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Well, this question is one that can start a very long debate here. And the debate would include people ranging from historians, to scientists to philosophers.
There have been many important people in history, ranging from religious leaders, with the members of each religion considering the person they follow as the most important. In science, the list could extend to hundreds of scientists. And people who have led to a social change or the independence of a nation could form another very long list.
You should think about this yourself and always ensure that you don not force your ideas upon others. Each of us the right to consider the person of our choice as the most important.
Wow... there are so many ways to answer this and I am sure you will be hearing many of them...
I am going to go with Saint Paul -- the man who was most instrumental in spreading Christianity after the death of Jesus.
The reason that I say this is because Christianity was a driving force behind the creation of what we now call Western Civilization. There are other great religions in the world that are seriously important, but Western Civilization has in some ways come to dominate the whole world.
If Western Civilization is dominant, and if Christianity was one of the major base of that civiliation, then a man who was instrumental in spreading Christianity must be a very important man indeed.
If we are to judge the importance of a historical figure on how well the person is known, and how well that person is respected by a large number of people, than the choice would center around some great religious or spiritual leader. However, if we are to judge the importance of the person in terms of influence on making the world what it is today, we must look at the people who have contributed most to the development, use and spread of technology.
The task of identifying the person most important in this way is not just difficult - it is is an impossible. This is because the most useful and widely applied technologies were developed in the prehistoric times. For example, I cannot think of any technology that has greater utility or application than the wheel. It is just not possible to determine how and by whom such technologies were developed and popularised. All that we know is that we have to thank some prehistoric humans, believed to be absolute barbarians with no claim to scientific genius, for planting the seed of the trees that are providing us with the fruits of marvels of technology in the twenty-first century.
Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press. This man single-handedly made possible the preservation and mass-dissemination of knowledge, which was previously all to frail. Consider that before the printing press, a person such as Aristotle might have amassed a treasure trove of knowledge, made discoveries, contributed to society, philosophy, medicine, politics, and untold other disciplines, only to be killed through the indifference of fate and the nasty, brutal, and short nature of human existence. Even if such a person had painstakingly written their wisdom down, it would be far too easy for a tragic accident to destroy those writings, to say nothing of the followers of a conflicting ideology purposefully scour them from the face of the earth. Gutenberg made it possible for knowledge to be very nearly impossible to destroy. Just my opinion.
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