according to the atlantic...
The Top 100
The most influential figures in American history.
1 Abraham Lincoln
He saved the Union, freed the slaves, and presided over Americaâ€™s second founding.
2 George Washington
He made the United States possibleâ€”not only by defeating a king, but by declining to become one himself.
3 Thomas Jefferson
The author of the five most important words in American history: â€œAll men are created equal.â€
4 Franklin Delano Roosevelt
He said, â€œThe only thing we have to fear is fear itself,â€ and then he proved it.
5 Alexander Hamilton
Soldier, banker, and political scientist, he set in motion an agrarian nationâ€™s transformation into an industrial power.
6 Benjamin Franklin
The Founder-of-all-tradesâ€” scientist, printer, writer, diplomat, inventor, and more; like his country, he contained multitudes.
7 John Marshall
The defining chief justice, he established the Supreme Court as the equal of the other two federal branches.
8 Martin Luther King Jr.
His dream of racial equality is still elusive, but no one did more to make it real.
9 Thomas Edison
It wasnâ€™t just the lightbulb; the Wizard of Menlo Park was the most prolific inventor in American history.
10 Woodrow Wilson
He made the world safe for U.S. interventionism, if not for democracy.
11 John D. Rockefeller
The man behind Standard Oil set the mold for our tycoonsâ€”first by making money, then by giving it away.
12 Ulysses S. Grant
He was a poor president, but he was the general Lincoln needed; he also wrote the greatest political memoir in American history.
13 James Madison
He fathered the Constitution and wrote the Bill of Rights.
14 Henry Ford
He gave us the assembly line and the Model T, and sparked Americaâ€™s love affair with the automobile.
15 Theodore Roosevelt
Whether busting trusts or building canals, he embodied the â€œstrenuous lifeâ€ and blazed a trail for twentieth-century America.
16 Mark Twain
Author of our national epic, he was the most unsentimental observer of our national life.
17 Ronald Reagan
The amiable architect of both the conservative realignment and the Cold Warâ€™s end.
18 Andrew Jackson
The first great populist: he found America a republic and left it a democracy.
19 Thomas Paine
The voice of the American Revolution, and our first great radical.
20 Andrew Carnegie
The original self-made man forged Americaâ€™s industrial might and became one of the nationâ€™s greatest philanthropists.
21 Harry Truman
An accidental president, this machine politician ushered in the Atomic Age and then the Cold War.
22 Walt Whitman
He sang of America and shaped the countryâ€™s conception of itself.
23 Wright Brothers
They got us all off the ground.
24 Alexander Graham Bell
By inventing the telephone, he opened the age of telecommunications and shrank the world.
25 John Adams
His leadership made the American Revolution possible; his devotion to republicanism made it succeed.
26 Walt Disney
The quintessential entertainer-entrepreneur, he wielded unmatched influence over our childhood.
27 Eli Whitney
His gin made cotton king and sustained an empire for slavery.
28 Dwight Eisenhower
He won a war and two elections, and made everybody like Ike.
29 Earl Warren
His Supreme Court transformed American society and bequeathed to us the culture wars.
30 Elizabeth Cady Stanton
One of the first great American feminists, she fought for social reform and womenâ€™s right to vote.
31 Henry Clay
One of Americaâ€™s greatest legislators and orators, he forged compromises that held off civil war for decades.
32 Albert Einstein
His greatest scientific work was done in Europe, but his humanity earned him undying fame in America.
33 Ralph Waldo Emerson
The bard of individualism, he relied on himselfâ€”and told us all to do the same.
34 Jonas Salk
His vaccine for polio eradicated one of the worldâ€™s worst plagues.
35 Jackie Robinson
He broke baseballâ€™s color barrier and embodied integrationâ€™s promise.
36 William Jennings Bryan
â€œThe Great Commonerâ€ lost three presidential elections, but his populism transformed the country.
37 J. P. Morgan
The great financier and banker was the prototype for all the Wall Street barons who followed.
38 Susan B. Anthony
She was the countryâ€™s most eloquent voice for womenâ€™s equality under the law.
39 Rachel Carson
The author of Silent Spring was godmother to the environmental movement.
40 John Dewey
He sought to make the public school a training ground for democratic life.
