People who made a difference

In this list, I have chosen people who have made a difference to the world in a positive way. They include people from the fields of politics, science, religion, humanitarianism and culture.

peopleAbraham 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 abolition of slavery.

peopleBenjamin Franklin (1706–1790) Great polymath and promoter of American ideals at home and for the country. A practical man of great dynamism and good character.

peopleMikhail 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. Gorbachev enabled the Berlin Wall to come down giving freedom to Eastern Europe.

peopleJesus Christ (c.5BC–30AD) Spiritual Teacher 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.

peopleWilliam 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 made slavery appear unacceptable.

peopleNelson Mandela (1918–2013) Campaigned for justice and freedom in his country South Africa. Spent 20 years in jail for his opposition to apartheid. On release, he healed the wounds of apartheid by his magnanimous attitude to his former political enemies.

peopleAlbert Einstein (1879–1955) Einstein’s 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.

peopleMarie Curie (1867–1934) Marie Curie was awarded a Nobel Prize for both Chemistry and Physics. Her discoveries with radiation helped advance medical science. Also, her achievements were even more remarkable at a time when few women were allowed the opportunity for higher education.

peopleThomas Jefferson (1743–1826) One of America’s founding fathers, Jefferson helped draft the Declaration of Independence and fostered a belief in human rights. Amongst other achievements, Jefferson passed one of the first bills on religious tolerance in his state of Virginia.

peopleMartin 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 society.

peopleWilliam Shakespeare (1564–1616) Shakespeare remains the King of English literature. His plays and poetry captured the richness and diversity of human existence in a most powerful and poetic way.

peopleLeonardo da Vinci (1452––1519) One of the greatest minds in human history. There were few areas of art and science that Leonardo didn’t delve into. 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. He also painted the most iconic picture in history–the Mona Lisa.

peopleMuhammad Ali (1942–2016 ) Champion boxer and great character. Refused to fight in Vietnam war and became a champion of civil rights and African interests. When asked how he would like to be remembered, Ali said: “As a man who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love.”

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

peopleRosa 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.

peopleMother Teresa (1910–1997) Lived a life of poverty to try and ameliorate the conditions of others. Her devotion and compassion inspired the lives of many thousands she came into contact with.

peopleMahatma Gandhi (1869–1948) Gandhi was the principle figurehead of the Indian independence movement. Gandhi followed a philosophy of non-violence and peaceful protest; he also sought to improve conditions for women and people disenfranchised by the caste system.

peopleWinston 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.

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

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

peopleJane Goodall (1934– ) Groundbreaking researcher into the behaviour of chimpanzees. Goodall became a noted campaigner and activist for environmental protection and kindness to animals.

peopleFlorence Nightingale (1820–1910) Florence Nightingale helped to revolutionise the treatment of patients after her experience of treating wounded soldiers in the Crimean war.

peopleAnne Frank (1929–1945) Anne Frank was nobody special, just an ordinary teenage girl, but through her diary, 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.

peopleGalileo (1564–1642) Scientist who helped make great strides in astronomy and helped promote a heliocentric view of the world, despite coming into conflict with the prevailing religious orthodoxy of the time.

peopleSwami Vivekananda (1863–1902 ) Vivekananda was an influential speaker at the 1893 World Parliament of Religions because he advocated religious tolerance and religious unity. He also encouraged the education of women and inspired fellow Indians to take greater pride and belief in the best of Hindu culture.

peopleGeorge 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 (through Animal Farm and 1984).

Harriet_TubmanHarriet Tubman (1822 – 1913) Tubman escaped from slavery but returned on many dangerous missions to Maryland where she helped lead slaves to freedom. She also served as agent and leader during the Civil War. She became a symbol of the abolition movement.

peoplePrincess Diana – First wife of Prince Charles, Dian was involved in many humanitarian charities. Helped to de-stigmatise diseases such as AIDS.

peopleConfucius – Influential Chinese philosopher who laid groundwork for much of Chinese philosophy and society. Confucius taught principles of morality, reverence for ancestors and orderly conduct.

peopleMozart – A musical genius whose compositions continue to give joy to millions of people.

peopleJohn Keats – Romantic Poet. Keats lived a short life, but the intensity of his poetry has left a deep and lasting legacy. ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” – Keats.

peopleEleanor Roosevelt – A supporter of the rights of women and committed to the oppressed in society, Eleanor also helped to draft the UN Declaration of human rights.

peopleWoodrow Wilson – 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 became more effective as the United Nations.

peopleLeo Tolstoy – 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.

peopleSri Krishna – Revered as Hindu Spiritual Teacher. His teachings are immortalised in the Bhagavad Gita. Krishna taught a middle path of yoga, selfless action and devotional worship.

peopleLouis Pasteur – French scientist who found many important improvements in medical science, e.g. vaccination for Rabies, and a safe way to pasteurise milk.

peopleRumi – Muslim poet and Sufi mystic. His poetry about love and the deeper meaning of life have a universal appeal. Rumi has become one of the best-selling poets in the world.

peopleCharles Darwin. Darwin published his Origin of Species detailing a belief in evolution at a time when such a decision was very controversial.

