10 Most Famous Revolutionaries in History

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Few ideas get the blood flowing more than that of revolution. Revolution means change, and when change is desperately needed, a revolution can empower us to do more, be more, achieve more. Through revolution, we can overcome adversity and stagnation and rise up to fulfill our potential. And there’s nothing to incite a revolution like a revolutionary man or woman who takes a stand against the established order.

Revolutions don’t just happen in politics or war. We have seen revolutions in science, engineering, art, and all other aspects of culture. Let’s take a look at 10 famous revolutionaries and their contributions to human history. These revolutionaries came from many walks of life, and each changed the world in a drastic, defining way.

10. Henry Ford

Flickr / Boston Public Library

Flickr / Boston Public Library

Henry Ford was a famous American industrialist who is often (incorrectly) credited with inventing the assembly line and the automobile. He actually invented neither, but he did sponsor their development, popularizing mass production techniques which pervade society today. Some consider him a hero, while others criticize the effects of mass production on society. Adolph Hitler and other members of the Nazi party were great admirers of Henry Ford.

9. Galileo Galilei

Flickr / Daniel DeCristo

Flickr / Daniel DeCristo

Galileo was a physicist and astronomer who first proposed that the earth revolved around the sun, and not the other way around. His views were denounced as heresy by the Church, and he was condemned to house arrest. His revolution was not only scientific, but spiritual. Galileo stood up publicly for his discovery, causing many people to question for the first time if they were really at the center of the universe.

8. Isaac Newton

Flickr / Skara kommun

Flickr / Skara kommun

While it is easy to focus on political revolutionaries, it would be remiss not to mention at least a few names in other areas of culture. Isaac Newton, perhaps the most famous scientific mind in the world, lived during the 17th and 18th centuries. He laid the groundwork for classical mechanics and changed the way that the world was seen forever.

7. T.E. Lawrence

T.E. Lawrence (Wikimedia)

T.E. Lawrence (Wikimedia)

Thomas Edward Lawrence gets little more than a footnote in most history textbooks, but his role in World War I was indispensable for the Allied forces. Following orders in the Middle East, he led an Arab revolt against the Turkish empire on behalf of Great Britain. Acting on his own, he did what he could to ensure the creation of an independent Arab state. His extraordinary leadership abilities and independent spirit captured imaginations around the globe during World War I, and led to the creation of the film Lawrence of Arabia.

6. Adolf Hitler

Flickr / Recuerdos de Pandora

Flickr / Recuerdos de Pandora

Not all revolutions are positive developments. Adolf Hitler’s revolution in Germany led to World War II, one of the most catastrophically devastating events in human history. Germany welcomed his radical changes with open arms because they were suffering from economic ruin. Hitler’s revolution fueled the life-blood of the German economy, but at the cost of countless millions of innocent lives throughout Europe and the world.

5. Malcolm X

Malcolm X (Wikimedia)

Malcolm X (Wikimedia)

Malcolm X, known in the final years of his life as El-Hajj Malik El Shabazz, was another civil rights leader in America who stood up for racial equality. Initially he was a member of the extremist faction Nation of Islam, advocating black supremacy and racial separation. Eventually he turned his back on the Nation of Islam, and took a pilgrimage to the Middle East and Africa. While there, he realized the essential brotherhood of all humankind, and joined the American civil rights movement. While participating in the movement, he urged that the words civil rights be changed to human rights, and that the issue become an international one. He was killed for his revolutionary stance, likely by members of the Nation of Islam, but his contributions live on.

4. Eva Peron

Eva Peron (Wikimedia)

Eva Peron (Wikimedia)

Maria Eva Duarte de Peron was the First Lady of Argentina from 1946 to 1952. During her life, she was a major proponent of union rights and stood up for women in Argentina. The first major feminist political party in Argentina was her Female Peronist Party. Her role in transforming Argentinean society has been immortalized in the musical Evita by Andrew Lloyd Weber.

3. George Washington

George Washington (Wikimedia)

George Washington (Wikimedia)

The first president of the United States was also the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army prior to the founding of the country. He fought during the American Revolutionary War, and was unanimously elected in 1788 for the office of president because of his role in the revolution. It was then his job to ensure that a strong, stable government was created—and that backlash from counter-revolutionaries was dealt with. Washington helped to develop the cabinet system which the US government still uses today, and delivered the first inaugural address.

2. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Flickr / Cliff

Flickr / Cliff

When we think about revolution, we often think about bloodshed, but not all revolutions rely on swords or guns to prove their point. Martin Luther King was a peaceful revolutionary who transformed a society by rallying together American citizens with a promise of equality, freedom, and brotherhood. His courage paved the way for an equal society with equal rights. Without him, America would be a very different place, and probably a much less friendly one.

