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.
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.
Max Weber was a German historian, political economist, jurist, and sociologist. Widely regarded as one of the most influential and important theorists, Weber's ideas had a profound influence on social research and social theory. Although he did not see himself as a sociologist, Weber is often counted among the fathers of sociology alongside Émile Durkheim, Auguste Comte, and Karl Marx.
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher. He was among the first Western philosophers to affirm important tenets of Indian philosophy, such as denial of the self and asceticism. Schopenhauer's work has had a tremendous posthumous impact on disciplines like science, literature, and philosophy. His work influenced personalities like Albert Einstein, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Sigmund Freud, George Bernard Shaw, and Leo Tolstoy.
Hannah Arendt was a political theorist. Widely regarded as one of the 20th century's most prominent political thinkers, Hannah Arendt's articles and books have had a significant influence on philosophy and political theory. Her life and work inspired the 2012 biographical drama film, Hannah Arendt. Her work has also inspired several biographies written by popular authors.
Erik Erikson was a German-American psychoanalyst and developmental psychologist best remembered for developing a theory on the psychological development of humans. He is credited with coining the term identity crisis, the failure to achieve ego identity. Also a prolific writer, Erikson won a US National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize for his book Gandhi's Truth.
German philosopher and sociologist Jürgen Habermas is counted among the most influential philosophers across the world and is identified with the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He influenced many disciplines through his work which addresses communicative rationality and the public sphere, and includes topics starting from social-political theory to aesthetics, language to philosophy of religion, and epistemology.
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.
One of the most prominent intellectuals of the 20th century, Theodor Adorno was a pioneer of the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory and despised the culture industry. Born to a singer mother, the German sociologist grew up amid music and could even play Beethoven on the piano by 12.
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.
15 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.
16 Kurt Lewin
Albertus Magnus was a friar, bishop, and philosopher. Regarded by some as the greatest German theologian and philosopher of the Middle Ages, Albertus' writings have inspired the iconography of the archivolts and tympanum of the 13th-century portal of Strasbourg Cathedral. Remembered for his contribution to academics, several education institutions have been named after Albertus Magnus.
18 Erich Fromm
Erich Fromm was a German social psychologist, psychoanalyst, sociologist, and socialist. A German Jew, he fled the Nazi regime and settled in the United States. He was a co-founder of The William Alanson White Institute and was associated with the Frankfurt School of critical theory. He is best remembered for authoring the book Escape from Freedom.
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.
Rudolf Virchow was a German physician, pathologist, anthropologist, biologist, prehistorian, editor, writer, and politician. Nicknamed the Pope of medicine by his colleagues, Virchow is credited with founding the field of social medicine. He is also widely regarded as the father of modern pathology. Rudolf Virchow was the first person to name diseases, such as thrombosis, leukemia, ochronosis, embolism, and chordoma.
21 Karen Horney
Remembered for her pioneering work on feminist psychology, Karen Horney studied medicine at a time when women weren’t allowed in universities. Going against Sigmund Freud’s concept of penis envy, she suggested the idea of womb envy. She believed psychological differences weren’t rooted in gender but rather depended on the socio-cultural influences.
22 Max Stirner
24 Georg Simmel
The proponent of the Frankfurt School of critical theory, Herbert Marcuse largely influenced the leftist student revolts of the 1960s. Equipped with a PhD in German literature, he wrote Hegel’s Ontology and the Theory of Historicity, with Martin Heidegger. His Eros and Civilization spoke at length about capitalism.
30 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.
German historian Oswald Spengler is best remembered for his iconic The Decline of the West, which had a huge influence on social theory. He believed that culture cannot be transferred and that it can only decline and decay like an organism. He lived his final years in isolation in Munich.
German businessman Heinrich Schliemann didn’t let his poverty or lack of education hinder his growth and learned several languages moving from place to place for trade. A pioneer in the field of archaeology, he is now remembered as the man who discovered Troy in his bid to unearth “Priam's Treasure."
36 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.
Helmuth von Moltke the Elder was a Prussian field marshal who served as the chief of staff in the Royal Prussian Army for 30 years. Moltke, who commanded troops during Austro-Prussian War, Second Schleswig War, and the Franco-Prussian War, is credited with creating a new method of directing armies. He is also credited with pioneering the military usage of railways.
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.
Russian-born German author Lou Andreas-Salomé apparently rejected renowned philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s marriage proposal and then married a professor instead. A skilled psychoanalyst, she was also close to Rainer Maria Rilke and Sigmund Freud. She was one of the first to offer a psychoanalytic perspective to female sexuality.
42 Carl Schmitt
44 Fritz Perls
Fritz Perls initially fought in World War I, following which he treated brain injuries of soldiers. He was later drawn to Freudian psychoanalysis. During World War II, he was the psychiatrist for the South African military. His Gestalt therapy, which he co-created with his wife, Laura, redefined psychology.
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.
49 Jacob Grimm
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.