The Ten Most Influential People of the 17th Century
10. William Harvey (1578-1657)
William Harvey revolutionized the field of medical science by mapping out the human circulatory system in full detail. Until then, no one had really known how blood was pumped through the body. His discoveries would lead to more detailed analysis of our bodies’ physiology and anatomy allowing for the field of medicine to become a prosperous endeavor.
9. Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616)
Tokugawa Ieyasu established the Edo period of Japanese history. His line of succession would last until the late 19th century and his practices led to the eventual shutting off of Japan from the Western world. He was one of Japan’s most significant leaders of the past few centuries.
8. Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
Kepler was one of the most important scientists of his age and his theories would provide Newton a base from which to build. Kepler was able to describe how planets moved in elliptical orbits. His ideas were a key piece in putting together the puzzle of what our universe looks like.
7. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632-1723)
During a time when many scientists were looking skyward, Van Leeuwenhoek was thinking smaller. With his invention of the microscope, Van Leeuwenhoek discovered a whole new world: the world of microorganisms. His examination of cells led him to the discovery of bacteria and the establishment of microbiology.
6. Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Francis Bacon was a lead proponent in the scientific revolution which has shaped our world for the last four centuries. He popularized the scientific method as a means to study all aspects of our natural world. Through men like Bacon, science moved to the forefront of society and has been changing it ever since.
5. John Locke (1632-1704)
Perhaps the greatest thinker of the Enlightenment, Locke essentially laid the foundation for the democratic movement. He influenced many of the philosophers to follow with his ideas of self concept and identity. These ideas were also well ingrained with the American independence movement.
4. Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
Do you think? Then guess what, you are! ‘I think therefore I am’ may very well be the catch phrase of Western philosophy and it was said by this man, Rene Descartes. Descartes was a mover and shaker on two fronts, one being his great advancements in mathematics most notably the Cartesian plane) as well as advancements in Philosophy.
As the ‘father of modern philosophy’ Descartes laid the groundwork for how to think about nature and the sciences as well as our own existence. He was a man of massive influence which rings through to this day and beyond.
3. William Shakespeare (~1564 – 1616)
What do I really need to say about the most celebrated pen-smith of all time? Shakespeare’s plays may very well live on as long as humans treasure literature. He is one of the greatest storytellers of all time, covering the whole spectrum of humanity’s themes, from love to greed to frailty to bravery. While most of this list is dominated by scientists and philosophers, Shakespeare stands among them because he was able to use his writing to touch our very souls; no small feat indeed.
2. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
Earth is not the center of the universe but in fact it revolves around the sun. Copernicus had laid out this theory almost a century before Galileo came around, but Galileo was the man who was able to prove this using his telescope and observations of the planetary movements.
But more than his advancements in astronomy and physics, which were significant, Galileo’s real influence comes from the precedent that he set which would define modern science: we did not need a higher authority to provide us with knowledge, but in fact, we could seek knowledge for ourselves. The Catholic Church was none too happy about this and even though they forced him to denounce, they could not stop the ever-growing movement towards our right to quest for knowledge.
1. Isaac Newton (1643-1727)
Some say that if it wasn’t for Isaac Newton, we would still be one hundred years behind where we are now. Being one of the most brilliant men who ever lived, Newton was able to make huge advancements in physics, mathematics and astronomy. He explained to the world how gravity works and how the laws of motion control mostly everything in the universe. He invented calculus, opening a whole to doorway to mathematics. His ideas changed the world in no small way. His impact upon the human race may have been more profound than any scientist to come before or after him.