Famous American Intellectuals & Academics

Wonder who is the most influential figure in American history? Presidents, entrepreneurs, and athletes aside, it is the introspective, rabble-rousing, trailblazing lot of intellectuals and academics who have played a significant role in shaping the American tenor. They are the visionaries, the great innovators who have revolutionized America and the world at large with their standout ideas, thoughts, and actions. They are the thinkers who have dominated every American mind and have been an inspiration behind their roadmap to success. From Chomsky and Rorty to Dewey and Walzer, America has spun out some top notch intellectuals who not only put their ideas and thoughts into practice, but also architected pathways to a more stable and productive American future. Let us meet America's most cited intellectuals and academics in the biographies presented below and acquaint ourselves to their timeline, trivia, and interesting facts. Caveat: These biographies might redefine your take on world and life.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

Vote for Your Favourite American Intellectuals & Academics

 1 Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky
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Famous As: Linguist
Birthdate: December 7, 1928
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

Regarded by many as the father of modern linguistics, Noam Chomsky has authored over 100 books on varied topics, such as politics, linguistics, and war. A multi-talented personality, Noam Chomsky is considered a popular figure in analytic philosophy. Apart from influencing a wide array of academic fields, he has also contributed to the development of cognitivism.

 2 Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau
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Famous As: Writer and Philosopher
Birthdate: July 12, 1817
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Died: May 6, 1862

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.

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 3 Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell
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Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: June 30, 1930
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

One of the few personalities known for his disdain of self-promotion, Thomas Sowell is an important American social theorist and economist. Over the years, he has played a prominent role working as a faculty member of many prestigious universities, such as the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and Cornell University

 4 B. F. Skinner

B. F. Skinner
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Famous As: American psychologist
Birthdate: March 20, 1904
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
Died: August 18, 1990

B. F. Skinner was an American behaviorist, psychologist, inventor, author, and social philosopher. Skinner, who taught psychology at Harvard University, is credited with founding a school of thought in psychology called the experimental analysis of behavior. Regarded as a pioneer of modern behaviorism, Skinner was named the 20th century's most influential psychologist, according to a survey conducted in June 2002. 

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 5 Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman
7
Famous As: Economist, Statistician
Birthdate: July 31, 1912
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American
Died: November 16, 2006

Milton Friedman was an American economist. Widely regarded as one of the most influential economists of the 20th century, Friedman was honored with the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1976. One of the most influential personalities of the Chicago school of economics, Friedman mentored people like Gary Becker and Thomas Sowell who went on to become leading economists.

 6 Abraham Maslow

Abraham Maslow
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Birthdate: April 1, 1908
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American
Died: June 8, 1970

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist best remembered for creating an idea in psychology called Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Maslow, who advocated self-actualization, is also credited with co-founding the school of transpersonal psychology. In 1967, he was adjudged Humanist of the Year by the popular non-profit organization, American Humanist Association.

 7 William James

William James
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Famous As: Philosopher, Psychologist
Birthdate: January 11, 1842
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Died: August 26, 1910

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.

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 8 John Forbes Nash, Jr.

John Forbes Nash, Jr.
0
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: June 13, 1928
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American
Died: May 23, 2015
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 9 Samantha Power

Samantha Power
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 21, 1970
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and academic Samantha Power has previously served as the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. She was a war correspondent before she became a professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. She worked on Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and infamously called Hillary Clinton "a monster.”

 10 Timothy Francis Leary

Timothy Francis Leary
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Famous As: American psychologist
Birthdate: October 22, 1920
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: May 31, 1996

Psychologist and former Harvard professor Timothy Leary was an advocate of psychedelic drugs. His research experiments included the controversial Concord Prison Experiment and Marsh Chapel Experiment. After being fired from Harvard for his actions, he continued promoting his theories through catchphrases such as “turn on, tune in, drop out.”

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 11 Janet Yellen

Janet Yellen
4
Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: August 13, 1946
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American

 12 Philip Zimbardo

Philip Zimbardo
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Famous As: Social psychologist, University teacher, Non-fiction writer, Psychologist
Birthdate: March 23, 1933
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American
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 13 Terence McKenna

Terence McKenna
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Famous As: Philosopher, Psychonaut, Ethnobotanist, Author
Birthdate: November 16, 1946
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
Died: April 3, 2000
Philosopher, ethnobotanist, and public speaker Terence McKenna was the proponent of concepts such as the Novelty Theory and Machine Elf. His work revolved around subjects such as psychedelic drugs, shamanism, alchemy, and metaphysics. He wrote several books and supported the usage of psychedelic mushrooms to experience different states of mind.

 14 James Randi

James Randi
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Famous As: Philosopher, Stage magician
Birthdate: August 7, 1928
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American
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 15 Alan Greenspan

Alan Greenspan
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Famous As: American economist
Birthdate: March 6, 1926
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
Economist Alan Greenspan chaired the U.S. Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006. It is believed that his easy money policies had caused the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008. He now works as a consultant through his organization Greenspan Associates LLC. He was also trained in clarinet at the Juilliard School.

 16 Jimmy Swaggart

Jimmy Swaggart
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Famous As: Singer, Theologian, Pianist
Birthdate: March 15, 1935
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American

 17 Claude Shannon

Claude Shannon
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Famous As: Mathematician, Cryptographer
Birthdate: April 30, 1916
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
Died: February 24, 2001

 18 Carl Rogers

Carl Rogers
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Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: January 8, 1902
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Died: February 4, 1987

 19 John Podesta

John Podesta
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Famous As: Political consultant
Birthdate: January 8, 1949
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American

 20 Peter Navarro

Peter Navarro
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Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: July 15, 1949
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American
Economist and writer Peter Navarro has served as the Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy and the Director of the National Trade Council under former president Donald Trump. He has also authored books such as Death by China and taught at the University of California.

