20 Most Inspiring People in History

Last Updated on December 20, 2022

There are people whose impact on the world is too remarkable to overlook. 

Some invested lots of effort and others made small contributions. Either way, their actions lead to a ripple effect.

Albeit indirectly, their actions changed the world.

Below is a list of 20 people who made a difference in this life.

Historical figures

1. William Shakespeare


“Be not afraid of greatness. 

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others 

Have greatness thrust upon them.”

William Shakespeare (April 26, 1564 to April 23, 1616) is an English poet, playwright, and all-around artist. He created hundreds of language pieces to express his views and opinions in everyday language. And all his works dramatically changed how people thought about society.

2. Mahatma Gandhi

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won.

There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall.

Think of it–always.”

Mahatma Gandhi (October 2, 1869 – January 30, 1948) is a peace advocate and a fighter of India’s independence. He gained prominence from the historical events which changed the entire world in the 1930s, 40s, and 60s.

He continues to be an inspiration and one of the most beloved historical figures to people around the world because of the goodwill and genuine nature he showed. If he desired something, he believed in peacefully attaining it — and never by starting a fight or waging a world war.

3. Mother Teresa

“Let us always meet each other

With a smile,

For the smile is the beginning of love.”

Mother Teresa (August 26, 1910 – September 5, 1997) was known as The World’s Living Saint.  She chose to make a free choice and abide by poverty in an effort to help people. Because of her selflessness, she was awarded the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize and canonized as the Patron Saint of Calcutta.

Until today, she serves as one of the most inspirational people throughout human history. Her actions spoke volumes and helped others fully grasp the meaning of kindness and compassion.

4. Nelson Mandela

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, 

But to live in a way that 

Respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Nelson Mandela (July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013) is one of the great historical figures and for the people of South Africa, he’s many great things. He is the country’s first black president, and he courageously resisted the legacy of apartheid. He is also one of the most famous proponents of equal rights alongside Martin Luther King Jr.

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As a powerful political leader and a trusted ally of civil rights movement groups, his determination was praiseworthy. Whenever he saw a person disadvantaged by racial segregation, he refused to stand by and watch. Rather, he would fight for them and ensure they are treated fairly.

5. The 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso)

“Do not let the behavior of others 

Destroy your inner peace.”

The 14th Dalai Lama was awarded in 1989 the Nobel Peace Prize for peaceful resistance against the Chinese rule in Tibet. The Chinese rule was about anti-religion and it went against all of his nature. 

Rather than sit still and be attacked, he fleed the independent state. From this category of historical figures, he’s the only living individual. He lives in exile in India.

Kids and those from a local children’s business competition

6. Ryan Kelly

“Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do.”

Ryan Kelly is the founder of an all-natural dog treat company, Ry’s Ruffery. At the age of 10 (when he launched his business), he already showed incredible diligence. 

7. Robert Nay

“My friends suggested I try making an iPhone app. And I thought it would be really cool and decided to give it a try.”

Robert Nay built Bubble Ball, a game downloaded over a million times weeks after its launch. Without coding knowledge, business experience, professionalism, or funds, he built the game that hit Apple’s app store by storm. And he did it all on his own.

8. Moziah Bridges

“I chose the bow ties because I couldn’t find anything that I liked and I just wanted to look good and feel good … so I asked my grandma if she’d teach me to sew and then I just started wearing them.”

Mo’s Bows’ founder, Moziah Bridges, is adorable, lovable, and sweet. He’s also a genius kid. When he couldn’t find quality bow ties when he was nine, he asked for the help of his mom and grandmom — and the ladies’ sewing prowess — to support him as he created his own bow tie line.

9. Farrhad Acidwalla

“Failures are the stepping stone to success.”

Rockstah Media’s founder, Farrhad Acidwalla, wanted to build an online community geared towards discussions about aero-modeling and aviation. So he did. He’s also a successful CEO who manages over 40 employees, investor, and TEDx speaker.

He’s a source of inspiration for aspiring entrepreneurs who think they couldn’t accomplish their dreams because of not having financial freedom. If he could get to where he is with a capital investment of a measly $10, so can anyone. He used that small amount, improvised, and things turned out great for him!

Young men and young women

10. Greta Thunberg

Brussels, Belgium. 21st February 2019. Sixteen year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg attends in the European Economic and Social Committee event.

“I have learned you are never too small 

To make a difference.”

Greta Thunberg is an environmental activist and the founder of a movement that aims to protect the environment, Fridays for Future. She exists at a time when speaking up against worldwide issues can throw you in jail.