41 Harriet Beecher Stowe
Her Uncle Tomâ€™s Cabin inspired a generation of abolitionists and set the stage for civil war.
42 Eleanor Roosevelt
She used the first ladyâ€™s office and the mass media to become â€œfirst lady of the world.â€
43 W. E. B. DuBois
One of Americaâ€™s great intellectuals, he made the â€œproblem of the color lineâ€ his lifeâ€™s work.
44 Lyndon Baines Johnson
His brilliance gave us civil-rights laws; his stubbornness gave us Vietnam.
45 Samuel F. B. Morse
Before the Internet, there was Morse code.
46 William Lloyd Garrison
Through his newspaper, The Liberator, he became the voice of abolition.
47 Frederick Douglass
After escaping from slavery, he ed the nationâ€™s conscience with an eloquent accounting of its crimes.
48 Robert Oppenheimer
The father of the atomic bomb and the regretful midwife of the nuclear era.
49 Frederick Law Olmsted
The genius behind New Yorkâ€™s Central Park, he inspired the greening of Americaâ€™s cities.
50 James K. Polk
This one-term presidentâ€™s Mexican War landgrab gave us California, Texas, and the Southwest.
51 Margaret Sanger
The ardent champion of birth controlâ€”and of the sexual freedom that came with it.
52 Joseph Smith
The founder of Mormonism, Americaâ€™s most famous homegrown faith.
53 Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
Known as â€œThe Great Dissenter,â€ he wrote Supreme Court opinions that continue to shape American jurisprudence.
54 Bill Gates
The Rockefeller of the Information Age, in business and philanthropy alike.
55 John Quincy Adams
The Monroe Doctrineâ€™s real author, he set nineteenth-century Americaâ€™s diplomatic course.
56 Horace Mann
His tireless advocacy of universal public schooling earned him the title â€œThe Father of American Education.â€
57 Robert E. Lee
He was a good general but a better symbol, embodying conciliation in defeat.
58 John C. Calhoun
The voice of the antebellum South, he was slaveryâ€™s most ardent defender.
59 Louis Sullivan
The father of architectural modernism, he shaped the defining American building: the skyscraper.
60 William Faulkner
The most gifted chronicler of Americaâ€™s tormented and fascinating South.
61 Samuel Gompers
The countryâ€™s greatest labor organizer, he made the golden age of unions possible.
62 William James
The mind behind Pragmatism, Americaâ€™s most important philosophical school.
63 George Marshall
As a general, he organized the American effort in World War II; as a statesman, he rebuilt Western Europe.
64 Jane Addams
The founder of Hull House, she became the secular saint of social work.
65 Henry David Thoreau
The original American dropout, he has inspired seekers of authenticity for 150 years.
66 Elvis Presley
The king of rock and roll. Enough said.
67 P. T. Barnum
The circus impresarioâ€™s taste for spectacle paved the way for blockbuster movies and reality TV.
68 James D. Watson
He codiscovered DNAâ€™s double helix, revealing the code of life to scientists and entrepreneurs alike.
69 James Gordon Bennett
As the founding publisher of The New York Herald, he invented the modern American newspaper.
70 Lewis and Clark
They went west to explore, and millions followed in their wake.
71 Noah Webster
He didnâ€™t create American English, but his dictionary defined it.
72 Sam Walton
He promised us â€œEvery Day Low Prices,â€ and we took him up on the offer.
73 Cyrus McCormick
His mechanical reaper spelled the end of traditional farming, and the beginning of industrial agriculture.
74 Brigham Young
What Joseph Smith founded, Young preserved, leading the Mormons to their promised land.
75 George Herman â€œBabeâ€ Ruth
He saved the national pastime in the wake of the Black Sox scandalâ€”and permanently linked sports and celebrity.
76 Frank Lloyd Wright
Americaâ€™s most significant architect, he was the archetype of the visionary artist at odds with capitalism.
77 Betty Friedan
She spoke to the discontent of housewives everywhereâ€”and inspired a revolution in gender roles.
78 John Brown
Whether a hero, a fanatic, or both, he provided the spark for the Civil War.
79 Louis Armstrong
His talent and charisma took jazz from the cathouses of Storyville to Broadway, television, and beyond.