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

peopleC S Lewis – Author of best-selling ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ and Christian apologist.

joanSophie Scholl (1921–1943) German student who took part in resistance to Hitler and the Nazi party. She helped distribute leaflets criticising the war and the Nazi ideology. She was executed for ‘ treason’ and became an important symbol of German resistance to Hitler.

peopleOprah Winfrey – US talk show host who became an important figurehead for women in America. Encouraged belief in self-improvement.

peopleMartin Luther – Martin Luther was the most influential figure in the Reformation of the sixteenth century. It was Luther who challenged the excesses of the Catholic church, leading to the Protestant movement and forcing the Catholic Church to reinvigorate itself.

peopleEdward Jenner – led pioneering work on the development of an inoculation against deadly smallpox. Opened up the way to more immunisations, arguably saving the lives of millions of people around the world.

peopleSir Isaac Newton – 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.

peopleSt Francis of Assisi – Christian mystic who founded a new monastic order committed to the essence of the Christian gospels.

people14th Dalai Lama – Spiritual leader of Tibetan people. Helped to popularise principles of Buddhism around the world.

peoplePablo Picasso – Iconic twentieth-century artist, known for his commitment to peace.

peopleJohn Lennon – Iconic singer-songwriter. Member of the Beatles.

peopleDesmond Tutu – South African anti-apartheid campaigner. He sought to heal wounds after the end of apartheid through the Truth and Reconciliation committee.

peopleMichelangelo – Never suffering from false modesty, Michelangelo referred to himself as ‘God’s own artist’. But, in the case of Michelangelo his self-belief was well justified. His artistic output includes some of the greatest works of art ever produced: The Pieta, The Sistine Chapel, the Statue of David.

peopleJesse Owens – 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.

peoplePope John Paul II – Polish pope who played a role in the transition from a Communist to a more democratic Eastern Europe.

Dr._Bhim_Rao_AmbedkarB.R Ambedkar (1891–1956) Indian social reformer. Ambedkar was born in the Mahar ‘untouchable’ caste but became a pioneering political activist and social reformer. He was the principle figure in the drafting of the Indian Constitution, which outlawed ‘untouchability’ and promoted equality.

peopleSri Chinmoy (1931–2007) An Indian spiritual teacher whose philosophy combined the mysticism of the East with the dynamism of the West. He founded the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, a world-wide relay run that promotes greater friendship and understanding.

peopleSt Teresa of Avila – 16th Century Spanish mystic and poet. Helped revitalise religious life in Spain, despite the Inquisition and patriarchal nature of society.

peoplePele – One of world’s greatest ever footballers. Became international sporting icon.

peopleAbbe Pierre – French humanitarian who set up a charity for the homeless.

peopleSri Aurobindo – Early Indian nationalist leader who later retired from politics to devote his life to yoga, spirituality and poetry.

peopleAnnie Besant – involved in representing women and workers in 19th Century Britain. Became leading member of Theosophy Society and supported Indian independence.

peopleEmile Zatopek – Greatest long distance runner, winning three gold medals at the 1954 Olympics. A principled supporter of Czech democracy, he was sent to work in mines for his opposition to the Communist government.

peopleSt Therese Lisieux – A Carmelite nun, who died aged 24, unknown to the world. After her death her simple writings had a profound effect becoming one of the best-selling spiritual writings. Her approach was a deceptively simple approach of doing the smallest acts with love.

peopleAudrey Hepburn – Actress later involved in working for UNESCO.

peopleBetty Williams – Awarded Nobel Peace Prize for her peace work in Northern Ireland.

 

peopleBob Geldof – Musician and charity campaigner. Launched ‘Band Aid’ in 1984 to help African famine.

peopleEva Peron – Argentinian First Lady, founded influential charity and helped create a more equal society.

peopleSir Titus Salt – Victorian industrialist who was also concerned for the welfare of workers. Helped to build a model village and insist on better working conditions.

peopleAung San Suu Kyi – Leader of opposition in Myanmar. Recently released from house arrest, she has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her fight for democracy and human rights.

peopleDietrich Bonhoeffer – German pastor and pacifist who was executed for his opposition to Hitler in Nazi Germany.

peopleHarriet Beecher Stowe American writer and campaigner against slavery. The author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

peopleKofi Annan Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006. Awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.

peopleLech Walesa – Polish opposition leader who became a symbolic figure in efforts to end Communist rule.

Malala Yousafzai – Pakistani schoolgirl who defied threats of the Taliban to campaign for the right to education. She survived being shot in the head by the Taliban and has become a global advocate for human rights, women’s rights and the right to education.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan “People who made a difference”, Oxford, www.biographyonline.net, 18th July. 2013

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61 Comments

  • I understand that you did not want Jesus to be left out. I can see that you do not understand His mission .Although, He came to the world as a man, was born from the virgin Mary, that was God’s mystery to get solution for our sins. He was never a man but God incarnated Among all, He is the only one who died to redeem the world from their sins and also He promises eternal life to those who accept the sacrifice of his blood shed at the cross.

