Inspirational People

This is a selection of inspirational people – people who have made a lasting contribution towards creating a better world. These people have inspired others by their various achievements but also their attitude and values.

This does not aim to be a fully ‘comprehensive list’ but it provides a start. If you’d like to suggest anyone else who you feel is inspirational, feel free.

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Nelson Mandela. (1918 – ) Campaigned for justice and freedom in his South Africa. Spent 20 years in jail for his opposition to apartheid. After release he became first President of democratic South Africa and helped heal the wounds of apartheid by his magnanimous attitude to his former political enemies.

gorbachevMikhail Gorbachev. (1931 -) Had the courage, tenacity and strength of character to give up the absolute power of Soviet Communism. Moved the Soviet Union to democracy and respect for human rights. In doing so he enabled the Berlin Wall to come down and Eastern Europe gained freedom from Communist control.

kingMartin Luther King. (1929 – 1968) Inspiring leader of the non-violent civil rights movement. Inspired millions of people black and white to aspire for a more equal and just society.

kingJesus Christ. (c.5BC – 30AD) Prophet and inspiration of Christianity. Taught a message of love, forgiveness and faith. Born in a turbulent period of Roman rule, after his crucifixion, his message inspired millions around the world.

kingWilliam Wilberforce. (1759 – 1833)Fought tirelessly for ending the slave trade, at a time when many accepted it as an ‘economic necessity’. He awakened the conscience of many of his fellow countryman and helped to make slavery appear unacceptable.

kingAlbert Einstein. (1879 – 1955) His theories of relativity were a very significant scientific breakthrough. As well as being a genius scientist, Einstein was also a champion of human rights and campaigned for a more peaceful world.

kingThomas Jefferson. (1743- 1826) One of America’s founding fathers. Jefferson helped draft the Declaration of Independence and a belief in human rights. Jefferson passed one of the first bills on religious tolerance in his state of Virginia. Sought to improve education and was a noted polymath with a wide range of interests.

kingMother Teresa (1910 – 1997) – A modern day saint who sought to identify with and offer compassion to the unloved and destitute. Lived a life of voluntary poverty and service to the poor.

kingAbraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) – Abraham Lincoln overcame many setbacks to become the most influential American President. In his famous Gettysburg speech, he inspired the nation with his noble words and helped to bring about the abolishment of slavery.

kingLeonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) – One of the greatest minds in human history. In many areas he was a couple of centuries ahead of scientific discovery. He helped make great advances in anatomy, astronomy, physics, science and others. Amidst all this, he found time to paint the most iconic picture in history – The Mona Lisa.

kingHelen Keller (1880 – 1968) – Despite disability of both deafness and blindness, she learned to read and write, becoming a champion of social issued and helping to improve the welfare of deaf people.

kingMuhammad Ali (1942 – ) – Champion boxer and great character. Refused to fight in Vietnam war and became a champion of civil rights and African interests.

kingJoan of Arc (1412 -1431)- As a young, illiterate peasant girl, Joan of Arc inspired the Dauphin of France to defeat the English. Although burned at the stake for ‘heresy’, her prophecy of French unity came true after her death.

kingBenjamin Franklin. (1706-1790) Great polymath and promoter of American ideals at home and in the US. A practical man of great dynamism and good character.

kingMahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948) – Gandhi was the principle figurehead of the Indian independence movement. Taught a philosophy of non-violence and peaceful protest.

kingFlorence Nightingale. (1820 – 1910) Volunteered to nurse soldiers during the Crimean War. The pitiful conditions and her statistical analysis helped to revolutionise the service of nursing and the treatment of patients.

kingWinston Churchill. (1874 – 1965) In the worst moments of 1940, the Nazi war machine looked invincible as it swept through Europe. Churchill inspired the free nations to keep alive the fight against the tyranny of Hitler’s Germany.

kingAnne Frank. (1929 – 1945) Anne Frank was nobody special, just an ordinary teenage girl. But, she became a symbol of how ordinary people can get caught up in man’s inhumanity. Despite the most testing of conditions, Anne retained an optimistic spirit and faith.

kingSocrates (469 BC–399 BC) – Socrates showed the power and integrity of independent thought. Socrates taught by encouraging people to honestly question their preconceptions. His method of self-enquiry laid the foundations of Western Philosophic thought.