 21 John Dewey

John Dewey
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 20, 1859
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: June 1, 1952

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.

 22 Cornel West

Cornel West
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: June 2, 1953
Sun Sign: Gemini
Nationality: American

Cornel West is an American philosopher, social critic, political activist, and author. He is renowned for drawing intellectual contributions from several traditions, such as Marxism, Christianity, transcendentalism, and neopragmatism. West is credited with authoring many influential books, such as Democracy Matters and Race Matters.

 23 Robert Reich

Robert Reich
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: June 24, 1946
Sun Sign: Cancer
Nationality: American

 24 Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman
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Famous As: Columnist, Economist, Essayist, Blogger, University teacher, Actor, Pundit, Journalist, Writer
Birthdate: February 28, 1953
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American

 25 John B. Watson

John B. Watson
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Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: January 9, 1878
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Died: September 25, 1958

 26 Kurt Gödel

Kurt Gödel
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Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher
Birthdate: April 28, 1906
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
Died: January 14, 1978

 27 William Moulton Marston

William Moulton Marston
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Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: May 9, 1893
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
Died: May 2, 1947
Psychologist William Moulton Marston, also known as “Charles Moulton,” is remembered for inventing a precursor of the lie detector, along with his wife, Elizabeth Holloway. He was also a comic book author, who created the superheroine Wonder Woman. He was in a polyamorous relationship with his wife and Olive Byrne.

 28 Ben Bernanke

Ben Bernanke
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Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: December 13, 1953
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

Ben Bernanke is an American economist who served two terms as the chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 2006 to 2014, during which he supervised the Federal Reserve's response to the global financial crisis (GFC). For his efforts during GFC, Ben Bernanke was named Time Person of the Year in 2009.

 29 Jon Meacham

Jon Meacham
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Famous As: Journalist, Historian, Biographer
Birthdate: May 20, 1969
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American

 30 Nate Silver

Nate Silver
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Famous As: Statistician
Birthdate: January 13, 1978
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American

 31 Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston
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Famous As: Folklorist, Anthropologist
Birthdate: January 7, 1891
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American
Died: January 28, 1960

Zora Neale Hurston was an author, anthropologist, and filmmaker. As an African American woman, she often depicted racial issues in the films she made. Her works also reflected her struggles as a black woman. In her early career, she conducted anthropological and ethnographic research and focused more on writing and film-making in her later years.

 32 Eric Weinstein

Eric Weinstein
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Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: October 26, 1965
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American

 33 Eugene Landy

Eugene Landy
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Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: November 26, 1934
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: March 22, 2006

 34 W. Edwards Deming

W. Edwards Deming
0
Famous As: Engineer
Birthdate: October 14, 1900
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: December 20, 1993

 35 Camille Paglia

Camille Paglia
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Famous As: Cultural critic
Birthdate: April 2, 1947
Sun Sign: Aries
Nationality: American

 36 Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead
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Famous As: Cultural Anthropologist
Birthdate: December 16, 1901
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American
Died: November 15, 1978

 37 Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson
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Famous As: Historian, University teacher, Journalist
Birthdate: September 5, 1953
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

 38 John Rawls

John Rawls
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Famous As: American Philosopher
Birthdate: February 21, 1921
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
Died: November 24, 2002

 39 Lawrence Kudlow

Lawrence Kudlow
0
Famous As: Director of the National Economic Council
Birthdate: August 20, 1947
Sun Sign: Leo
Nationality: American

 40 Richard Proenneke

Richard Proenneke
0
Famous As: Naturalist
Birthdate: May 4, 1916
Sun Sign: Taurus
Nationality: American
Died: April 20, 2003

 41 Gary Cohn

Gary Cohn
0
Famous As: Investment Banker
Birthdate: August 27, 1960
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

 42 Frederick Winslow Taylor

Frederick Winslow Taylor
0
Famous As: Tennis player, Engineer, Economist, Golfer, Management consultant, Mechanical engineer, Lecturer, Writer
Birthdate: March 20, 1856
Sun Sign: Pisces
Nationality: American
Died: March 21, 1915

 43 Lawrence Summers

Lawrence Summers
0
Famous As: Economist
Birthdate: November 30, 1954
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Nationality: American

 44 Joseph E. Stiglitz

Joseph E. Stiglitz
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Famous As: Economist & Author
Birthdate: February 9, 1943
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American

 45 Joseph Stiglitz

Joseph Stiglitz
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Famous As: Economist, University teacher, Science writer, Non-fiction writer, Professor, Critic, Writer, Scientist
Birthdate: February 9, 1943
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Nationality: American

 46 Sarah Vowell

Sarah Vowell
0
Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: December 27, 1969
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Nationality: American

 47 Harry Harlow

Harry Harlow
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Famous As: Psychologist
Birthdate: October 31, 1905
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
Died: December 6, 1981

 48 Joe Medicine Crow

Joe Medicine Crow
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: October 27, 1913
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Nationality: American
Died: April 3, 2016

 49 N. K. Jemisin

N. K. Jemisin
0
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: September 19, 1972
Sun Sign: Virgo
Nationality: American

 50 Jonathan Edwards

Jonathan Edwards
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Famous As: American preacher
Birthdate: October 5, 1703
Sun Sign: Libra
Nationality: American
Died: March 22, 1758