German philosopher, cultural critic, composer, and poet Friedrich Nietzsche has had a profound influence on modern intellectual history. He held the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel. His work spanned philosophical polemics, poetry, cultural criticism, and fiction. He suffered from numerous health problems from a young age and died at the age of 55.
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.
Bertrand Russell was a British polymath and Nobel laureate. His work, which is spread across various fields, has had a considerable influence on philosophy, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, mathematics, linguistics, and logic. Russell is also credited with leading the revolt against idealism in Britain and is regarded as one of the founders of analytic philosophy.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American philosopher who led the transcendentalist movement that developed in the eastern United States in the 1820s and 1830s. He is credited with popularizing individualism through his numerous lectures and essays. Emerson influenced many thinkers and writers that followed him; he mentored Henry David Thoreau, who went on to become a leading transcendentalist.
A staunch advocate of progressive education and liberalism, the American philosopher and psychologist was the founder of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. John Dewey’s famous writings included The Reflex Arc Concept in Psychology and Human Nature and Conduct. According to him, passion for knowledge and intellectual curiosity were central to a teacher. He called himself a democratic socialist.
William James was an American psychologist and philosopher. Widely regarded as the father of American psychology and one of the most influential American philosophers, James was the first educator in the United States to offer a course in psychology. He is also credited with co-founding a psychological school of thought called functional psychology and establishing a philosophical school called pragmatism.
Walter Benjamin was a German Jewish essayist, philosopher, and cultural critic. An eclectic thinker, Benjamin made significant contributions to literary criticism, aesthetic theory, and historical materialism. Although Benjamin's work did not earn much recognition during his lifetime, it continues to be revered by academics several years after his death.
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was the second President of India and served from 1962 to 1967. He is regarded as one of India’s most eminent scholars and wrote extensively on Indian philosophy and religion. Lifelong he defended Hindu traditions and culture against criticism from the West. September 5, his birthday, is observed as Teachers Day in India, in his honour.
Henry David Thoreau was an American philosopher, essayist, poet, and naturalist. He is credited with popularizing transcendentalism and simple living. His philosophy of civil disobedience, which was detailed in his essay of the same name, later influenced world-renowned personalities like Leo Tolstoy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi.
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.
Jiddu Krishnamurti was an Indian philosopher, speaker, and writer. Many years after his death, Krishnamurti's supporters oversee several schools based on his views and ideas. The Krishnamurti Foundation runs several schools in India and foreign countries. Among those who were influenced by his works were Toni Packer, Dada Dharmadhikari, and Achyut Patwardhan.
17 Karl Marx
Karl Marx, the philosopher, economist, political theorist and socialist revolutionary, is best-known for the 1848 pamphlet, The Communist Manifesto and the three-volume Das Kapital. His theories, called Marxism, maintained that class conflict leads to the development of human societies and that internal tension were inherent in capitalism, which would ultimately be replaced by the socialist mode of production.
Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is remembered for his works related to logic, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of mathematics, and the philosophy of language. He taught at the University of Cambridge for many years. He published only one book during his lifetime. Most of his manuscripts were collected later and published posthumously.
Lebanese author and poet Khalil Gibran is best remembered for his bestselling works The Prophet and Broken Wings. One of the leaders of the Mahjar movement of Arabic literature, he specialized in incorporating mythological and mystical symbols in his works and was inspired by Friedrich Nietzsche and William Blake.
20 George Boole
George Boole is remembered for pioneering Boolean algebra, a tool used in digital computer circuits. More of a self-taught mathematician, Boole began teaching at 16 and later grew up to be a math professor at Queen’s College, Cork. His work in differential equations and algebraic logic was groundbreaking.
Emile Durkheim was a French sociologist. He is credited with establishing the discipline of sociology for academic purposes and is widely regarded as the chief architect of modern social science. During his lifetime, Emile Durkheim published several works on topics like morality, religion, and education. He also played a major role in the development of sociology and anthropology as disciplines.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was an Indian social reformer and educator. He is best remembered for his efforts to modernize and simplify Bengali prose for which he is widely regarded as the father of Bengali prose. As a social reformer, Vidyasagar played a crucial role in enacting the Hindu Widows' Remarriage Act, which legalized the remarriage of Hindu widows in India.
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.
Sri Aurobindo was an Indian philosopher, poet, yogi, teacher, and nationalist. He was one of the most influential leaders of the Indian independence movement before becoming a spiritual reformer, focusing on spiritual evolution and human progress. He is credited with founding the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, which continues to serve spiritual aspirants from all over the world.
The widely revered Hindu religious leader and saint who had a large following was known for promoting the ancient Indian philosophy of Advaita Vedanta and Bhakti. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was a devotee of Goddess Kali who he worshipped as the universal mother. His marriage to Sharada Devi was never consummated. Swami Vivekanada was the most famous disciple of the Bengal-born mystic.