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She’s an inspiration to young people all over the world because she is courageous. She focuses on the big picture and calls the attention of lawmakers, world leaders, and other people who are in the position to make a significant change. Even if it means being the subject of scrutiny, she’s willing to fight for what she believes in.

11 – 12. Melati and Isabel Wijsen

“We thought ‘why don’t we do something about it? 

Why don’t we stand up for our island?’”

Melati and Isabel Witsen are Indonesian sisters. They’re trying to help halt crazed plastic suitcases from going into the ocean and off to their Bali island. With the knowledge that Indonesia is one of the most polluted marine areas around the globe, they refuse to sit silently and let pollution ruin the beauty of Bali island.

13. Amika George

“Put simply, if men had periods, bleeding would be an Olympic sport 

And there would be free menstrual cups 

Given out on the Tube.”

U.K. teenager Amika George is an inspirational person for launching the petition Free Periods.org in 2017. The petition gained over 13,000 signatures very quickly in one go. From January 20, 2020, children and female students in schools and colleges in England can access affordable free sanitary products.

Thanks to her, young women who can’t afford sanitary pads won’t have to feel inconvenient once a month. She chose to fight for this cause because it’s a way of fighting for equal rights (between genders).

14. Jahkil Jackson

“I think homeless people — most people don’t recognize them 

And walk past them and drive past them. 

I want to let people know that homeless people are people too.”

Jahkil Jackson launched Project I Am to give out “Blessing Bags”. These bags carry essential things such as soap, toothbrushes, and socks, and he disperses them to the homeless. 

Jackson’s group has aided 35,000 homeless people across the world. What makes him a delight and an inspiration is his innate ability to show compassion. Every time he would see a homeless person on the street, he’s urged to give that person all the good things.

15. Sophie Cruz

“I have the right to protection. I have the right to live with my parents. 

I have the right to live without fear. 

I have the right to be happy.”

Sophie Cruz gained national attention when she offered an urgent call for assistance from Pope Francis to undocumented immigrants. She believes that undocumented immigrants, especially parents, simply want to give their families better situations, and they shouldn’t be punished for that. Since then, she has been an advocate for immigration rights.

16. Jasilyn Charger

“The future is saying different things to us, there are many voices to be heard and our voices are strong for a reason.

Our futures are not a commodity and neither are those of the ones who will follow us.”

Jasilyn Charger is a youth advocate for Cheyenne River’s Sioux Tribe. As someone who was raised on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota, she knows how meaningful her territory is. And she wants other people to be aware of it.

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17. Liz Murray

“Anything that is within someone else’s reach is also within yours.

Set your goals no matter how impossible they may seem.

Then focus on what is between you and that goal.

And then, simply take out the obstacles as they come.”

The author of Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard is Liz Murray. In the book based on her life, she shares how she never had support, how her mother died of HIV, and how her father moved into a homeless shelter. She inspires people because she’s proof that a person can always choose their path in life.

18. Jessica Cox

“Handicaps are mindsets. Whatever it is that stands in the way of achieving something, that’s when it’s a handicap. I prefer to see them as obstacles or challenges. This is how I’ve been my whole life. I don’t know any different. I just live my life through my feet.”

Jessica Cox is the world’s first armless pilot. What makes her a beloved figure, is her ability to power through any difficulty. Even without arms, she manages to do what most people find impossible if given her situation — she can drive and go scuba diving.

19. Peter Diamandis

“Abundance is not about providing everyone on this planet with a life of luxury.

Rather, it’s about providing all with a life of possibility.”

Peter Diamandis is the founder of a group that protects the oceans, XPRIZE Foundation. He’s also a physician, engineer, best-selling author, and entrepreneur — basically, he’s everything a modern world needs. More than set, he’s out to make the world a better place with the use of groundbreaking technologies and knowledge.

20. Vince Gillian

LOS ANGELES, USA. October 08, 2019: Aaron Paul, Bryan Cranston & Vince Gilligan at the premiere of “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” at the Regency Village Theatre. Picture: Paul Smith/Featureflash

“If you’re too rigid in your thinking,

You may miss some wonderful opportunities for storytelling.”

Vince Gillian is the genius behind the brilliant anti-hero, Walter White, and high-rated TV show, Breaking Bad. He’s an inspiration for creating a realistic and relatable character who went through a profound journey. 

Conclusion: From the greatest historic events to modern-day situations

Inspirational people and those who do great things come from all walks of life. Like the people above, some have been instrumental throughout history, some are kids, some are young men and young women, and the others are adults. 

What makes them inspiring is their infallible commitment to do what’s right. They don’t wait for other people to tell them what they can or can’t do.

They’re honest and persistent. And they have integrity.

Know of an inspiring person not featured in this list? Tell us about them!

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