Becoming famous on Instagram is one thing. Becoming the GOAT is another. Most of the most famous men in history are no longer alive. With titles like “the father of physics,” most of these gentlemen are tough to top.
Do the world a favor and don’t try to match any of the dictators on this list, but feel free to try to beat Mozart and Beethoven. We can never have too much music.
15. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Birthplace: Salzburg, Austria
Years living: 1756-1791
What Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is famous for: Composing
Bottom line: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, more often just called Mozart, was the most prolific composer of his time. He only lived until the age of 35, but he got an early start. He could read and write music when he was only 5, and was already composing in earnest by the time he was 6.
In the three decades that followed, he composed over 800 works across every genre that existed at the time. Many of them are still regarded as masterpieces by today’s standards. He’s the second-most popular composer on Wikipedia, with over 19 million page views.
Note: All rankings are from the MIT Pantheon Project, a collaboration with MIT’s Collective Learning group that started in 2013 and uses Wikipedia data to create a Historical Popularity Index (HPI).
14. Adolf Hitler
Birthplace: Braunau am Inn, Austria
Years living: 1889-1945
What Adolf Hitler is famous for: Politics (and unspeakable evil)
Bottom line: Most figures on this list have at least some positive reasons to deserve fame, but Hitler is a glaring exception.
The German politician ran a horrific dictatorship and launched the Nazi party. He led them to commit widespread genocide in concentration camps across Europe, plus initiated World War II by invading Poland.
Even ignoring casualties during combat, Hitler was responsible for the deaths of around 6 million Jews and at least 5 million prisoners of war. His biography is, sadly, the most popular one from Austria.
Birthplace: Alopece, Greece
Years living: 470-399 B.C.
What Socrates is famous for: Philosophy
Bottom line: Among the first moral philosophers we have Socrates. Socrates was the founder of Western philosophy, despite never writing his theories down. His work is primarily known through secondhand accounts by his students, including Plato and Xenophon.
Recorded in the form of dialogues, examining a subject in question and answer form, Socrates invented an entire literary genre, the Socratic dialogue. And he didn’t write a single word.
His bio has over 13 million page views, making him the third-most popular philosopher on Wikipedia.
Birthplace: Ajaccio, France
Years living: 1769-1821
What Napoleon is famous for: Politics
Bottom line: Napoleon Bonaparte was notoriously tiny and notoriously fierce.
A French military and political leader, he became known for his more modern military tactics, including an increase in decisive maneuvers and mobile warfare. He became the first emperor of France and led many successful conquests, in addition to establishing the Napoleonic Code.
Fun fact: Napoleon wasn’t actually that short. He was approximately 5-foot-6, which was an average height for a man in France at the time. Considering his bio has over 30 million page views, being vertically challenged didn’t get in his way in the slightest.
11. Galileo Galilei
Birthplace: Pisa, Italy
Years living: 1564-1642
What Galileo Galilei is famous for: Astronomy
Bottom line: Galileo Galilei, usually just referred to as Galileo, isn’t called the father of physics for nothing.
The Italian physicist, engineer and astronomer figured out that the earth revolves around the sun, not the other way around. He was also the first person to observe stars with a telescope, and invented both the thermoscope and the military compass.
He’s the most popular astronomer on Wikipedia, and his bio is the most popular from Italy.
10. Alexander the Great
Birthplace: Pella Greece
Years living: 356-323 B.C.
What Alexander the Great is famous for: Military achievements
Bottom line: Alexander III of Macedon, more commonly known as Alexander the Great, ruled over a Greek kingdom called Macedon.
He began leading the kingdom when he was only 20, and by the time he hit 30, he had built one of the biggest empires in history. His empire stretched from Greece to northwestern India, all thanks to his lengthy conquests.
He’s the second-most popular military leader on Wikipedia and the third-most popular biography in Greece.
9. Marco Polo
Birthplace: Venice, Italy
Years living: 1254-1324
What Marco Polo is famous for: Exploring
Bottom line: Marco Polo is more than a fun game to play in the pool. Marco Polo was a Venetian merchant and explorer best known for his detailed accounts of his travels.
His journey to China during the 13th century was published in his book “The Travels of Marco Polo,” so he can also be considered an author.
