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.
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.
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.
Born to a professor, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was well-read since childhood. A doctorate in law, he grew up to be a polymath. Apart from being one of the greatest 17th-century rationalist philosophers, he was also an eminent mathematician, scientist, and diplomat. His interests also included medicine and philology.
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.
10 Erik Erikson
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.
14 Max Weber
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.
Friedrich Engels was a German philosopher, political scientist, and revolutionary socialist. Along with Karl Marx, Engels helped develop Marxism, which has had a profound impact on fields like philosophy and anthropology. Engels is credited with helping Marx publish Das Kapital, a foundational theoretical work in politics, economics, and materialist philosophy. He also co-authored influential political documents like The Communist Manifesto.
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.
19 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.
20 Kurt Lewin
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.
22 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.
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.
26 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.
27 Max Stirner
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.
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.
Hildegard of Bingen was a German writer, composer, Christian mystic, visionary, philosopher, polymath, and Benedictine abbess of the High Middle Ages. Apart from being the most-recorded composers of sacred monophony in modern history, Hildegard of Bingen is also widely regarded as the founder of scientific natural history.
34 Carl Schmitt
35 Leo Strauss
37 Klaus Schwab
German philosopher Meister Eckhart is remembered for his Latin and German transcripts that stress on the relationship between God and man. His treatises include Talks of Instruction and the Book of Divine Consolation. His innovative vocabulary also contributed to the German language. However, he was accused of heresy later.
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.
44 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.
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.
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.
Born in Prussia, Magnus Hirschfeld had initially studied languages and had then earned a medical degree. He grew up to be a prominent sexologist and gay rights activist who referred to the LGBT community as the “third sex.” His one-of-a-kind sexology institute was later destroyed by the Nazis.
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."