Military Leaders

Military Leaders are the leaders of the military forces—armed forces, armed services, military, military machine, war machine—of a nation. Military leaders influence others by providing purpose, direction, and motivation to accomplish the mission, and have the legal authority to lawfully exercise control over subordinates by virtue of their rank or position. Warlords who exercise absolute civil power and individual autonomy in regions where the government is weak are also considered to be military leaders. History is replete with the legends of military leaders and revolutionaries who left their indelible marks on human civilization. Alexander the Great, who established one of the largest empires of the ancient world, is undoubtedly one of the best known military leaders. Ancient China’s Sun Tzu was not just a brilliant military leader, but also the author of ‘The Art of War’, an ancient Chinese text on military strategy. While Saladin, William the Conqueror and Henry V were the famous military leaders who lived during the Middle Ages, Oliver Cromwell, Shivaji and Peter the Great were courageous warriors of the Early Modern Period. Even though a majority of military leaders throughout history have been men, brave ladies like Joan of Arc, Boudicca, Laskarina Bouboulina, and Lakshmibai have proven that women too can be powerful military leaders. Read on to discover about the life and works of various famous military leaders from all over the world.

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 
Alexander the Great
(King of Macedonia)

Alexander the Great
22
Birthdate: 0356
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Pella, Greece
Died: May 31, 0323

Counted amongst the greatest military commanders of all times, Alexander the Great successfully created one of the largest empires—from Macedonia to Persia and India—of the ancient world. The son of King of Macedonia, Philip II, he ascended the throne at the age of 20 and achieved unprecedented success before he died at the age of 33.  

 2 
Napoleon Bonaparte
(Emperor of the French (1804-1814))

Napoleon Bonaparte
14
Birthdate: August 15, 1769
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Ajaccio, France
Died: May 5, 1821
French military leader Napoleon Bonaparte ruled as the French emperor from 1804 to 1814 and again in 1815. He strengthened France’s position in Europe through the Napoleonic Wars and extended his kingdom. However, he was eventually defeated by the Seventh Coalition at the Battle of Waterloo and sent to exile. 

 3 
Julius Caesar
(Roman dictator)

Julius Caesar
9
Birthdate: August 15, 1769, 0100
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: March 15, 0044

Julius Caesar is considered one of the greatest military commanders in history and played an important role in the events that led to the downfall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Roman Empire. He assumed control of the government after a civil war. He was assassinated by rebel senators on the Ides of March, 44 BC.

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 4 
Douglas MacArthur
(Military officer)

Douglas MacArthur
34
Birthdate: January 26, 1880
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Little Rock, Arkansas, United States
Died: April 5, 1964
American five-star general Douglas MacArthur was the field marshal of the Philippine Army. He and his father were the first father-son duo to win the Medal of Honor. after World War II, he became the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Japan and contributed to Japan’s reconstruction.
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 5 
George Patton
(Military General)

George Patton
29
Birthdate: November 11, 1885
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: San Gabriel, California, United States
Died: December 21, 1945

George Patton was a general of the US Army, remembered for his work as a commander of the Seventh United States Army during World War II. He is also remembered for commanding the Third Army in the Western Front in June 1944 after the Allied invasion of Normandy. His life and work inspired the 1970 epic biographical war film Patton.

 6 
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
(Founder of the Republic of Turkey,)

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
20
Birthdate: May 19, 1881
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Thessaloniki
Died: November 10, 1938
Kemal Atatürk, known as the founding father of the Republic of Turkey, was its first president. He unified Turkey into a secular country and invested in education and women’s rights. He also popularized the Latin-based Turkish alphabet and made minorities speak Turkish in public. His policies are known as “Kemalism.” 
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 7 
Spartacus
(Thracian Gladiator)

Spartacus
10
Birthdate: 0111 BC
Birthplace: Thrace
Died: 0071 BC
Spartacus was a Thracian gladiator who led the slave revolt called the Third Servile War, against the Roman Republic. However, historical accounts differ in their portrayal of Spartacus. He has inspired scores of books, films, and series, one of them being a Stanley Kubrick movie based on Howard Fast's novel.
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 8 
Erwin Rommel
(General)

Erwin Rommel
25
Birthdate: November 15, 1891
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Heidenheim an der Brenz, Germany
Died: October 14, 1944

Known as The Desert Fox, Nazi field marshal Erwin Rommel led the Axis forces during World War II. For his plot to assassinate Hitler in 1944, he was given a choice to either commit suicide by consuming a cyanide pill or face a trial and execution. He chose the former.

