100 Faces that Made Human History


Criteria for Choosing the Faces That We Feature

It is controversial choosing 100 faces to represent human history. This was done careful according the following criteria:

  1. Consequential

Persons whose lives have had significance consequence for the lives of others, positive or negative. For example, Adolf Hitler was seminal in World War II to the lives of a global generation. His life and practice then changed the way in which we thought of genocide, war, and political power.

  1. Representative

Persons who represent an important aspect of human activity, in their time and for ours. For example, Einstein’s work in physics contributed to changing the paradigm of modern science.

  1. Emblematic

Persons who stand in for an aspect of the human condition, without necessarily being individually famous in the popular culture sense of the word. For example, even though she is not well known, Marina Abramovic’s embodied performance art represents the intensifying pressure on the integrity of the human body in the twentieth century and after.

  1. Impactful

Persons who have had a significant impact in and beyond their immediate field of activity. For example, Plato’s philosophical discourses still influence contemporary fields of ethics and political science, as well as basic arguments about knowledge and meaning.

  1. Influential

Persons who, without being necessarily individually famous, have had a significant influence upon the human condition based on a process, technique or technology that they developed. For example, Tim Berners-Lee had an incredible influence through being a key developer of the World Wide Web.

  1. Iconic

Persons whose faces are iconically famous, even if they personally are almost unknown. For example, Lisa del Giocondo or the ‘Mona Lisa’ painted by Leonardo is widely recognized.

  1. Inspirational

Persons who are famous because they represent some aspect of the human condition that captured people’s imagination. For example, Che Guevara’s face became an inspirational symbol of revolutionary liberation and transnational solidarity, or (to reverse that attribution) Joan of Arc, whose face is relatively unknown, came to be a symbol of revolutionary religious zeal with various faces.

Temporal Spread

One of the considerations for our choice of figures is having a spread of figures across human history. We first began by specifying ten persons maximum for any century, but the differences of impact across the centuries alerted us to a second issue: namely that the world’s population exploded in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and that therefore there should be a weighting of choice towards the present. Table 2 below represents that weighting. We did not always meet though guidelines precisely—for example, 31 names were chosen for the twentieth century rather than 30—but for the most part the guidelines held.

Table 1. Temporal Guidelines for Choosing Faces

Maximum number

Period

World population numbers

2 figures per century

before 1,000 CE

0 CE = 200 million or .2 billion people /

1,000 CE = .275 billion people

5 figures per century

1000–1500

1500 = .45 billion people

10 figures per century

1500–1800

1800 = 1 billion people

20 figures per century

1800–1900

1900 = 1.6 billion people

30 figures per century

1900–present

1930 = 2 billion / 1959=3 billion

1974=4 billion / 1987=5 billion

 

Spatial Spread

Another consideration was the spread of figures across global space. We began by specifying that there should no more than ten persons per country, with the meaning of ‘country’ based on modern nation-state equivalence. However, this too was quickly qualified, firstly by population. China, India and the United States are the three most populous countries in the world. For example, it makes sense that given their world-historical population difference there is a capacity to allow more representative from China than Cambodia, and the United States rather than Haiti. Related important considerations included maintaining diversity across places, qualifying the nation-state bias of contemporary identity formation, and recognizing that some places by virtue of their global engagement—going back centuries in some cases such as the United Kingdom and Italy—would have a larger representation than less engaged places. Thus qualified consideration was thus given to the global impact of different countries through such processes as emigration, exploration, and imperial expansion.

In the final choice of the 100 faces, the figures by country are as follows: Afghanistan (1), Algeria (1), Argentina (1), Australia (2), Austria (2), Belgium (1), Brazil (1), Burma (1), Czech Republic (1), China (6), Egypt (2), France (6), Germany (6), Greece (3), Haiti (1), India (2), Israel/Palestine (2), Italy (9), Japan (2), Martinique (1), Mexico (1), Mongolia (1), Nepal (1), Netherlands (2), Peru (1), Poland (4), Russia (3), Saudi Arabia (2), Serbia (1), South Africa (2), South Korea (1), Spain (3), Switzerland (1), Turkey (2), United Kingdom (11) United States (10), Venezuela (1), and Vietnam (1).