Muhammad Iqbal was a Scholar, poet, and politician. Born in British India (present-day Pakistan), Iqbal's poetry in Persian and Urdu languages is regarded as one of the greatest of the modern era. Also an influential politician, Muhammad Iqbal's vision of an independent Muslim state helped inspire the creation of Pakistan where he is recognized as the national poet.
Herbert Spencer was the man behind the expression “survival of the fittest,” after reading Charles Darwin's iconic work On the Origin of Species. The British anthropologist, sociologist, and philosopher introduced the concept of Social Darwinism, which applied the theory of evolution to societies and social classes.
Russian philosopher Helena Blavatsky, or Madame Blavatsky, was one of the co-founders of the Theosophical Society. She popularized the slogan “There is no religion higher than truth.” She was inspired by the Arya Samaj and later converted to Buddhism. She also wrote books such as The Secret Doctrine.
Paramahansa Yogananda was an Indian Hindu monk, yogi, and guru. He is known for introducing the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his organization Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) / Yogoda Satsanga Society (YSS) of India to millions across the world. He authored the book Autobiography of a Yogi and is considered the Father of Yoga in the West.
33 Max Stirner
Wilhelm Wundt was a German physiologist, professor, and philosopher. He is often counted among the founders of modern psychology and is widely considered the father of experimental psychology. He is also credited with founding the first laboratory for psychological research, which he founded at the University of Leipzig in 1879.
Mikhail Bakunin was a Russian socialist and anarchist. He is credited with founding an anarchist school of thought called collectivist anarchism. Regarded as one of the most influential personalities of anarchism, Mikhail Bakunin has had a major influence on thinkers like Peter Kropotkin, Herbert Marcuse, Errico Malatesta, Neil Postman, E. P. Thompson, and A. S. Neill.
One of George Santayana’s initial works, The Sense of Beauty, spoke about aesthetics, an oft-repeated topic in his later works. The Spanish-born American philosopher and Harvard professor is remembered for his quote “Only the dead have seen the end of war,” which has often been misattributed to Plato.
Alfred North Whitehead was a British mathematician and philosopher, best known for his collaboration with his student Bertrand Russell on Principal of Mathematics, a three-volume work on the foundations of mathematics. Also known for his pioneering works on process philosophy and metaphysics, he is credited with developing a comprehensive metaphysical system that differs from most Western philosophies.
40 Edith Stein
Edith Stein was a German Jewish philosopher who studied at the University of Freiburg and completed her dissertation on empathy. Always interested in Catholicism, she read the autobiography of the mystic Teresa of Ávila and converted to Christianity, and became a Discalced Carmelite nun. She was killed in the Auschwitz concentration camp and is canonized as a martyr.
41 Will Durant
Will Durant was an American writer, philosopher, and historian. He is credited with writing The Story of Philosophy which helped popularize philosophy in the USA. Will is also remembered for co-writing an 11-volume set of books titled The Story of Civilization along with his wife Ariel. Will and Ariel were awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
42 Paul Tillich
German-American theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich is remembered for his work in the field of Christian existentialism and for concepts such as the method of correlation. His notable works, such as The Courage to Be and the three-volume Systematic Theology, has inspired intellectual thinkers and commoners alike.
A qualified civil engineer, Vilfredo Pareto had initially worked for the railways and the ironworks. However, he gradually deviated to philosophy, sociology, and politics and gained fame for his application of math to economic issues and his introduction of Pareto efficiency. Mind and Society remains his best-known work.
An Indian lawyer and anti-colonial nationalist, Mahatma Gandhi was a major figure in India’s fight for independence from British rule. He is renowned for his employment of non-violent resistance and civil disobedience methods. Despite his popularity, he had numerous detractors as well and was assassinated in 1948. He is widely considered the Father of the Nation in India.
45 Martin Buber
Martin Buber was an Austrian and Israeli philosopher who received ten nominations for the Nobel Prize in Literature and seven nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. Renowned for his philosophy of dialogue, Buber is best known for his famous essay, I and Thou. In 1951, he was honored by the University of Hamburg with the prestigious Goethe Award.
Often referred to as the Father of Anarchism, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon was born to a tavern keeper and grew up working on farms. Largely educated on scholarships, he later became known for his slogan “Property is theft!” and his idea of mutualism. His notable works include What is Property?
Nikos Kazantzakis was a Greek writer whose works earned him nine nominations for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature. Regarded as a giant of modern Greek literature, Kazantzakis achieved international fame when his works, such as The Life And Times Of Alexis Zorba and The Last Temptation of Christ, were adapted into feature films.
Wilhelm Dilthey was a German psychologist, sociologist, historian, and hermeneutic philosopher. An ardent admirer of Friedrich Schleiermacher, Dilthey helped revive the former's works on hermeneutics. Wilhelm Dilthey is also credited with teaching future philosophers like Hans Lipps, Eduard Spranger, and Theodor Litt.