A Society With A Short Term Memory Syndrome
I have not found a list that truly represents the most influential people that changed the world. All lists seem to be biased and or not carefully researched. In addition, all lists are not just western but from the point of view of North America. Thousands of years of human experience and all we can think of are some individuals that have made insignificant contributors in comparison to historic personalities worldwide that have truly shaken the world and influenced generations.
For example: Moses, the great military leader that devastated the Egyptian empire, transformed a nation of slaves into princes and princesses. Israel has played an important role in the development of the ancient world than any other nation in history. Today, a remnant of this nation is still looking to secure a land that was promised to the semitic family of Abraham should they remain faithful to the stipulations of the contract or covenant. Even the 1948 establishment of the Jewish state, as historic an event, does not compare to the massive impact of the entrance of Israel into Palestine. Ancient Israelites not only shaped politics but shaped culture as well. This is the first nation that rejects polytheism and introduces monotheism to the world for the first time.
How about King Nebuchadnezzar who set himself up to be the first and most significant ruler of the then known world? This mesopotamian king who conquered Judah and Jerusalem, and sent the Jews into exile, changing forever the political landscape of the Middle East. With much respect, Anwar El Sadat's accomplishments are pale in comparison.
From a historic point of view, Jesus Christ, a jewish peasant, has affected the world more than any other human being on earth, he is the founder of Christianity. Up until Judaism, monotheism reign supreme. Jesus Christ introduced a concept that shook the foundation of monotheism by introducing the concept of a Triune God, three divine Persons that comprised on God. Christianity has since affected not just religion, but politics, fashion, education, sciences, technology, and every aspect of our modern culture.
Galileo Galilei not only invented the first telescope and proved the earth revolved around the sun but his discoveries disrupted the intimate relationship that Science and Religion had enjoyed for centuries. The Galileo Affair has impacted more lives than Charles Chaplin can ever imagine. Because of this event, scientists worldwide have began to distance themselves from the Church. The result has led to generations of agnostics and atheists and a loss of respect for the influence of the Church in society.
Voltaire and others is nothing more than a side effect of this wave of worldwide change.
What we need to keep in mind is that today we divorce the Church from our daily affairs because of the trend of the separation of Church and State which, indirectly, has its roots in the Galileo Affair. So, our thinking naturally gravitates to our modern worldview of antagonism against anything that sounds even remotely religious.
No wonder we see Ted Turner and Sam Walton as more important than Martin Luther, the German Reformer, who practically single-handedly put into motion the end to the Middle Ages, other wise known as the Dark Ages. The gigantic significance of the Protestant Reformation is that it put an end to Centuries of tradition in which religion ruled every aspect of society even before there was written history.
Evidence to this is found in the Zugarits built in Mesopotamia, the oldest secular records ever kept. Religion was life and life was religion. This concept goes back centuries into our human history.
Up until 1798, which marked the end of the reign of the Papacy, when French General Berthier exiled the Pope to die in France by order of Napoleon Bonaparte, the world only knew a life based on the philosophy of one man, the office of the Pope.
One man controlled the world and set up and deposed of kings and queens. Of course by 1798 the Pope had lost much influence in world affairs but it is significant to note that this event alone marked the beginning of a new era. So, who takes this award, French General Berthier or Roman Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte?
Your list is commendable. However, there is a great need to setup a criteria that defines and describes your intent. The title says, People Who Changed the World. With much respect, Billie Jean King did not change the world. His career had a local impact in the world of modern sports. Galileo impacted the world in every aspect!
Mohammed Ali excelled as an athlete in boxing. That is indisputable. However, he did not impact the whole wide-world. Prophet Mohammed truly impacted the world. He founded the third most influential monotheistic religion, next to Judaism and Christianity.
His philosophical ideas impacted life in the Middle East even until today. Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the world today. Its impact affects us all, even in the western world. With much respect, Mohammed Ali has not changed the world.
If what you want is a list of people you admire, this is nice. If you want to list people who have changed the world in the last 100 years of so, then, it needs revision. It seems that it was put together with characters that just came to mind. I agree that Socrates, the founders of western humanistic philosophy should be included since his ideas have done much to shape human thinking. But why not include the people mentioned above?
In the area of Technology you have limited the contributions here by using the tile of the Internet which is one technology among thousands that have impacted the world such as Alexander Graham Bell, inventor to the telephone. How about Guglielmo Marconi who invented the Radio, wireless communication? Even though the Internet was the brainchild of the US government, it was Tim Berners-Lee, who gave us the World Wide Web! He truly changed the world; the lives of billions of people have been affected by his invention.
Another Finish genius is Linus Benedict Torvald, who started a new trend in technology that has affected the world by giving us a free and robust operating system far superior to Bill Gates' Windows, Linux. In the area of technology, these are extremely important. Governments around the world are networking and securing their data using Linux. China uses Linux exclusively and Japan has commissioned their own version of Linux to be used for the securing government data. How could you have missed this?
May I suggest that consulting with the experts (and I am no expert in many of these areas just happened to know these facts because I love to read) should be part of the plan to put together a meaningful list of people who really changed the world. Many today are changing the world through the Internet, uncorroborated data is rampant and misinformation has led many to make terrible mistakes. Unless, the person is properly trained in searching for viable information on the Internet, that person is bound to find useless data that can lead to a generation full data that has no value.