When it comes to inspiring people, there are plenty of great names to offer in history. From the worlds of science, religion, philosophy and politics, it is not a bad thing to shrink them. The most inspiring people who have made a lasting contribution to creating a better world. These people have inspired others by their various accomplishments, but also by their attitudes and values. Some of the characteristics of inspirational people include;

  • Do not necessarily accept conventional beliefs and conventional wisdom as true
  • Strength, enthusiasm and motivation to make a positive contribution to life
  • Instead of raising their ego and worldly name and reputation, work for the best purpose of helping others
  • Try to look good in others and find the best in others
  • Try to work in unison without dividing the people
  • Able to provide inspirational art, music, literature that rises above the ordinary to give mankind a glimpse of a higher reality

Here are the 20 most inspiring people in history.

1. Nelson Mandela

Mandela stands as one of the most famous champions of equal rights, his determination to liberate South Africa from its apartheid regime has changed history. He spent 27 years in prison for opposing racism. After his release, he became the first president of democratic South Africa and helped heal the wounds of racism by his liberal attitude towards his former political enemies.

2. Martin Luther King Jr.

Luther, arguably one of the most important names of the 20th century, was fundamentally based on the non-violent civil rights movement and inspired an entire generation to reconsider racial equality. He has inspired millions of people, black and white, to aspire for a more equal and just society, eventually ending institutional isolation across the country and receiving the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom on the way.

3. Sir Isaac Newton

A name is taught in every science class around the world, Sir Isaac Newton is undoubtedly one of the most inspiring people who survived. An expert in mathematics, theology, physics and astronomy, his radical thinking led to groundbreaking discoveries and created waves in the contemporary science community that will have an impact on the next generation. Most famously, his discovery of gravity laid the foundations of all modern science, but he was also the first to calculate the speed of sound and to make great strides in the study of light.

4. Mikhail Gorbachev

Soviet Communism had the courage, determination and strength of character to give up its absolute power. Gorbachev led the Soviet Union to respect for democracy and human rights. By doing so he was able to break down the Berlin Wall and gain independence from communist control in Eastern Europe.

5. Jesus Christ

The Prophet and the Inspiration of Christianity. Taught the message of love, forgiveness and faith. He was born during a turbulent period of Roman rule and after his crucifixion, his message inspired millions of people around the world.

6. William Wilberforce

The slave trade fought tirelessly to end it, at a time when many saw it as an “economic necessity.” He awakened the conscience of many of his countrymen and helped make slavery unacceptable.

7. Mother Teresa

A modern day saint who wanted to get acquainted with the unloved and the poor and to offer sympathy. Fundamental to the prosperity of all, Teresa chose a voluntary life of poverty to help others. He urged the whole generation to selflessly help others and fearlessly fight world leaders. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and in 2016 Pope Francis became the patron saint of Calcutta.

8. Albert Einstein

Einstein’s theory of relativity still reigns as one of the most influential and significant scientific advances in history. As the developer of the most famous equation in history, E = mc2, he, quite precisely, won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1921 and published more than 300 papers in his lifetime, making his name synonymous with the word ‘genius’. Not only was he a powerful scientist, he was also an active voice for human rights, campaigning for a more peaceful world and strongly condemning the development of the atomic bomb.

9. Helen Keller

Despite his disability of both deafness and blindness, he learned to read and write, became a champion of social problems and helped improve the welfare of the deaf.

10. Charles Darwin

Darwin’s radical thought took the whole theory of evolution to the forefront of scientific research. At a time when religion was gaining ground in the world, Darwin’s theory of natural selection, which was based on the origin of species, was considered blasphemous and anti-religious. It required undeniable courage, the courage of his conviction, and a great deal of faith in the evidence he uncovered to support a theory that ultimately formed the basis of much of modern biology.

11. Leonardo da Vinci

One of the best minds in human history. In many cases, he was centuries ahead of scientific discoveries. He also made great strides in physiology, astronomy, physics, science, and other fields. In all of this, he found time to draw the most iconic picture in history – the Mona Lisa.

12. Rosa Park

Rosa Parks became a respected figure in the American civil rights movement. Rosa shows what ordinary people can do when they are in a difficult situation.

13. Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi was a leading figure in the Indian independence movement. Taught the philosophy of non-violence and peaceful protest.

14. Florence Nightingale

Nightingale volunteered to nurse soldiers during the Crimean War. The statistical analysis of the tragic conditions he has found and their management has helped revolutionize the field of nursing services and treatment of patients.

15. Harriet Tubman

Tubman escaped from slavery but returned to Maryland on many dangerous missions where he helped lead slaves to freedom. He also served as an agent and leader during the Civil War.

16. Winston Churchill

At its worst in 1940, the Nazi war machine seemed invincible as it passed through Europe. Not only did he inspire the British nation to be impenetrable in the face of danger, he did so for the Allies as a whole and was widely credited with preventing the spread of fascism and defending liberal democracy in Europe.

17. Socrates

Socrates showed the power and honesty of independent thinking. He taught by encouraging people to honestly question their previous ideas. His method of self-inquiry laid the foundations of Western philosophical thought.

3. William Shakespeare

The revered king of literature, Shakespeare’s writings became involved and reflected the nature of mankind. An actor, playwright and poet, his works have changed the way people think about themselves and contemporary society, thus changing the entire English-speaking world forever. His plays and poems capture the richness and diversity of human existence in the most powerful and poetic way.

19. Eleanor Roosevelt

Assisted in drafting the UN Declaration of Human Rights. The United States has struggled to improve civil rights. His positivity, empathy and self-sacrifice have inspired many.