 9 
Hannibal
(Military General)

Hannibal
5
Birthdate: 0247 BC
Birthplace: Carthage, Tunisia
Died: 0184 BC

 10 
T. E. Lawrence
(Archaeologist & Army Officer Known for His Legendary War Activities in the Middle East During World War I)

T. E. Lawrence
14
Birthdate: August 16, 1888
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Tremadog, Carnarvonshire, Wales
Died: May 19, 1935
T. E. Lawrence was a British army officer who participated in the Arab Revolt, against the Ottoman regime, during World War I. Nicknamed Lawrence of Arabia, he inspired a movie of the same name. His treatise of his war experiences was published as Seven Pillars of Wisdom, his best-known work.

 11 
William Tecumseh Sherman
(Former Commanding General of the United States Army)

William Tecumseh Sherman
12
Birthdate: February 8, 1820
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Lancaster, Ohio, United States
Died: February 14, 1891
William Tecumseh Sherman served as the Union Army general during the American Civil War. He is best remembered for his “scorched earth” military policy and was known as "the first modern general.” His 1875 book Memoir, related his war experiences. He was associated with wildlife conservation in his later years.

 12 
Robert E. Lee
(Confederate General in the American Civil War)

Robert E. Lee
28
Birthdate: January 19, 1807
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Stratford, Virginia, United States
Died: October 12, 1870

A commander of the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War, Robert E. Lee commanded the Army of Northern Virginia. He was a skilled tactician who served in the US Army for 32 years. Brilliant from a young age, he was a top graduate of the US Military Academy. In his later years, he became president of Washington College.

 13 

Horatio Nelson
9
Birthdate: September 29, 1758
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Burnham Thorpe
Died: October 21, 1805

Horatio Nelson was a British flag officer whose inspirational leadership brought about several British naval victories, especially during the Napoleonic Wars. Regarded as one of Britain's heroic figures, Horatio Nelson's legacy remains influential and several monuments, including the Nelson Monument and Nelson's Column, have been created in his memory.

 14 
Leonidas I
(King of Ancient Sparta)

Leonidas I
4
Birthdate: 0540 BC
Birthplace: Sparta, Greece
Died: August 11, 0480

Leonidas I was the king of the Greek city-state of Sparta from 489–480 BCE. He was the son of King Anaxandridas II. He is remembered for his participation in the Second Persian War, especially for his leadership at the Battle of Thermopylae. He died at the battle, gaining legendary status as the leader of the 300 Spartans.

 15 
Stonewall Jackson
(Military leader)

Stonewall Jackson
15
Birthdate: January 21, 1824
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Clarksburg, West Virginia, United States
Died: May 10, 1863

Stonewall Jackson was a commander of the Confederate States Army. He played a major role as a Confederate general in the American Civil War, winning several significant battles in the Eastern Theater of the war. Considered one of the most tactically sound commanders in the history of the US, Jackson was idolized by George Patton, Chesty Puller, and Alexander Vandegrift.

 16 
Georgy Zhukov
(Military Commander)

Georgy Zhukov
6
Birthdate: December 1, 1896
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Zhukov, Kaluga Oblast
Died: June 18, 1974

Soviet general and Marshal of the Soviet Union, Georgy Zhukov, is remembered for overseeing some of the Red Army's most decisive victories during the Second World War. As a young man, he served in the First World War and the Russian Civil War. The recipient of four Hero of the Soviet Union awards, he was made the defence minister.

 17 
John J. Pershing
(Military officer)

John J. Pershing
7
Birthdate: September 13, 1860
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Laclede, Missouri, United States
Died: July 15, 1948

John J. Pershing was a senior United States Army officer who served as the commander of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in World War I. In his later years, he mentored generals who led the United States Army during World War II.  He was promoted to General of the Armies rank, the highest possible rank in the United States Army. 

 18 
Philip II of Spain
(King of Spain (1556-1598))

Philip II of Spain
9
Birthdate: May 21, 1527
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Valladolid, Spain
Died: September 13, 1598
Philip II, son of Charles V, was a 16-th century king of Spain and Portugal. Also known as Philip the Prudent, he became the king of Ireland and England through his marriage to Mary I. Following Mary’s death, he attempted to overthrow Elizabeth I with his armada invasions, but failed.