kingGeorge Orwell (1903 – 1950) – George Orwell was a democratic socialist who fought in the Spanish civil war on the side of the republicans. He gave up his privileged education to spend time with the unemployed of the Great Depression. His greatest contribution was warning about the dangers of totalitarian regimes – whatever the ideology may be behind them.

kingBuddha (c 563 – 483BC) – The Buddha was a young prince who gave up the comforts of palace life to seek the meaning of life meditating in the forests. After gaining realisation, the Buddha spent the remainder of his life travelling around India teaching a middle path of meditation and inner peace.

kingSri Chinmoy (1931-2007) – An Indian spiritual teacher who combined the best of Eastern and Western cultures. Founded the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, a world wide run to promote peace and greater understanding.

kingWilliam Shakespeare (1564- 1616) Shakespeare remains the king of English literature. His plays and poetry captured the richness and diversity of human existence in the most powerful and poetic way.

kingSt Therese Lisieux (1873 – 1897) – A Carmelite nun, who died aged 24, unknown to the world. Yet, after her death her simple writings had a profound effect becoming one of the best selling spiritual writings. Her approach was a simple approach of doing the smallest acts with love.

kingDesmond Tutu (1931- ) Nobel Peace Prize winner. Campaigner against apartheid and instrumental in promoting human rights and justice. Helped to heal wounds of apartheid in South Africa.

sapphoEleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) Helped draft United Nations declaration of human rights. Strived to improve civil rights in the US. Inspired many people because of her positivity, compassion and self-giving.

kingEdward Jenner (1749 – 1823) – Led pioneering work on the development of an inoculation against the deadly smallpox. Opened up the way to more immunisation treatments, arguably saving the lives of millions of people around the world.

kingJesse Owens (1913 – 1980) – Jesse Owen’s four gold medals at Hitler’s 1936 Olympics in Berlin was one of the great moments of sport, which helped to puncture the Nazi ideology of Aryan supremacy. Jesse Owens was a modest hero who remained a great ambassador for the sport.

kingAkbar (1542 – 1605) – The Great Moghul Emperor who went a long way to uniting India under his rule. Though a great warrior Akbar was also known for his love of culture, music and philosophy. He introduced enlightened laws on religious tolerance in his kingdom and encouraged representatives of different religions to come to his court.

kingSir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) – One of the greatest scientists of all time. Isaac Newton led the foundation of modern physics with his development of theories on gravity and mechanics.

kingLeo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910) – Influential Russian author, whose great epics include War and Peace. His philosophy of non-violence and a return to rural simplicity inspired other politicians such as Gandhi.

kingEmile Zatopek (1922 – 2000) – Greatest long distance runner. Winning three gold medals at the 1954 Olympics. Principled supporter of Czech democracy, being sent to work in mines for his opposition to the Communist government.

kingEmily Dickinson - (1830 – 1886) – One of most popular female poets who wrote unique, uplifting poems which captured the imagination of many people.

kingSri Krishna (4th Century BC) Sri Krishna was a great Spiritual Teacher who gave the immortal discourses of the Bhagavad Gita teaching a practical yoga for all.

kingJ R R Tolkien – ( 1892 – 1973) – Writer and creator of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tolkien was a modest professor at Oxford University, but found time to create a whole mythical world.

kingWilliam Blake (1757 –1827) – Mystical poet and artist. William Blake wrote poems of great depth and power. Celebrating both the joys of spirit and nature, and also fiercely criticising the injustice of the times.

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Pope John Paul II (1920 – 2005) – Lived through two totalitarian regimes eventually becoming priest and then the first Polish pope. Charismatic spiritual leader who retained great faith in moral and spiritual values.

kingMozart (1756 – 1791) – Music genius who composed a range of breathtaking music from piano concertos to his immortal Requiem.