Performative Spread    

Consideration was given to maintaining a spread of figures across different fields of activity, with no more than ten figures per field of activity. This is complicated. Given the influence of science, technology and economics in the present it might have been assumed that more scientists, inventors, technologists, merchants, and industrialists would have been chosen. However, we chose to orient our selection otherwise. This was based firstly on the argument that while economic practitioners—merchants and industrialist, for example—have contributed massively in contributing to the material wealth of humanity the social range of that contribution to the human condition is narrow. Secondly, the domain of economics includes more than producers of economic wealth such as Henry Ford and John Paul Getty, or economic philosophers such as Adam Smith and Karl Marx (all included in the list of 100). It also includes those who are wealthy and poor, employed and formally unemployed.

Gender In-balance

Working towards relative gender equity in the figures chosen was also a major consideration, but again issues of impact qualified this criterion. In this case our choice involved recognition of the dominance of men in written history and the public sphere prior to 1960. The starkness of this inequity is shocking. It is an incredible pattern of structural discrimination towards men. However, we felt that covering it up by choosing more women, despite the level of their standing as consequential, representative, emblematic, impactful, influential, iconic and inspirational, would not solve the problem — rather it would compound it. We settled on a 20 per cent minimum number across the whole of history, with an increasing orientation to choosing women from the end of the nineteenth century onwards. This lack of balance is not the case when it comes to choosing our other lists, including ‘Faces of Emotion’.

Summary of Social Criteria for Choosing Faces

  1. A relative global spatial spread across people born in different places;
  2. A relative temporal spread across human history;
  3. A relative performative spread across different fields of human activity, though with an emphasis on the cultural and political domains rather than economic domain;
  4. An orientation to gender balance from the end of the nineteenth century onwards;
  5. An iconic or identifiable representation of a named person;
  6. An expressive image that shows some sort of emotion.

Table 2. One-Hundred Figures that Made Human History

NB. 'Country of birth' uses modern nation-state equivalence.

Period

Person

Dates

Field of activity

Country of birth

City of birth

Pre-0s

1. Nefertiti (f-1)

c.1370–c.1330

Regal politics (1)

Egypt (1)

unknown

 

2. Buddha

c.563–483

Religion (1)

Nepal (1)

Lumbin?

 

3. Confucius

c.551–c.479

Philosophy (1)

China (1)

Qufu

 

4. Plato

c.424–c.348

Philosophy (2)

Greece (1)

Athens

 

5. Aristotle

384–322

Philosophy (3)

Greece (2)

Chalcidice

 

6. Hypatia

c.350–c.415

Philosophy (4)

Egypt (2)

Alexandria

 

7. Ashoka Maurya

c.304–232

Military (1)

India (1)

Patna

 

8. Julius Caesar

c.100–44

Military (2)

Italy (1)

Rome

 

9. Cleopatra VII Philopator (f2)

69–30

Regal politics (2)

Egypt (2)

Alexandria

 

10. Mary, Mother of Jesus (f3)

c.15BC–48CE

Religion (2)

Israel/Palestine (1)

Nazareth

00s

11. Jesus of Nazareth

c.0–c.32

Religion (3)

Israel/Palestine (2)

Nazareth

 

12. Cai Lun

c.50–121

Technology (1)

China (2)

Leiyang

100s

13. Claudius Galen

c.130–c.210

Medicine (1)

Turkey (1)

Pergamum

200s

14. Plotinus

c. 204–270

Theology (1)

Greece (3)

Lycopolis

300s

15. Constantinus Augustus

272–337

Military (3)

Turkey (2)

Naissus

400s

16. Augustine of Hippo

354–430

Theology (2)

Algeria (1)

Thagaste

500s

17. Emperor Wen of Sui

541–604

Regal politics (3)

China (3)

Chang'an

600s

18. Muhammad

c.570–c.632

Religion (5)

Saudi Arabia (1)

Mecca

700s

19. Charlemagne

c.742–c.814

Military (3)

France (1)

Herstal

800s

20. Han Yu

c.768–824

Poetry (1)

China (4)

Nanyang

900s

21. Abd-ar-Rahman III

c.889–961

Regal politics (4)

Spain (1)