 19 
Isoroku Yamamoto
(Japanese Naval Officer Who Conceived The Pearl Harbor Attack in 1941)

Isoroku Yamamoto
13
Birthdate: April 4, 1884
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nagaoka, Niigata, Japan
Died: April 18, 1943
Isoroku Yamamoto was a Marshal Admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy. During World War II, he served as the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet and oversaw operations such as the Pearl Harbor attack. He died when his fighter plane was shot down by the U.S. Air Forces

 20 
Giuseppe Garibaldi
(Italian General Who Contributed to Italian Unification and the Creation of the Kingdom of Italy)

Giuseppe Garibaldi
8
Birthdate: July 4, 1807
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Nice, France
Died: June 2, 1882

Italian general, patriot, and republican Giuseppe Garibaldi is remembered for the role he played in the Italian unification and the creation of the Kingdom of Italy. He is considered one of Italy's "fathers of the fatherland." A highly proficient military general, he also led the Expedition of the Thousand on behalf of Victor Emmanuel II. He died in 1882.

 21 
Tokugawa Ieyasu
(Military Leader)

Tokugawa Ieyasu
10
Birthdate: January 31, 1543
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Okazaki Castle, Mikawa (now Okazaki, Japan)
Died: June 1, 1616

Tokugawa Ieyasu was the founder and first shōgun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan. He is considered one of the three "Great Unifiers" of Japan. He was the son of Matsudaira Hirotada, a minor local warlord. He grew up to be an ambitious young man with exemplary leadership qualities and eventually founded the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan. 

Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
10
Birthdate: November 17, 1887
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: London
Died: March 24, 1976

Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, was a British Army officer who played important roles in World War I, World War II, and the Irish War of Independence. He commanded the British Eighth Army during the Second World War and also oversaw the operations during the Battle of Normandy. Bernard Montgomery has a couple of statues dedicated to him.

 23 
El Cid
(Military leader)

El Cid
7
Birthdate: 1043 AD
Birthplace: Vivar, Burgos
Died: July 10, 1099
Spanish folk hero Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, or El Cid, was a Castilian knight from medieval Spain. He had been part of both Christian and Muslim armies and is also remembered for his heroic conquest of Valencia. He remains immortalized in the Spanish epic poem El Cantar de Mio Cid.

 24 
Chesty Puller
(Military officer)

Chesty Puller
7
Birthdate: June 26, 1898
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: West Point, Virginia, United States
Died: October 11, 1971
Chesty Puller was a U.S. Marine Corps officer who was part of the Banana Wars in Haiti and Nicaragua, and later served in World War II and the Korean War. He became the most decorated U.S. Marine, winning five Navy Crosses and an Army Distinguished Service Cross.

 25 
Moshe Dayan
(Israeli Military & Political Leader)

Moshe Dayan
8
Birthdate: May 20, 1915
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Degania Alef, Israel
Died: October 16, 1981

Born to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants, military leader/politician Moshe Dayan, grew up to be an revered for his exploits against Israel’s Arab neighbors. His invasion of the Sinai peninsula is etched in his memoir, Diary of the Sinai Campaign. Following his death, his eye patch was sold on eBay for US$75,000.

 26 
Simon Bolivar
(Revolutionary & Military Leader)

Simon Bolivar
11
Birthdate: July 24, 1783
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Caracas, Venezuela
Died: December 17, 1830
After losing his parents as a child, Simon Bolivar also lost his Spanish wife to yellow fever later and thus decided to devote himself to politics. He was the first president of Gran Colombia and Bolivia, and also led Peru and Venezuela in their fight for freedom, against Spain.

 27 
Chester W. Nimitz
(Military officer)

Chester W. Nimitz
5
Birthdate: February 24, 1885
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Fredericksburg, Texas, United States
Died: February 20, 1966

Chester W. Nimitz was part of the United States Navy where he served as a fleet admiral. He played a key role during World War II, commanding the US Pacific Fleet and the Allied air, sea, and land forces. He also played a crucial role in acquiring approval to develop USS Nautilus, the first nuclear-powered submarine in the world.

 28 
Erich Ludendorff
(General of German Army (1916-18))

Erich Ludendorff
12
Birthdate: April 9, 1865
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Kruszewnia, Poland
Died: December 20, 1937

German military leader Erich Ludendorff gained fame with the victories at Liège and Tannenberg during World War I. He promoted the theory that Marxists, Jews, and Freemasons were responsible for Germany’s defeat in the war. He later became a military theorist, writing books such as The Total War.

 29 
William Wallace
(Military Leader, Knight)

William Wallace
11
Birthdate: April 3, 1270
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Elderslie, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Died: August 23, 1305

William Wallace was a Scottish knight who played an important role in the First War of Scottish Independence. Since his death, Wallace has been viewed as an iconic figure whose story of bravery and valor has inspired several works of art, including the Academy Award-winning film Braveheart. Wallace has also inspired video games and brewery companies, such is his popularity.

