Here Are the 100 Most Significant Americans of All Time

©Public Domain

Back in 2014, two men set out to determine who were the most significant people in American history – a tall order to be sure (and notably not the same thing as significant American citizens). Steven Skiena, a Computer Science Professor at Stony Brook University, and Charles B. Ward, an engineer at Google, came up with an algorithm to get their answers. The method ranks historical figures on “the result of social and cultural forces acting on the mass of an individual’s achievement.”

So not only were the two concerned with what these people accomplished, but also how well they are remembered for what they did. Smithsonian magazine joined forces with Skiena and Ward, and its staff used their judgment as well to determine which Americans deserved to be on the list.

These people were determined to be the most significant in American history, broken down into 10 categories.


Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Christopher Columbus
Henry Hudson
Amerigo Vespucci
John Smith
Giovanni da Verrazzano
John Muir
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
Kit Carson
Neil Armstrong
John Wesley Powell

Rebels & resisters

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Martin Luther King Jr.
Robert E. Lee
Thomas Paine
John Brown
Frederick Douglass
Susan B. Anthony
W.E.B. Du Bois
Sitting Bull
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Malcolm X


Photo Credit: Public Domain

Abraham Lincoln
George Washington
Thomas Jefferson
Theodore Roosevelt
Ulysses S. Grant
Ronald W. Reagan
George W. Bush
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Woodrow Wilson
James Madison
Andrew Jackson

First Women

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Eleanor Roosevelt
Hillary Clinton
Sarah Palin
Martha Washington
Helen Keller
Sojourner Truth
Jane Addams
Edith Wharton
Bette Davis
Oprah Winfrey


Photo Credit: Public Domain

Benedict Arnold
Jesse James
John Wilkes Booth
Al Capone
Billy the Kid
William M. “Boss” Tweed
Charles Manson
Wild Bill Hickok
Lee Harvey Oswald
John Dillinger
Lucky Luciano


Photo Credit: Public Domain

Frank Lloyd Wright
Andy Warhol
Frederick Law Olmsted
James Abbott MacNeill Whistler
Jackson Pollock
John James Audubon
Georgia O’Keeffe
Thomas Eakins
Thomas Nast
Alfred Stieglitz
Ansel Adams

Religious figures

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Joseph Smith Jr.
William Penn
Brigham Young
Roger Williams
Anne Hutchinson
Jonathan Edwards
L. Ron Hubbard
Ellen G. White
Cotton Mather
Mary Baker Eddy
Billy Graham

Pop icons

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Mark Twain
Elvis Presley
Bob Dylan
Michael Jackson
Charlie Chaplin
Jimi Hendrix
Marilyn Monroe
Frank Sinatra
Louis Armstrong
Mary Pickford


Photo Credit: Public Domain

Andrew Carnegie
Henry Ford
John D. Rockefeller
J.P. Morgan
Walt Disney
Thomas Alva Edison
William Randolph Hearst
Howard Hughes
Bill Gates
Cornelius Vanderbilt
Steve Jobs


Photo Credit: Library of Congress

Babe Ruth
Muhammad Ali
Jackie Robinson
James Naismith
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Ty Cobb
Michael Jordan
Hulk Hogan
Jim Thorpe
Billie Jean King

Do you agree with these? Anyone you think is missing?