Cordoba

1000s

22. William of Normandy

c.1028–c1087

Military (4)

France (2)

Normandy

1100s

23. Eleanor of Aquitaine (f4)

c.1122–1204

Regal politics (5)

France (3)

c.Poitiers

 

24. Averroes (Ibn Rushd)

1126–1198

Philosophy (5)

Spain (2)

Cordoba

1200s

25. Genghis Khan

c.1162–1227

Military (5)

Mongolia (1)          

Temujin

 

26. Rumi

c.1207–c.1273

Poetry (2)

Afghanistan (1)

Balkh

 

27. Thomas Aquinas

c.1225–1274

Theology (3)

Italy (2)

Roccasecca

 

28. Marco Polo

1254–1324

Economics (1)

Italy (3)

Venice

1300s

29. Petrarch

1304–1374

Poetry (3)

Italy (4)

Arezzo

 

30. Geoffrey Chaucer

c.1343–1400

Poetry (4)

United Kingdom (1)

London

 

31. Christine de Pizan (f5)

c.1364–1430

Poetry (5)

Italy (5)

Venice

1400s

32 Johannes Gutenberg

c.1398–1468

Technology (2)

Germany (1)

Mainz

 

33. Saint Joan of Arc (f6)

c.1412–1431

Cultural icon (1)

France (4)

Domremy

1500

34. Leonardo da Vinci

1452–1519

Technology (3)

Italy (6)

Vinci

 

35. Erasmus

1467–1536

Theology (4)

Netherlands (1)

Rotterdam

 

36. Niccolò Machiavelli

1469–1527

Philosophy (6)

Italy (7)

Florence

 

37. Nicolaus Copernicus

1473–1543

Astronomy (1)

Poland (1)

Toru

 

38. Michelangelo

1475–1564

Sculpture (1)

Italy (8)

Caprese

 

39. Lisa Gherardini Mona Lisa (f7)

1479–1542

Cultural icon (1)

Italy (9)

Florence (2)

 

40. Martin Luther

1483–1546

Religion (6)

Germany (2)

Eisleben

 

41. Gerardus Mercator

1512–1594

Cartography (1)

Belgium (1)

Rupelmonde

 

42. Elizabeth I (f8)

1533–1603

Regal politics (6)

United Kingdom (2)

Greenwich

1600s

43. Tokugawa Ieyasu

1542–1616

Military (6)

Japan (1)

Matsudaira

 

44. Tupac Amaru

1545–1572

Regal politics (7)

Peru (1)

Vilcabamba

 

45. William Shakespeare

1564–1616

Drama (1)

United Kingdom (3)

Stratford

 

46. William Harvey

1578–1657

Medicine (2)

United Kingdom (4)

Folkstone

 

47. Pocahontas

c.1595–1617

Cultural icon (2)

United States (1)

Werowocomoco

 

48. Rene Descartes

1596–1650

Philosophy (7)

France (5)

Le Haye

 

49. Rembrandt van Rijn

1606–1669

Painting (1)

Netherlands (2)

Leiden

1700s

50. Johann Sebastian Bach

1685–1750

Music (1)

Germany (3)

Eisenach

 

51. Jean-Jacques Rousseau

1712–1778

Philosophy (8)

Switzerland (1)

Geneva

 

52. Adam Smith

1723–1790

Economics (2)

United Kingdom (5)

Kirkaldy

 

53. Catherine the Great (f8)

1729–1796

Regal politics: regal (7)

Poland (2)

Szczecin

 

54. George Washington

1732–1799

National politics (1)

United States (2)

Colonial Beach

1800s

55. Toussaint Louverture

1743–1803

National politics (2)

Haiti (1)

Haut de Cap

 

56. Napoleon Bonaparte

1769–1821

Military (7)

France (6)

Ajaccio

 

57. Ludwig van Beethoven

1770–1827

Music (2)

Germany (4)

Bonn

 

58. Simon Bolivar

1783–1830

National politics (3)

Venezuela

Caracas

 

59. Charles Darwin

1809–1882

Science: naturalist (1)

United Kingdom (6)

Shrewsbury

 

60. Karl Marx

1818–1883

Social theory (1)

Germany (5)

Trier

 