 30 
Khalid ibn al-Walid
(Military commander)

Khalid ibn al-Walid
4
Birthdate: 0592 AD
Birthplace: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Died: 0642 AD

 31 
Richard I of England
(King of England)

Richard I of England
5
Birthdate: September 8, 1157
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Beaumont Palace, Oxford, England
Died: April 6, 1199
Richard I of England, the king of England from 1189 to 1199, was known as Richard the Lionheart, for his military prowess. He also reigned over Normandy, Aquitaine, Gascony, Cyprus, Poitiers, Anjou, Maine, and Nantes. The third son of King Henry II, he fought actively in the Third Crusade.

 32 
Kublai Khan
(Founder of the Yuan dynasty in Mongolia and China,)

Kublai Khan
9
Birthdate: September 23, 1215
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Mongolia
Died: February 18, 1294

Also known as the Emperor Shizu of Yuan, Kublai Khan served as the fifth khagan of the famous Mongol Empire. After the division of the empire, Kublai Khan founded the Yuan dynasty in China and ruled as the first Yuan emperor from 1271 until his death in 1294. Hence, he played an important role in re-creating a militarily powerful China.

 33 
Che Guevara
(Revolutionary)

Che Guevara
16
Birthdate: June 14, 1928
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Rosario, Argentina
Died: October 9, 1967

Argentine Marxist revolutionary, Che Guevara, was a major figure of the Cuban Revolution. A physician by profession, he developed radical views upon witnessing the injustices in the world and joined Fidel Castro’s revolutionary 26th of July Movement. Assassinated in 1967, he remains both a revered and reviled historical figure.

 34 
John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough
(English Soldier and Statesman Who helped Defeat the 'Monmouth Rebellion' in 1685 )

John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough
8
Birthdate: May 26, 1650
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Ash, Musbury
Died: June 16, 1722

 35 
Constantine the Great
(Roman Emperor)

Constantine the Great
5
Birthdate: February 27, 0272
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Naissus, Moesia, Roman Empire
Died: May 22, 0337

Constantine the Great served as the Roman emperor between 306 and 337. During his reign, he enacted financial, administrative, military, and social reforms to strengthen the empire. Constantine the Great is also credited with introducing the solidus, a gold coin which became the standard for European and Byzantine currencies for over a thousand years.

 36 
Cyrus the Great
(Founder of First Persian Empire)

Cyrus the Great
5
Birthdate: 0590 BC
Birthplace: Anshan, Iran
Died: 0530 BC

Cyrus II, or Cyrus the Great, founded the first Persian empire, the Achaemenid Empire. His kingdom extended from Western Asia to Central Asia. He advocated centralized administration, with the help of local governors. The biblical Edict of Cyrus, named after him, talks about the return of the Jews to Israel.

 37 
Hayreddin Barbarossa
(Ottoman admiral)

Hayreddin Barbarossa
5
Birthdate: 1478 AD
Birthplace: Paleokipos, Greece
Died: July 4, 1546
Remembered as the Pirate of Algiers and Redbeard, legendary Hayreddin Barbarossa from Lesbos, along with his brother Oruç, plundered ships and ports, terrorizing the Mediterranean coast. His exploits led him to become the admiral of the Ottoman Navy. His victory at Preveza remains his most celebrated one.

 38 
Marquis de Lafayette
(Aristocrat and Military Leader)

Marquis de Lafayette
12
Birthdate: September 6, 1757
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chavaniac-Lafayette, France
Died: May 20, 1834

Marquis de Lafayette was a French aristocrat and military officer, who  is remembered for fighting in the American Revolutionary War, as the commander of American troops in several battles. After returning to France, he played key roles in the French Revolution of 1789 and the July Revolution of 1830. Considered a hero in both America and France, he advocated the end of slavery.  

 39 
Skanderbeg
(Military Commander)

Skanderbeg
5
Birthdate: May 6, 1405
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Principality of Kastrioti (Albania)
Died: January 17, 1468
Skanderbeg was initially a hostage at the Ottoman court and served the Ottoman sultan for about 20 years. He was named the governor of the Sanjak of Dibra, following which he became the captain general under King Alfonso V of Northern Albania and fought against the Ottoman forces.

