Two computer scientists, Professor Steven Skiena of Stony Brook University in New York and Charles Ward used quantitative analysis to decide who the most significant people were in world history. They studied thousands of historical figures to determine which person’s opinions had the most impact on world affairs.
Using an algorithm similar to Google’s ranking system and “other data sources,” they ranked the various historical figures by importance as referenced in the English version of Wikipedia — an online encyclopedia.
Their analysis concluded that Jesus Christ was the world’s most influential person.
In an interview with the Pacific Standard, Skiena said:
“We would call Jesus the most significant person ever. We measure meme strength, how successfully is the idea of this person being propagated through time. With over two billion followers a full 2,000 years after his seat, Jesus is an incredibly successful historical meme.”
The top ten included:
- William Shakespeare
- Abraham Lincoln
- George Washington
- Adolf Hitler
- Alexander the Great
- Thomas Jefferson
There are no women in the top ten which the researchers believed was due largely to women not receiving the same opportunities as men historically. The first woman to show up was Queen Elizabeth I who came in 12th, beating out Julius Caesar at 13th, Charles Darwin 14th and Karl Marx 15th.
Skiena said the list is fluid and will change over time. However, he added Jesus is fairly entrenched at first and he doesn’t expect Him to lose His spot any time soon.
The ones most vulnerable to downward movement are celebrities who have bursts of fame, which can quickly erode over time. On a celebrity note, they ranked Justin Bieber at 8,633. They attributed Adolph Hitler’s 7th ranking to “lest we forget” references.
From a Christian perspective other significant people included:
- Martin Luther (17)
- Apostle Paul (34)
- King David (57)
- Apostle Peter (65)
- Emperor Constantine (67) — Roman Emperor who legalized Christianity.
- John Calvin (99)
Their findings were published in the book: Who’s Bigger? Where historical figures really rank.