He’s the most popular explorer on Wikipedia and the second-most popular biography from Italy.
8. Ludwig van Beethoven
Birthplace: Bonn, Germany
Years living: 1770-1827
What Ludwig van Beethoven is famous for: Composing
Bottom line: “Moonlight Sonata” and “Fur Elise” would never have existed without the genius of Ludwig van Beethoven. He’s one of the most lauded figures in classical Western music, famous for composing everything from short concertos to symphonies fit for royalty.
His work is still some of the most performed in the world of classical music, and his bio has over 19 million page views.
Birthplace: Athens, Greece
Years living: 427-347 B.C.
What Plato is famous for: Philosophy
Bottom line: Plato, a Greek philosopher born during the Classical period of ancient Greece, is among the most recognizable names in philosophy. He believed we only see a world of reflections based on a true world of “Forms.”
He’s the second-most popular philosopher on Wikipedia with over 14 million page views.
Birthplace: Stagira, Greece
Years living: 384-321 B.C.
What Aristotle is famous for: Philosophy
Bottom line: Hailing from Greece, Aristotle was taught by Plato. He shared many of his mentor’s beliefs, but went on to found his own school of philosophy called the Peripatetic school.
He covered over a dozen different subjects, but his most famous philosophy was that of the “four causes.” He believed there were just four causes for everything, including the material, formal, efficient and final causes.
His Wikipedia page has been translated into 203 languages and has over 16 million page views.
5. Leonardo da Vinci
Birthplace: Anchiano, Italy
Years living: 1452-1519
What Leonardo da Vinci is famous for: Inventing
Bottom line: What didn’t Leonardo da Vinci do? A painter, sculptor, engineer, scientist and architect, Leonardo da Vinci is the definition of a renaissance man.
He was best known for his artwork, including the “Mona Lisa” and “The Last Supper,” but his sketches covered a broad range of subjects. He studied botany, human anatomy, astronomy and several other scientific subjects in such detail that most experts assume he had a genius-level IQ.
His Wikipedia page reflects his brilliance, with 28 million page views and availability in 226 different languages. His bio is also the most popular inventor bio and the most popular bio from Italy.
4. Genghis Khan
Birthplace: Khentii Mountains, Mongolia
Years living: 1162-1227
What Genghis Khan is famous for: Military achievements
Bottom line: Genghis Khan was the founder of the Mongol Empire. Known as the Great Khan, his military strategy was unmatched at the time. He united numerous nomadic tribes throughout the region to create an army virtually no one could compete with.
He conquered much of Eurasia, and while his tactics were brutal and unethical, he’s still considered a brilliant political and military leader. He remains the most popular military figure on Wikipedia, and his bio is the most popular one from Mongolia.
Birthplace: Herodian Kingdom of Judea, Israel
Years living: 4 B.C.-33 A.D.
What Jesus is famous for: Religion
Bottom line: Jesus, also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth, needs no introduction. Originally a Jewish preacher and religious leader, Jesus is the central figure of Christianity. His followers believe him to be the son of God, who died to repent for the sins of all of mankind.
His life has been heavily studied even outside of Christianity, and his Wikipedia page has an astronomical 30 million page views.
2. Isaac Newton
Birthplace: Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, United Kingdom
Years living: 1642-1726
What Isaac Newton is famous for: Physics
Bottom line: The name Isaac Newton probably inspires images of apples falling from trees onto a math nerd’s head, but Newton did a lot more than “just” figure out how gravity worked. He was a central figure during the Enlightenment, a philosophical revolution that began in the late 1600s.
He wrote numerous studies both on physics, math and philosophy, and is most famous for formulating the three laws of motion. His biography has been translated into 220 different languages, and more than 24 million people have pulled up his page.
Birthplace: Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Years living: 570-632
What Muhammad is famous for: Religion
Bottom line: Muhammad ibn Abdullah was an early Arab religious and political leader. In the Islamic tradition, he’s believed to have been a prophet called upon to preach the teachings of biblical figures including Moses, Abraham, Adam and Jesus.
His Wikipedia page has been translated to 197 different languages so far, with over 28 million page views. Based on Wikipedia stats, he’s the most popular religious figure in all of history.