18th Century Philosophers

Find out more about the greatest 18th Century Philosophers, including Immanuel Kant, Voltaire, Adam Smith, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Olympe de Gouges.

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 John Locke

John Locke
14
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: August 29, 1632
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Wrington, Somerset, England
Died: October 28, 1704
John Locke, also known as The Father of Liberalism, was a prominent Enlightenment Age philosopher. A qualified physician, Locke postulated the theory of mind, empiricism, and the idea of tabula rasa. His ideas influenced the social contract theory, the works of Kant and Rousseau, and the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

 2 Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant
15
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.

 3 Voltaire

Voltaire
15
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.
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 4 Adam Smith

Adam Smith
12
Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: June 5, 1723
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Kirkcaldy, Fife, 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.

 5 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.

 6 David Hume

David Hume
7
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.

 7 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
11
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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 8 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.

 9 Jeremy Bentham

Jeremy Bentham
5
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: February 15, 1748
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Houndsditch, London, England
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 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.

 11 George Berkeley

George Berkeley
5
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.

 12 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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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.

 13 Mary Wollstonecraft

Mary Wollstonecraft
5
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.

 14 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.

 15 Gottfried W. Leibniz

Gottfried W. Leibniz
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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.

 16 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.

 17 Samuel Coleridge

Samuel Coleridge
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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.

 18 Edmund Burke

Edmund Burke
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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. 

 19 Johann Gottlieb Fichte

Johann Gottlieb Fichte
3
Famous As: Former Philosopher who became a founding figure of the philosophical movement known as German idealism
Birthdate: May 19, 1762
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Rammenau, Germany
Died: January 29, 1814

 20 Friedrich Schiller

Friedrich Schiller
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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.

 21 Thomas Carlyle

Thomas Carlyle
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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.

 22 Raja Ram Mohan Roy

Raja Ram Mohan Roy
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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 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

 24 Ethan Allen

Ethan Allen
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Famous As: Revolutionary War Hero
Birthdate: January 21, 1738
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Litchfield, Connecticut, United States
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.

 25 Joseph Priestley

Joseph Priestley
4
Famous As: Discoverer of Oxygen
Birthdate: March 24, 1733
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Birstall, England
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.

 26 Swedenborg

Swedenborg
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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.

 27 Adam Weishaupt

Adam Weishaupt
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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. 

 28 Comte de Saint-Germain

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

Known as The Wonderman, 18th-century French adventurer Comte de Saint-Germain was also a talented musician, especially skilled in the violin, and a well-known chemist. Not only was he proficient in almost all European languages, he had traveled to places such as Russia, the Dutch Republic, and Germany.

 29 Émilie du Châtelet

Émilie du Châtelet
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: December 17, 1706
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 10, 1749

 30 Henry Cavendish

Henry Cavendish
3
Famous As: Natural philosopher
Birthdate: October 10, 1731
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Nice, France
Died: February 24, 1810

English natural philosopher, scientist, and a prominent experimental and theoretical physicist and chemist Henry Cavendish is best-remembered for his discovery of hydrogen and his Cavendish experiment. He first recognized that hydrogen, which he termed inflammable air, is a discrete substance which produces water on combustion. He conducted the Cavendish experiment to measure and produce a value for Earth’s density.

 31 William Godwin

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

 32 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.

 33 Charles Fourier

Charles Fourier
3
Famous As: Philosopher, an influential early socialist thinker and one of the founders of utopian socialism
Birthdate: April 7, 1772
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Besançon, France
Died: October 10, 1837

French social theorist Charles Fourier is regarded as one of the pioneers of utopian socialism. Apart from advocating social reconstruction based on phalanges, or Fourierism, he is also credited with coining the term feminism with respect to women’s rights. The Social Destiny of Man remains one of his notable works.

 34 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.

 35 Marquis de Condorcet

Marquis de Condorcet
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher
Birthdate: September 17, 1743
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Ribemont, France
Died: March 29, 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.

 36 Novalis

Novalis
3
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: May 2, 1772
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Wiederstedt, Germany
Died: March 25, 1801

Poet and philosopher Friedrich Leopold, better known as Novalis, was a significant figure of German Romanticism. He narrated the loss of his 15-year-old fiancé to tuberculosis in his Hymns to the Night. He himself died of the disease a few years later. He was also well-versed in natural sciences.

 37 Giambattista Vico

Giambattista Vico
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: June 23, 1668
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Naples, Italy
Died: January 23, 1744

Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico is regarded as a pioneer of what is now known as cultural anthropology, or ethnology. He brought together history and the social sciences in his work Scienza nuova. A poor bookseller’s son, he studied by candlelight but grew up to be a major Counter-Enlightenment figure.

