The Ten Most Influential People of the Early Millennium (1001-1400)
10. Su Song (1020-1101)
Su Song appears to be an early “Renaissance man” from historical China. He made many advances in areas such as biology and astronomy, but his greatest influence was in the area of engineering. His surprisingly complex mechanical clock was a wonder of his time. Among many advancements this clock were the development of an escapement mechanism and chain drive. Unfortunately his clock was lost when his home was conquered by an invading army, but his original designs endured.
9. Pope Urban II (1042-1099)
Pope Urban II made himself one of the memorable popes by setting in motion centuries of strife and war: the Crusades. In what is still considered one of the most famous and influential speeches ever given, Urban II called the followers of Christianity to action against the Turks in the Holy Land. What followed was one of the most brutal and devastating conflicts in recorded history.
8. Jiao Yu
A military adviser of the Hongwu Emperor in the 14th century, Jiao Yu is important for writing a military manual called the Huolongjing. This manual outlined, in a number of different ways, the use of gunpowder as weapons. Though there is some debate as to how influential this manual was outside China, it is clear that Chinese knowledge of this table-turning substance did eventually trickle out to the rest of the world, and changed warfare forever.
7. Omar al-Khayyam (1048-1131)
Omar Khayyam was perhaps the greatest of the Islamic mathematicians whose important work laid a strong foundation for the last thousand years in the field of algebra. His groundbreaking work with cubic equations and higher-degree polynomials (including the formation of the binomial theorem) provided a text for all other mathematicians to follow.
6. Alhazen (965-1039)
Way back at the turn of the Millennnium, a Muslim scientist was doing work which would pave the way for the scientific revolution centuries later. Alhazen is considered the greatest scientist of the Middle Ages and his work in physics specifically would influence many great scientists after him, such as Roger Bacon and Issac Newton. His Book of Optics is considered one of the most important scientific texts ever written.
5. William I (1028-1087)
One thousand years ago, Britain was invaded by foreigners one last time. This conquest was led by William the Conqueror and his Normans, who changed the face of Britain culture, society, and politics forever. The invasion of 1066, highlighted by the famous Battle of Hastings, can easily be seen as the beginning of what would eventually grow into the British Empire, the largest empire in human history. William’s reign established a legacy which would last for a Millennium, as the English-speaking which branched from this legacy world spread into several massive spheres of influence the world over.
4. Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)
Dante is considered one of the two most important writers in history. His Divine Comedy is one of the most powerful stories ever written, detailing a journey through Heaven, hell and purgatory. The book was written in his common Italian tongue rather than Latin, allowing everyone to read it and not just the upper classes. This resulted in a wide sphere of spiritual influence on many in Europe, and as time went on this grew to influence readers around the world and through the centuries.
3. Pope Gregory VII (1015-1085)
Pope Gregory VII had a mission of eliminating corruption in Europe. What he actually did was transform the papacy into a ruling power above even the kings and queens. The Vatican had become a political power as well as a spiritual one, and this power would rule over the Middle Ages, eventually growing into the mistrust and dissension towards the church which would lead the the Reformation centuries later.
2. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274)
When Thomas Aquinas came along, Europe was stuck in the dreadful Middle Ages, stifled by a lack of progress and down-trodden by their monarchs and church leaders. And though it didn’t happen immediately, Aquinas paved the way for these societies to get out of the muck and sewed the seeds of the Scientific Revolution.
Aquinas is most famous for the Quinque Viae, or the 5 proofs of a higher power. He was able to blend theological and scientific thought, making it “okay” to study the world around us. He promoted the quest for reason and discovery, yet he kept it acceptable within the Catholic Church, the largest power in the world at the time.
1. Genghis Khan (1162-1227)
Genghis Khan is usually remembered as a brutal barbarian who invaded massive swaths of land and practiced cruel atrocities upon the conquered. But Khan’s influence and importance goes much deeper than that. Khan’s military expeditions led to the formation of the largest land empire to date.
The Mongul Empire may have been controlled by fear, but it was also structured in such a way that connected almost all the lands of Asia. It promoted trade among nations, not only for material goods but also of ideas. And throughout these top ten lists we have seen how powerful the spreading of ideas can be. And with the building of roads through the empire, Khan allowed access of his Empire to the west, encouraging explorers to carry these ideas further across the globe.