61. George Eliot (f9)

1819–1880

Literature (1)

United Kingdom (7)

Nuneaton

 

62. Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky

1821–1881

Literature (2)

Russia (1)

Moscow

 

63. Cetshwayo kaMpande

c1826–1884

Military (8)

South Africa (1)

Eshowe

 

64. Sigmund Freud

1856–1939

Social theory (2)

Czech Republic (1)

P?íbor

1900s

65. Emmeline Pankhurst (f10)

1858–1928

Activism (1)

United Kingdom (8)

Manchester

 

66. Henry Ford

1863–1947

Economics (3)

United States (3)

Greenfield

 

67. Marie Curie (f11)

1867–1934

Physics (2)

Poland (3)

Warsaw

 

68. Emma Goldman (f12)

1869–1940

Political activism (2)

Russia (2)

Kovno

 

69. Mohandas Gandhi

1869–1948

Political activism (3)

India (2)

Portanbar

 

70. Vladimir Lenin

1870–1924

Politics: national (4)

Russia (3)

Ulyanovsk

 

71. Rosa Luxemburg (f13)

1871–1919

Philosophy: general

Poland (4)

Zamo

 

72. Albert Einstein

1879–1955

Physics (1)

Germany (6)

Ulm

 

73. Pablo Picasso

1881–1973

Painting (2)

Spain (3)

Malaga

 

74. Virginia Woolf (f14)

1882–1941

Literature (3)

United Kingdom (9)

Kensington

 

75. Adolf Hitler

1889–1945

National politics (5)

Austria (1)

Ranshofen

 

76. Charlie Chaplin

1889–1977

Film (1)

United Kingdom (10)

London (3)

 

77. Ho Chi Minh

1890–1969

National politics (6)

Vietnam (1)

Hoàng Trù

 

78. Jean Paul Getty 

1892–1976

Economics (2)

United States (4)

Minneapolis

 

79. Mao Zedong

1893–1976

National politics (7)

China (5)

Shaoshanchong

 

80. Friedrich Hayek

1899–1992

Economics (4)

Austria (2)

Vienna

 

81. Frida Kahlo (f15)

1907–1954

Painting (3)

Mexico (1)

Mexico City

 

82. Rosa Parkes (f16)

1913–2005

Political activism (4)

United States (5)

Tuskegee

 

83. Billie Holliday (f17)

1915–1959

Music (2)

United States (6)

Philadelphia

 

84. Nelson Mandela

1918–2014

Political activism (5)

South Africa (2)

Mvezo

 

85. Frantz Fanon

1925–1961

Political activism (6)

Martinique (1)

Fort-de-France

 

86. Marilyn Monroe (f18)

1926–1962

Film (2)

United States (7)

Los Angeles

 

87. Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara

1928–1967

Political icon (1)

Argentina (1)

Rosario

 

88. Toni Morrison (f19)

1931–

Literature (4)

United States (8)

Lorain

 

89. Rupert Murdoch

1931–

Communications media (1)

Australia (1)

Melbourne

 

90. Tenzin Gyatso 14th Dalai Lama

1935–

Religion (7)

China (6)

Taktser

 

91. Pelé (Edson Arantes do Nascimento)

1940–

Sports (1)

Brazil (1)

Tres Corcacoes

 

92. Hayao Miyazaki

1941–

Film (3)

Japan (2)

Tokyo

 

93. Bob Dylan

1941–

Music (3)

United States (9)

Duluth

 

94. Marina Abramovic  (f20)

1946–

Performance (1)

Serbia (1)

Belgrade

 

95. Tim Berners-Lee

1955–

Technology (4)

United Kingdom (11)

London (4)

2000s

96. Aung San Suu Kyi (f21)

1945–

Political activism (7)

Burma (1)

Rangoon

 

97. Osama bin Laden

1957–2011

Military (9)

Saudi Arabia (2)

Riyadh

 

98. Cathy Freeman (f22)

1973–

Sports (2)

Australia (1)

Slade Point

 

99. 'Psy' Park Jae-sang

1977–

Music (4)

South Korea (1)

Seoul

 

100. Serena Williams (f23)

1981–

Sports (3)

United States (10)

Saginaw