 38 Moses Mendelssohn

Moses Mendelssohn
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: September 6, 1729
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Dessau, Dessau-Roßlau, Germany
Died: January 4, 1786

 39 Joseph de Maistre

Joseph de Maistre
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: April 1, 1753
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Chambéry, France
Died: February 26, 1821

A qualified lawyer, Joseph de Maistre was also a skilled diplomat, moralist, and author. Part of the Savoy Senate, he was exiled in Switzerland after Napoleon’s invasion and later also served in Russia and an envoy of the Sardinian king. A staunch Roman Catholic, he was against liberal and scientific beliefs.

 40 Jean Le Rond d’Alembert

Jean Le Rond d’Alembert
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher
Birthdate: November 16, 1717
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 29, 1783

Jean le Rond d'Alembert was a French mathematician, physicist, philosopher, and music theorist. He is credited with coming up with d'Alembert's formula, a solution to the one-dimensional wave equation, which is named after him. His life and work inspired Andrew Crumey's 1996 novel, D'Alembert's Principle.

 41 Wilhelm von Humboldt

Wilhelm von Humboldt
3
Famous As: Philosopher, Diplomat
Birthdate: June 22, 1767
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Potsdam, Germany
Died: April 8, 1835

 42 Germaine de Staël

Germaine de Staël
3
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: April 22, 1766
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: July 14, 1817

Germaine de Staël was a French political theorist and woman of letters. She is best remembered for her collaboration with the popular  Swiss-French political thinker Benjamin Constant. Germaine, who was way ahead of her time, is widely regarded as a precursor of feminism.

 43 John Austin

John Austin
3
Famous As: jurist, philosopher
Birthdate: March 3, 1790
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Suffolk
Died: December 1, 1859

English legal theorist John Austin, who aimed at transforming law into a true science, is considered by many as creator of the school of analytical jurisprudence. His book The Province of Jurisprudence Determined received significant attention posthumously, while his analytical approach to jurisprudence and theory of legal positivism also influenced American and British law following his death.

 44 Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
3
Famous As: Was a German Writer, Philosopher
Birthdate: January 22, 1729
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Kamenz, Germany
Died: February 15, 1781

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was a noted German dramatist, critic, and author, remembered especially for his contribution towards liberating German theatre from the influence of its classical and French counterpart. Known for such literary masterpieces like Miss Sara Sampson; Emilia Galotti; Minna von Barnhelm; Nathan the Wise; Laocoön; Hamburg Dramaturgy, he is now considered an outstanding representative of the Enlightenment era.

 45 Johann Friedrich Struensee

Johann Friedrich Struensee
3
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: August 5, 1737
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Halle, Germany
Died: April 28, 1772

Eighteenth-century German physician Johann Friedrich Struensee was the official physician of King Christian VII of Denmark, who was mentally unstable. He later started dominating the court and also began an affair with Queen Caroline Matilda. In spite of introducing several reforms, he was eventually beheaded, following a coup.

 46 Maria Gaetana Agnesi

Maria Gaetana Agnesi
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher, Theologian
Birthdate: May 16, 1718
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Milan, Italy
Died: January 9, 1799

Italian mathematician Maria Gaetana Agnesi, daughter of an affluent silk trader, was well-versed in a number of languages as a child. Most of her work was regarding algebra, calculus, and the Witch of Agnesi. She was also the first female academic to write a math book and to teach math.

 47 Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards
4
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.

 48 William Paley

William Paley
3
Famous As: Christian apologist, philosopher, and utilitarian
Birthdate: June 30, 1743
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Peterborough, England
Died: May 25, 1805

 49 James Mill

James Mill
3
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: April 6, 1773
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Angus, Scotland
Died: June 23, 1836

James Mill was a Scottish economist, historian, philosopher, and political theorist. Mill is credited with co-founding the Ricardian school of economics. He is also credited with writing The History of British India, which classifies Indian history into three parts: British, Muslim, and Hindu. The classification has played an influential role in the field of Indian historical studies.

 50 Friedrich Schleiermacher

Friedrich Schleiermacher
3
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: November 21, 1768
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Wrocław, Poland
Died: February 12, 1834

Hailed as an early leader of liberal Christianity, Lutheran philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher was also an eminent biblical scholar and theologian. Best remembered for his works on hermeneutics and theory of translation, he also had a great impact on the evolution of higher criticism and became known for his attempt to reconcile the criticisms of the Enlightenment with traditional Protestant Christianity.