    • I whole heartly agree with you. He came to this world as a man not to condem us from our sins but to save us. though He was loving He was also just. His just side said “I require a payment for this sin there must be a punishment”, while His loving side said,”let me provide the payment for your sins”. Also not a prophet He was the reason for prophets.

    • Go Jesus!

  • Where’s Harriet Tubman?

    • Yeah? I agree, she made a difference!

  • Both of you don´t understand it ,every human being have a differnt opinion so please respect it

  • Swami Vivekananda was a sanyasi and not a sanyasin. The sanyasin are women.

    • A member of the sannyasa order is known as a sannyasin (male or female) or “sannyasini” (female).

  • there are lots of people to chose.

  • i can not chose anyone

  • MALALAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!

  • Where is Steve Jobs?

  • Where is Mustafa Kemal Atatürk?

  • I have to think how world can remember me when i die.

  • Where is Walt disney? He changed the world of films, especially animation.

  • hi nice but trying to find jakie robinson

  • I really do wanna where Walt Disney is, too.

  • How about Stevie Wonder he changed our music

  • hey guys I know there is a lot of people to choose but I am do a project and it does not require a lot of work so I am looking for a person that will not require a lot of typing

    • Hernan, laziness gives may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction. Do not chose to talk or write about someone that will let you do as little work as possible. Find someone or something that resonates with your being. Write about it, and I can assure you, your dedication and passion will not go unnoted.

      • if i want to write not to much but not to little, who should i write about? I’m thinking about Anne Frank (btw i’m doing a project), i think her story shouldnt be to hard or to easy. Any thoughts?

  • What about Bob Marley?

  • Where is Nikola Tesla

  • were is steve jobs

  • Julian Bond

  • they are all dead why do they matter to this society?

    • just because they are dead does not mean that they do not matter. think of all the people who changed history, like Theodore Roosevelt who preserved the natural beauty of nature and started the national parks. society is what is today because of all these dead people, so of course they matter.

    • How old are you? did you not learn anything in your history class?

  • Why Didn’t Charlie Sifford Make A Diffrence Of Our World

  • God, l went to do better than this great men and women. Amen

  • Thomas Edison

  • Swami vikekananda should have 1st position

  • J.F.K ?

  • I would like to make a correction. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison and not 20 years. Otherwise this piece of writing is extremely informative. I salute the author.

  • Love you Ali (the greatest) always

  • Your description of Jesus Christ is quite limited. Further research will show my ssy.

    • I absolutely agree with you and he should have been first on that list to me

  • society is what it is today because of all these dead people. we as a society would not have anything if it were not for people like Thomas Edison, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. the country of America would not even exist if it were not for Thomas Jefferson who wrote the Declaration of Independence which was signed on July 4th 1776.

  • Bill gates!!

  • THE MOMENT AND MOVEMENT OF CHANGE GOES BEYOND THE ORTHODOXY OF MAN.IT IS A PAROGATIVE OF GOD.J

    • so true . change is actually conceived in the heart of God and birthed in the minds of selfless and passion driven men

  • what about rosa parks

    • Rosa Parks is on here, she is underneath Helen Keller and above Mother Teresa.

  • Ware As marina joyce?

  • of all them names edward jennar was the most benificial

  • JESUS SHOULD BE AT THE VERY TOP OF THE LIST BECAUSE HE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF EVERYTHING THAT EVER EXISTED!

    • Well he shoul I love Jesus

  • look all I’m saying is we should totally include people like Stalin and Hitler.

    just because they changed things doesn’t mean it was good

  • So. Western thinking, and thus Western Society, is based on Aristotle’s thoughts and teachings. This list of 100 would be very different if Aristotle had not existed…. and Aristotle is not even on the list. wow.

  • Can u make a list of people who made a difference in 2015

  • i agree this is a page about people who made a difference not people who made a positive difference.

  • why are all these people famous we need people who ther dont know about

  • The greatest of all is the one who came for the social and spiritual transformation of human kind! His Name is Baha’u’llah. His coming was announced by The Bab (gate) who was the forerunner for His Revealation.

  • This is a good website for people who made a difference.

  • In this list when there is Holly Jesus RA, as he was 2nd last Holly prophet/ messenger of Allah (God). Then why not mentioned about last Messenger of God Holly “Muhammad” Pbuh. Muhammad pbuh is last and God Messenger of Muslims and all mankind to Day of Judgment. When mentioned Gandhi of India then why not mentioned Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah a unique personality and founder of Pakistan. Then why not mentioned about Allama Muhammad Iqbal a national poet of Pakistan. And his unmatched poetry inspired people world wide. His poetry is available in Urdu and Persian.

    • No doubt, there is no comparison Of Mohamed PBUH he is above all listed above

  • Where is Nikola Tesla?

  • Where is Audrey Hepburn?

  • Where is Pablo Picasso?

  • Why is George Washington not on the list? He was our 1st president! He won the Revolutionary War for us!!

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