The Ten Most Influential People of the 15th Century
10. Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446)
As one of the founding fathers of the Italian Renaissance, Brunelleschi made a modern contribution for all painters that would follow him; the development of linear perspective. Giving Depth through linear perspective is now one of the fundamental bases of art today.
Brunelleschi was also a innovative mastermind of architecture and engineering. This is seen most notoriously with his design of the dome of the Florn ece Cathedral which required no scaffolding to build.
9. Montezuma I (1398-1469)
Montezuma united the Aztec Empire of pre-Colombian Central America. His campaigns expanded the Aztec’s territory and created a central power in Tenochtitlan (which the modern day Mexico City is built around). Even though the Aztecs were all but wiped out later by Spanish Conquistadors, many Aztec roots still exist in Mexico and their legacy as a once-powerful empire lives on.
8. Pachacuti (1438 – 1472)
Pachacuti was the founder of the Inca Empire of South America, taking his small town and expanding it into the largest Empire of the Americas before Columbus’s landing. Though the empire would only last 100 years, its legacy still remains.
7. Zheng He (1371 – 1433)
One of the most famous explorers in the world, Zheng He is one of those historical figures which have become more legendary than strictly factual. His massive fleet sailed practically the entirely of the eastern world, spreading trade as well as diplomatic ties to China from various countries. He spread China’s influence far and wide for his Emperor and created many tales to be told by Chinese families for generations to come.
6. Mehmed II (1432- 1481)
Mehmed was the ruler of the Ottoman Empire and brought an end once and for all of the Roman Empire (the eastern half still existed in the form of the Byzantine Empire). By conquering Constantinople he turned the Ottoman Empire into a realm of great influence and importance in the world.
5. Isabella I (1451 – 1504)
Queen Isabella is on this list for three main reason. The first may seem too localized, but she unified the kingdom of Spain, especially with her marriage to Ferdinand of Aragon. But considering Spain was one of the major world powers during the colonial era, this is quite significant. Secondly, she established the Spanish Inquisition which ended Moor dominance on the peninsula and strengthened Catholicism’s hold on the Latin countries. Thirdly, she basically kicked off the colonial era by financing and setting in motion expeditions to find an eastern trading route, including one you may have heard of: Christopher Columbus.
4. Joan of Arc (1412 – 1431)
Joan of arc is one of the most notable female figures in feudal history. Her story is hard to imagine: a peasant girl who claims she was chosen by God to lead the French army to victory. Which is exactly what she did, turning the tide f the once English-dominated Hundred Years War before being made a martyr. On a purely factual basis, these military victories may not seem significant enough as one of the most influential people in the world. However, her legacy lives on in the form of national pride, female empowerment, and religious fervour.
3. The Yongle Emperor (1360 – 1424)
The 15th century saw China’s Ming dynasty reach its peak through the reign of the Yongle Emperor. Yongle did many things to restore his kingdom to greatness. He built the Forbidden City, reopened the Grand Canal, and sent the famous Zheng He on his legendary journeys which created many diplomatic bonds with other countries. He embraced and strengthened Chinese culture during his reign and showed an openness towards differing philosophies and religions (…. except for Mongolians). His reign wasn’t perfect, but he reformed the countries economy, strengthened its military, and brought Chinese culture to great heights.
2. Christopher Columbus (1451 – 1506)
1492 is one of those years in which the world changed forever. It was the fateful year that Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas. The colonization of the “New World” which would follow would shape the 500 years of history that would follow. Entirely new worlds and possibilities were opened up for people on both halves of the world, though it turned out much less well for those in the western hemisphere.
Make no mistake, Columbus was a brutal man. He decimated Hispaniola, putting many of the natives to the spear or put them in shackles. But influence isn’t only created by the “nice” people of the world. and because he essentially opened the world to being a global community and allowed Europe to spread and impose its influence, his discovery is certainly one of the most significant of the last millennium.
1. Johannes Gutenberg (1398 – 1468)
With all of the scientists, explorers, and military and political leaders which have shaped this past century, its oddly humbling that a simple printer from Germany stands above the rest. And all because of his one invention which changed the world forever: the printing press. This seemingly basic invention was simply supposed to make Gutenberg’s life a little easier. Instead, it began a massive revolution of ideas and knowledge.
A&E, in their Biography of the Millennium special, selected Gutenberg as the most influential person of the entire millennium, from 1001 – 2000. And hearing their reasoning, it makes sense. The printing press allowed ideas to spread and essentially gave birth to the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and any other ideological movements since the 15th century. Scientist’s discoveries were able to be published, common people were able to read the bible for themselves, philosophers were able to teach their philosophies to many. This also took the dispersal of knowledge away from those in power, putting it into the hands of the people.
Johannes Gutenberg is most definitely the most influential person of the 15th century, but may very well be the simple most influential person of the last one thousand years.