering oxygen independently, publishing his findings before Carl Wilhelm could. A prolific writer, he has authored 150 works on various subjects including electricity. He also contributed immensely to the advancement of political and religious thoughts.

 31 Adam Weishaupt

Adam Weishaupt
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: February 6, 1748
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Ingolstadt, Germany
Died: November 18, 1830
On a night in 1776, deep within a forest near Ingolstadt, German law professor Adam Weishaupt and four others formed a secret society known as the Illuminati, which was supposed to be a parallel to religion. Since then, many conspiracy theories have held the society responsible for unexplained global events. 

 32 Ethan Allen

Ethan Allen
4
Famous As: Revolutionary War Hero
Birthdate: January 21, 1738
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Litchfield, Connecticut
Died: February 12, 1789

As a child, Ethan Allen was fond of deciphering passages from the Bible. He grew up to co-establish Vermont and led the Green Mountain Boys during the American Revolutionary War. After failing to achieve Vermont’s separation from New York, he tried to unite Vermont with Canada.

 33 Swedenborg

Swedenborg
4
Famous As: Theologian, Philosopher, Scientist
Birthdate: January 29, 1688
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Stockholm, Sweden
Died: March 29, 1772

Emanuel Swedenborg was a Swedish pluralistic-Christian philosopher, mystic, theologian, and scientist. Swedenborg started hogging the limelight after writing a book on the afterlife titled Heaven and Hell, which released in 1758. A prolific scientist and inventor, Swedenborg experienced spiritual awakening after which he started working on reforming Christianity. He even claimed that he could converse with angels and demons.

 34 Jean-Baptiste Lamarck

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
4
Famous As: Naturalist
Birthdate: August 1, 1744
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Bazentin, France
Died: December 18, 1829

French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck acquired his love for plants while serving as a soldier in the French army. Following an injury, he quit his military career but retained his love for botany. He later taught zoology, studied the classification of invertebrates, and also coined the term biology.

 35 Alexander von Humboldt

Alexander von Humboldt
18
Famous As: Geographer
Birthdate: September 14, 1769
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Berlin
Died: May 6, 1859

As a child, Alexander von Humboldt was sickly and a bad student. After failing to shine in economics and engineering, he grew up to revolutionize the domain of geography. He is remembered for his research on magnetic storms and his treatise on nature, Kosmos. He also spoke about climate change.

 36 Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke
4
Famous As: Statesman
Birthdate: January 12, 1729
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Dublin, Republic of Ireland
Died: July 9, 1797

Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher, Edmund Burke, was a member of parliament (MP) in the House of Commons of Great Britain for several years. He supported  Catholic emancipation and strongly opposed the French Revolution. He felt revolution destroyed the fabric of good society and traditional institutions of state and society. He is considered the philosophical founder of modern conservatism. 

 37 David Ricardo

David Ricardo
4
Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: April 18, 1772
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: London
Died: September 11, 1823
One of the greatest classical economists ever, David Ricardo had started working with his stockbroker father at age 14. His laissez-faire policies revolutionized 19th-century economics and its various concepts, such as the distribution theory and the wage theory. He had also been an MP from Portarlington.

 38 Émilie du Châtelet

Émilie du Châtelet
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: December 17, 1706
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 10, 1749

 39 Comte de Saint-Germain

Comte de Saint-Germain
5
Famous As: Adventurer
Birthdate: 1691 AD
Birthplace: Sárospatak, Hungary
Died: February 27, 1784

 40 Noah Webster

Noah Webster
4
Famous As: Lexicographer
Birthdate: October 16, 1758
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Hartford, Connecticut, United States
Died: May 28, 1843

Noah Webster was an American textbook pioneer, lexicographer, political writer, English-language spelling reformer, author, and editor. Dubbed the Father of American Scholarship and Education, Webster's books have been credited with teaching the art of spelling and reading to five generations of American children. Thanks to his work as a spelling reformer, his name became synonymous with dictionary in the US.

