None of the people listed in the above answer fall within the designated time period. However, my vote would be for Karl Marx.
A German born sociologist of Jewish descent, Marx was the author of Das Kapital (Capitalism) and later, with Friedrich Engels, of The Communist Manifesto. Marx ideas were radical, to say the least:
- Religion is the "opiate of the masses," as it encouraged people to ignore their present condition and focus on another life in an unknown realm.
- All history was a history of class struggle in which the working class, the "proletariat" had been abused and exploited by the capitalist system.
- Following the worker's revolution and the establishment of the "dictatorship of the proletariat," government, police forces, etc. would be unnecessary and would eventually disappear.
Marx's ideas were Utopian at best and largely impractical; however they were adopted (with some modification) by V.I. Lenin who engineered the Communist Revolution in Russia and the establishment of the U.S.S.R. His ideas were influential in the establishment of the entire communist bloc comprised of eastern Europe, China, North Korea and Cuba. The Cold War itself was styled (at least by the Communist side) as an ideological conflict between Capitalism and Communism, and eventually resulted in a bi-polar world. The threat of "godless Communism" influenced Americans to add the words "in God we Trust" to the currency, and "under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance. During the glory days of the Soviet Union, Marx's portrait was often carried in parades. He was for the communists a true international hero; and for the western world, the personification of the communist threat.
One need not agree with Marx's ideas to appreciate the far reaching effect they had on the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Great question. I couldn’t really pick only one, so I decide to include a few influential people and will let you decide which one you really like.
1) Christopher Columbus: Although he didn’t discover that the world is round, and he didn’t really “discover” the New World, his voyage marked the beginning of the most significant movement in the history of the globe; The Columbian Exchange. The technology, diseases, religions, cultures, and trade goods that moved between the New World and Old has been said to be the most significant event since the birth of Christ. His landing on San Salvador Island heralded the arrival of the modern world and the coming dominance of western culture.
2) Martin Luther: After nailing his 95 theses on the wall of a catholic church, the death knells of Western Christendom’s 1200 years of unity. The split that he caused with his accusations would cause revolutions and revelations across the continent. It stimulated nationalism, capitalism and a century of religious warfare. His arguments against sacraments and the infallibility of the papacy are still echoing to this day.
3) Galileo Galilei: Not only did he build the first astronomical telescope, improve the clock, discovered the craters of the moon and revealed the laws of bodies in motion, but he also introduced the world to modern science. He showed through his work with mathematics and physics that science comes from observation, not dogma. Although the church didn’t unban his most important work, The Dialogues, until 1822, he did help usher in the age of science over superstition.
4) William Shakespeare: The bard employed more than 24,000 words to create his immortal plays. Although none of them were published until after his death and we hardly know anything about him, his legacy is immeasurable. Some people argue that his works are the root of western literature and popular culture.