 40 
Marc Antony
(Roman General)

Marc Antony
8
Birthdate: January 14, 0083
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Rome
Died: August 1, 0030

Mark Antony was a Roman politician who played a key role in transforming the Roman Republic into the autocratic Roman Empire. Marc Antony is best remembered as one of Julius Caesar's generals during Caesar's Civil War. One of the most important figures in the history of Rome, Mark Antony has been the subject of several artistic portrayals since his death.

 41 
Lord Mountbatten
(Last Viceroy of British India)

Lord Mountbatten
4
Birthdate: June 25, 1900
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Frogmore House, Windsor, England
Died: August 27, 1979

The last Viceroy of India and the first governor-general of independent India, Lord Mountbatten was a British Royal Navy officer and statesman. Born to a prominent aristocratic family in England, he had a successful military career and was made the NATO Commander Allied Forces Mediterranean in his later career. He was assassinated in 1979.

 42 
Yi Sun-sin
(Naval Commander)

Yi Sun-sin
5
Birthdate: April 28, 1545
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Hansung
Died: December 16, 1598

Yi Sun-sin was a Korean military general and admiral best remembered for his famous victories during the Imjin war, where his troops were victorious against the Japanese navy. Since the Imjin war, Yi Sun-sin has been revered in Korea as a national hero. Most of his victories were achieved despite being outnumbered by the enemies.

 43 
Nathan Bedford Forrest
(Confederate general during American Civil War)

Nathan Bedford Forrest
12
Birthdate: July 13, 1821
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bedford County, Tennessee, United States
Died: October 29, 1877
Nathan Bedford Forrest, or the "Wizard of the Saddle", served as a Confederate general during the American Civil War. He was charged with war crimes at the Battle of Fort Pillow, where his forces killed Black prisoners of war. He was the first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

 44 
Pontius Pilate
(Roman official who ordered the crucifixion of Jesus)

Pontius Pilate
4
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Roman Empire
Pontius Pilate was a Roman governor of Judaea, who served under Emperor Tiberius. The Bible mentions him as the one who presided over Jesus’s trial and ordered his crucifixion. The Gospels describe him as someone who was reluctant to kill Jesus, and the Ethiopian Church venerates him as a saint.

 45 
Richard Winters
(Army officer)

Richard Winters
9
Birthdate: January 21, 1918
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: New Holland, Pennsylvania, United States
Died: January 2, 2011
Richard Winters is best remembered for his act of parachuting into Normandy on D-Day. He was recalled to the army from the inactive list during the Korean War. Following his retirement, he started selling Hershey Company by-products to animal-feed manufacturers and also taught at the U.S. Military Academy.

 46 
Karl Dönitz
(German Admiral Who Briefly Succeeded Adolf Hitler as Head of State)

Karl Dönitz
5
Birthdate: September 16, 1891
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Grünau, Berlin, Germany
Died: December 24, 1980
Karl Dönitz was the supreme commander of the German Navy and played a crucial role in World War II. Hitler made Dönitz his successor before committing suicide. Dönitz officially surrendered after Germany’s loss in World War II and was convicted as a war criminal at the 1946 Nuremberg Trials.

 47 
Sitting Bull
(Warrior)

Sitting Bull
6
Birthdate: 1831 AD
Birthplace: Grand River
Died: December 15, 1890
Hunkpapa Lakota leader Sitting Bull is symbolic of the Native American resistance against the U.S. government. After the Battle of the Little Bighorn, he surrendered and performed at Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. The U.S. government, fearing he might join the Ghost Dance Movement, killed him during an attempted arrest.

 48 
Maximilien de Robespierre
(French Lawyer and Statesman & One of the Most Influential Figures of the 'French Revolution')

Maximilien de Robespierre
4
Birthdate: May 6, 1758
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Arras, France
Died: July 28, 1794
Maximilien de Robespierre was a leading left-wing lawyer and leader during the Reign of Terror. He led the Committee of Public Safety and was part of the Constituent Assembly and the Jacobin Club. He was accused of establishing a dictatorship and was guillotined in 1794, thus beginning the Thermidorian Reaction.

 49 
Geronimo
(Leader)

Geronimo
6
Birthdate: June 16, 1829
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Arizpe Municipality, Mexico
Died: February 17, 1909
Native American hero Geronimo is remembered for his heroics in the Apache Wars against the U.S. and Mexico. After his surrender in 1886, he lived as a U.S. prisoner of war and spent the rest of his life being exhibited at various events and selling his belongings for money.

 50 
William Halsey Jr.
(Military officer)

William Halsey Jr.
5
Birthdate: October 30, 1882
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Elizabeth, New Jersey, United States
Died: August 16, 1959