1. Che Guevara

Flickr / Alexander Herrmann

Flickr / Alexander Herrmann

Che Guevara, often simply called “Che,” was a famous Marxist revolutionary from Argentina. While traveling throughout the continent as a medical student, he was so appalled by the conditions he saw that he made it his mission to spur reform. Together with Fidel Castro, he became a leader of the Cuban Revolution. A photo taken of him at La Coubre memorial service by Alberto Korda became so famous and iconic that it is now featured on t-shirts and other merchandise all over the world. Che’s image has become intrinsically linked with counterculture and rebellion, Marxist and otherwise.

What can we learn from this list? Revolutions can take on many different forms. They can be positive or negative, and can transform a society for better or worse, often with ramifications for the entire planet. A revolution may be political, social, scientific, religious, or technological, but no revolution ever takes place in a vacuum. These actions of these men and women have all had lasting effects felt around the world.

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  • sankara

    che is the greatest and Thomas Sankara should be on that list

  • Fayaz

    Sufi shah inayat , G.m sayed , mohd ali jinnah , mahatma gandhi , zulfiqar ali bhutto are lengend and great revoluionary leaders of subcontinent.

  • ted

    I think Mohammed ali who died today. was a great revolutionaruy (god bless him)he revolutionized the way black men were treatedin sport and he stood up against the american government jfor his religious beliefs I bet Donald Trump would not be so gobby if clay was still around

    • Joyce Tunley

      There is one thing for certain that it would be hard to bet who out of these two ‘Gasbags’ would be the Most VOCIFEROUS. I for one would NOT like to bet on this.
      Another who would make a good match for Trump – Would be Tony Blair, Blair by both Name and Nature for certain !!

  • Prabin

    Che die for people.I know the history of Che Guevara and all his quotes are in my head.If you don’t think that he is great then you are an idiot.

    • T

      Much wow, so toleration

  • Daniela

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  • Samuel C.Sheriff

    che Guevra deserved all of these,because he was a man who stood for justice to make shore that everybody is treated evenly.

    • T

      sure*

  • Samuel C.Sheriff

    che Guevra deserved all of these,because he was a man who stood for justice to make shore that everybody is treated evenly

  • Aston Ever

    Though I know some Iconic figures that are not on this list, my own concern isn’t abt who nd who is on the list… but I’m asking u Whr will ur name b listed 2moro

  • Pabz

    Jesus never existed he was invented as an adaptation of pagan religion

    • J G

      We’ll I see you never read any history Pick up your bible and remember it was not written like a novel. And remember only the Roman Catholic which was the government held the rights to the bible Christians that met and gathered mostly at night were slaughtered. King James came along and decided it was time for a change and you got it the King James Version. So study the history from the beginning with your bible and it will all make sense and you may even decide there is a savior

  • Pabz

    Jess never existed he was invented as an adaptation of pagan religion

    • Augustin

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  • SS

    The great ignorants!!!

  • ted

    How about Jesus or Muhammad?

  • mnt

    About half of the list are americans. This article is narrow-minded.

  • Harsh Singh

    Where is Lenin, and Martin Luther (who opposed Catholic church and laid the foundation of Protestant Church), Lincoln, Gandhi. How can you ignore such great leaders.

    • J G

      They can be forgotten because we do not have persons telling their contributions to society, if it has anything to do with Christianity it is forgotten because we are becoming a world full of idiots hell bent on destroying each other

      • Joyce Tunley

        You mean HAVE BECOME A WORLD FULL OF IDIOTS WHO ARE HELL – BENT on KILLING ONE ANOTHER ALSO POISONING LAND, AIR And WATERWAYS WORLDWIDE !
        IRRESPECTIVE of HOW RICH YOU ARE – YOU CANNOT TAKE YOUR WEALTH WITH YOU AND IF YOU WERE THE LAST REMAINING OF THE ‘SPECIES’ YOU COULDN’T BOAST And BRAG ABOUT HOW RICH AND WEALTHY YOU ARE –
        LIKE A TWIT, YOU WOULD ONLY BE TALKING TO YOURSELF AS THERE WOULD BE NOBODY ELSE TO LISTEN 👂 TO YOUR GIBBERISH, CONTINUAL BRAGGING AND BOASTING !

  • george

    che the grttttttttttttttttttttt……………..

  • bb

    How can Che Guevara be considered great when all h did was copy more successful communist revolutionaries, such as Lennon, Stalin and Mao.

    • Che

      Because he fought against the odds

  • eerm

    wheres gandhi ?the greatest revolutionary!!!!!!

    • rose

      this is a bizarre list.