The most influential people in society, as has been the case throughout history, have generally been people who are well known and in the public eye. This is because the very fact that they have any influence is a by-product of them being famous in the first place. Those who affect the world and exert the most power are usually people such as politicians, huge celebrities and sports stars, or even well respected writers or inventors. However, all of these types of influential people are far from obscure. In fact, they only have their sway over the world because of their status. World leaders such as the president or public figures, such as musicians and actors, are eminent personalities as they constantly appear in the media and have the power to affect politics and the opinions of the public.
The same is true for those who have had a major influence due to discovering something that is hugely significant, or inventing a fascinating product that people want. While their influence hasn’t come about because they are well-known, they become almost like celebrities due to the work they have done. However, not every single influential person lives in the public eye. Some can remain obscure, either by design to satisfy a desire to live privately, or due to other reasons. Their relative anonymity though, has not stopped them from having a huge effect on the world around them, as will be demonstrated by this article.
10 Max Martin
This 43-year-old has been, for the past 20 years, one of the most influential people in the music industry. His impact on pop music is hard to exaggerate. Since the mid-1990s, Max Martin has been writing music for musicians, acts and bands across a range of genres including pop, rock and R&B. Although he is almost entirely unknown by the general republic and stays out of the public eye, he has written a string of hits for the likes of the Backstreet Boys, N Sync, Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry. He has been responsible for hits such as, “I Kissed a Girl”, “Bang Bang”, “Teenage Dream”, “Shake It Off” and “I Want It That Way”. Such is his impact on the music industry, Martin has so far written 58 top ten songs on the UK and 51 in the United States, and is third behind just Paul McCartney and John Lennon in terms of most number one singles.
9 Megan Ellison
29-year-old Megan Ellison is unlike many top film producers, due to her young age and the fact that she largely shuns the show business world of Hollywood. However, she has had a big impact on the film industry since she first became active in 2007, and she is now so influential that she is able to work with deeply respected actors and directors. Through her production company Annapurna Pictures, which was set up with the mandate to create sophisticated films that might not be picked up by Hollywood, due to their inherit risk, she has helped to create critical and commercial successes such as True Grit, The Master, American Hustle, Her and Zero Dark Thirty.
8 Tony Fadell
Although you would most likely not recognize Tony Fadell, he has had a large impact on the music industry and the current fascination with small electronic devices through his work at Apple. The now 45-year-old was largely responsible for the concept and overall design of the iPod in 2001. He has also worked on other devices at his company Nest Labs, Inc. that was bought by Google for just over $3 billion.
The iPod would eventually act as a precursor for Apple to focus not just on computer hardware, but to also design and manufacture further devices, such as the iPhone and the iPad. These devices have since gone on to have a large effect on the industry and help launch the popularity of smartphones and tablets.
7 Amancio Ortega Gaona
Despite being one of the richest people on the planet, with an estimated wealth of more than $63 billion, Amancio Ortega is incredibly reclusive. Unlike his fellow billionaires, such as Carlos Slim or Bill Gates, the 78-year-old has rarely been in the public eye and the vast majority of people would likely not even recognize him. He has even shunned an extravagant lifestyle and instead chooses to live completely modestly. However, Ortego is incredibly influential thanks to not only his huge accumulation of wealth, but also because he is the founder and largest shareholder of Inditex, the largest fashion group in the world. They have more than 6,000 stores throughout the world, with brands such as Zara, Bershka and Stradivarius. Until 2011, he played an incredibly active role in the company, creating global fashion trends and directly affecting the spending of millions of customers.
6 Igor Sechin
Igor Sechin is the CEO of Rosneft, the world’s largest publicly traded oil company following a takeover of TNK-BP, in 2012. This has provided the Russian with almost unrivaled influence in his homeland, yet Sechin is almost unknown to the general public, thanks mainly to the fact that he prefers to remain in the background most of the time. His extreme wealth is matched by his political connections. As a former security agent, Sechin has strong links with Russian President Putin and has been a constant ally since his first election in 2000. Combined with his role at Rosneft, Sechin is widely considered by many commentators in Russia to be the second most powerful man in the country and as such, hold great sway over the millions living in Russia and in world politics.
5 David Baltimore
Little known biologist David Baltimore, while respected in the scientific world, is almost entirely unknown to the public. His extreme obscurity is matched inversely by the impacts he has had in the fields of immunology, virology and research into cancer treatments. This has included co-discovering how viruses in tumors interact with the genetic material of cells and the finding of an essential part of the reproduction of retroviruses, allowing further study on how to combat them and help prevent them from spreading. His expertise has also meant that he has played a key role in advising on National Policy to do with AIDS and on DNA research. Additionally, many of his doctoral students have gone on to make huge strides in other areas, further establishing Baltimore as vastly influential.
4 Sheryl Sandberg
As current Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg has been primarily responsible for driving Facebook forwards to connect more people to the social network and more importantly for the company, make it profitable through the use of advertisements and other means. With Facebook having almost 1 billion active users, Sandberg has a huge influence on the world by changing the way the website works and how it affects its many members.
Before joining Facebook, Sandberg had a major role at Google, where she played an important role in setting up Google.org. This charitable arm of Google donates products, employee time, research and more than $100 million to non-profit organizations and research funds every year, having a large impact on future technologies such as renewable energy.
3 Elon Musk
Despite his obscurity compared to other technology giants such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, Elon Musk’s career has so far spanned across several industries and he has had an important influence over millions of people through the technology he has had developed. In his 20-year career, Musk has helped develop PayPal and has played a crucial role at Tesla motors as CEO and product architect, helping to create the electric cars the company sells. Continuing his work to fight global warming with SolarCity, now the biggest producer of solar power in the United States. Musk has also been instrumental in the advancement of commercial spaceflight through his SpaceX company that has several contracts with NASA and that has launched both rockets and spacecraft into space.
2 Akira Yoshino
Akira Yoshino has perhaps had one of the biggest influences over humanity in recent times, thanks to his invention of the lithium-ion battery. This rechargeable battery not only made a better alternative to traditional lead-acid batteries, but also helped in the push to create more efficient and cost effective types in the future. Yoshino’s invention is now one of the most common types of rechargeable batteries available and it is used in everything from smartphones, laptops, tablets, digital cameras, handheld game consoles, power tools and electric vehicles. It has allowed the production of electronic devices on a scale that would not have been possible before and lets consumers worldwide use a wide variety of devices.
1 Tim Berners-Lee
Tim Berners-Lee is widely known in technology and scientific circles, but his name will likely not be very familiar to the billions of people who use the internet every day. The unassuming software engineer who was educated at Oxford University, invented the World Wide Web while working at CERN in 1989, using the concept of hypertext pages being accessed over the internet. His invention is now the bedrock of the internet and plays a huge part in the lives of billions of people.
Berners-Lee still takes an active role in computer science and the World Wide Web, as he is the director of the group that manages it and works on its continued development, known as the World Wide Web Consortium. This means that the 59-year-old is continuing to have a huge influence on the web and all those that use it.