Updated: May 2, 2021
I have included those ideas and their creators which I think have had a world-changing impact. Developments in science and social sciences have been many but those are confined to specialists and academics. In this list are ideas which have changed the world.
From the past we have:
Confucius, Buddha and Mahavir with their ideas of ethics and morality without any reference to a God.
Greek philosophers: Philosophy begins with Xenophon making scepticism the basis of human reflection and thus the edifice on which independent thinking can be grounded. Scepticism had deep roots in the Indian Ajnana school of thought. Regarding political theory about the State, ethics and law, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and others separated politics from religion and thus made Politics a Rational Study based on sustained Deductive and Inductive Reasoning.
The founders of religions in West Asia and the Middle East who propounded the idea of An Almighty God. The seminal influence is that of Zoroaster. Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (PBUH) went on to established monotheistic religions based on a sense of Community.
The Founders of Mysticism: St Augustine and St Aquinas, Ibn Arabi and Jalaluddin Rumi. In the Subcontinent that tradition continued with the Gorakhnathi Yogis and rebel Sufis such as Shah Hussain and Bulleh Shah.
Social Reformers: Bhagat Kabir and Guru Nanak, the latter became the founder of Sikhism.
From the Modern Period to the 18th Century:
The founders of Science: Copernicus, Galileo and Newton.
The Enlightenment Philosophers: Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Voltaire, Condorcet and others.
Charles Darwin who completed comprehensively the Theory of Evolution and thus furnished an entirely new, revolutionary theory about the origin of the Species and of Human History.
The founders of Utilitarianism and Liberalism: Jeremy Bentham, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and others
The founders of Socialism especially Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity proved to be another major development in Physics and has wrought path-breaking changes in the cognition of the universe and transformation of technology.
Communism: Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Mao Zedong
Nazism and Fascism: Adolf Hitler and Mussolini
Non-violent Resistance to Colonialism and other Oppressions: Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela
The 21st Century is still too young!
However, several books of Israeli scientist and historian, Noah Yuval Harari on evolution, DNA, history and politics are gaining worldwide attention. Harari has done splendid work which is a popular form of the works of specialists such as Darwin.