Swami Vivekananda (1863 – 1902 ) a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, Vivekananda helped spread Sri Ramakrishna’s message and mission to the West.

kingSt Teresa of Avila. (1515-1582) – Christian mystic and writer. She also played a key role in the Spanish church at a time when women were largely marginalised.

kingMarie Curie. (1867 – 1934) Marie Curie is one of the few scientists to win a Nobel Prize for both Chemistry and Physics. Her discoveries with radiation helped advance medical science. Her achievements were even more remarkable at a time when few women had the opportunity to gain education.

kingWoodrow Wilson. (1856 – 1924) Woodrow Wilson had a vision for a League of Nations – a forum where nations could come together to solve disputes. The League of Nations struggled to make an impact before the Second World War, but his vision was important in the development of the United Nations.

susan-b-anthonySusan B. Anthony (1820-1906)Susan Anthony was an active member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, despite meeting hostility she continued to press for an amendment to the US constitution to outlaw slavery. She was also a prominent women’s right activist who helped push forward the women’s suffrage campaign in the Nineteenth Century.

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Rosa Parks (1913-2005) Rosa Parks became a well respected figurehead of the American civil rights movement. Rosa showed what ordinary people can do when they stick fast to their beliefs in testing conditions.

Tom Paine (1737-1809) An English-American writer and political activist. He wrote influential pamphlets arguing for independence for the US, anti-slavery. He was a key figure of the enlightenment and age of reason, supporting the revolutionary principles of US and France.

kingCharles Darwin. (1809 – 1882) Darwin published his Origin of Species detailing a belief in evolution at a time when such a decision was very controversial.

kingDietrich Bonhoeffer. (1906 – 1945 ) was a Lutheran Pastor who was an influential critic of Hitler and Nazism, executed in 1945. His theology and writings remain influential today.

kingDalai Lama. (1938 – ) The fourteenth Dalai Lama has been awarded the Nobel Prize for his non-violent resistance to Chinese rule. The Dalai Lama teaches a path of tolerance and compassion.

kingRabindranath Tagore (1861 – 1941)- Poet, writer, humanitarian, Tagore was the first Indian to be awarded Nobel Prize for Literature.

kingOprah Winfrey (1954- ) Influential chat show host. Oprah Winfrey has become a role model for African American women.

Maximilian Kolbe (1894-1941 ) was a Franciscan priest who encouraged devotion to Mary and was committed to praying for those hostile to the Church. In 1941, he was arrested for sheltering Jews and sent to Auschwitz. He volunteered to take the place of a man condemned to death.

kingEric Liddell (1902 – 1945) Eric Liddell won Olympic gold in the 400m in the 1924 Paris Olympics. He is also famed for turning down the opportunity to compete in the 100m because the heats were on a Sunday. Eric was an accomplished sportsman also representing Scotland at rugby union.

Pope Francis (1936 – ) The first Jesuit pope and the first pope from the Americas, he has sought to reform the Vatican and the Catholic church. Pope Francis has stressed the importance of humility, modesty and concern for the poor. He is seen as a reforming Pope, trying to bring back the tradition emphasis on the Gospels.

 

 

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. (G+)Inspirational People“, Oxford, www.biographyonline.net, 7th May, 2011

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8 Comments

  • Ellen DeGeneres – Although I don’t know her personally, she has entered my life (with her on-screen presence) as a modern day inspiration.
    A lady who was determined to make the world laugh and smile. Who held her head high, acknowledged and accepted herself wholly before the world, while being subjected to ridicule and unnecessary bias judgement and criticism. She defied the the odds and stands today as a powerful, strong, successful woman. A testament to her success is her gorgeous smile, adoring fans and supporters around the globe who smile and laugh with her. This lady is truly an inspiration.

    • I agree, I know her personally and she is a great and inspirarional person. Rift at this second you should be clapping right for her and others.

  • Great people, We youth should aim at accomplishing more of what this great mind have. Horatio Sppaffod should be in the list also. I’M NEXT ON THE LIST! WATCH OUT FOR ME!!!!!!!!!

  • How is Nikola Tesla not on this list? The man was a genius, inventing many machines that were centuries ahead of their time. As well as giving away for free his inventions to make life better for people.

  • Well good collection
    I am personally inspired by “Jesus” he is the Perfect and forever good examples for all of the above

  • What about bruce lee

  • Hi, I don’t see prophet Muhammad(pbuh) in the list when he has been chosen as the #1 most influential man in the human history by Michael H.Hart.

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