 41 Georges Cuvier

Georges Cuvier
4
Famous As: Naturalist
Birthdate: August 23, 1769
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Montbéliard, France
Died: May 13, 1832

Georges Cuvier was a French zoologist and naturalist. A major figure in the early 19th century's research of natural sciences, Cuvier played an important role in establishing the fields of comparative paleontology and anatomy by comparing fossils with living animals, for which he is sometimes regarded as the founding father of paleontology.

 42 Charles Lyell

Charles Lyell
4
Famous As: Lawyer
Birthdate: November 14, 1797
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Angus
Died: February 22, 1875

Charles Lyell was a Scottish geologist best remembered for his work Principles of Geology, which explains the origin of the earth. He is also remembered for his pioneering explanation of climate change. A close friend of Charles Darwin, Charles Lyell is also credited with influencing many of Darwin's works pertaining to the theories of evolution.  

 43 Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine
0
Famous As: Founding Father of the United States
Birthdate: January 29, 1737
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Thetford, England
Died: June 8, 1809

English-born American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary, Thomas Paine, is credited to have penned some of the most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution. His works inspired the common people of America and motivated them to fight for independence from British rule. He was ostracized for criticizing Christianity and died a lonely man.

 44 Jules Michelet

Jules Michelet
3
Famous As: Historian, Archivist, Writer, Diarist, Professor, Translator
Birthdate: August 21, 1798
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris
Died: February 9, 1874

Jules Michelet was a French author and historian best remembered for his work on the history and culture of France. Jules Michelet is credited with defining the term renaissance, which was originally used by Italian historian and painter Giorgio Vasari in 1550. The term is currently used to identify the period that followed the Middle Ages in Europe's cultural history.

 45 William Godwin

William Godwin
4
Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: March 3, 1756
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Wisbech
Died: April 7, 1836

 46 Mary Somerville

Mary Somerville
4
Famous As: Mathematician, Linguist, Translator, Astronomer, Scientist
Birthdate: December 26, 1780
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Jedburgh
Died: November 28, 1872

One of the two pioneering female honorary members of the Royal Astronomical Society, Mary Somerville was a 19th-century polymath and science writer. Though she specialized in math and astronomy, she was also well-versed in botany and geology. The Connection of the Physical Sciences remains her most notable work.

 47 Sophie Germain

Sophie Germain
3
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: April 1, 1776
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Rue Saint-Denis, Paris, France
Died: June 27, 1831

French mathematician Sophie Germain had used the pseudonym M. Le Blanc to get hold of notes from the École Polytechnique, as being a woman, she was not allowed to attend the institute. She later contributed to the number theory and also pioneered the elasticity theory. She died of breast cancer.

 48 Jacob Grimm

Jacob Grimm
3
Famous As: Philologist
Birthdate: January 4, 1785
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Hanau, Germany
Died: September 20, 1863

Part of the legendary folklorist duo known as the Brothers Grimm, Jacob Grimm gave to the world Grimm’s Fairy Tales, along with his younger brother, Wilhelm Grimm. The son of a lawyer, he, too, had initially studied law. He also contributed immensely to Germanic linguistics, with his Grimm's law.

 49 Marquis de Condorcet

Marquis de Condorcet
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher
Birthdate: September 17, 1743
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Ribemont, France
Died: March 28, 1794

French mathematician and philosopher Marquis de Condorcet was a champion for liberal economy and women’s rights. He was a significant contributor of the Encyclopédie and was part of the Academy of Sciences. He is also remembered for his political activities in the wake of the French Revolution.

 50 François-René de Chateaubriand

François-René de Chateaubriand
3
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 4, 1768
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Saint-Malo, France
Died: July 4, 1848

François-René de Chateaubriand was a French writer, diplomat, historian, and politician. Chateaubriand had a major influence on 19th-century French literature. François-René de Chateaubriand is also remembered for defending the Catholic faith by writing The Genius of Christianity when most intellectuals were turning against the Church. Chateaubriand was a food enthusiast; it is believed that Chateaubriand steak is named after him.