Famous Germans who shaped the world

Undisputedly, Germany and its people have had a powerful influence on the modern world. From arts and culture, science, religion, literature, philosophy, sport, industry, politics, medicine, and inventors. Think of any subject you care to and you won’t have to delve too deep before finding Germans are at or near the forefront. Over the course of this article, we’ll take a look at a few Germans who shaped the world we live in today.

Famous German Inventors:

Engineering genius Rudolf Diesel, born in Bavaria in 1868, set out with the goal to build a high compression, self-igniting engine that would be infinitely more energy efficient than the conventional steam engines of the time. Diesel settled on an oil-based fuel that was ignited by the very high temperatures resulting from compression. The result was the diesel engine, which remains with us today and has revolutionised industries such as transport and construction.  

The Electron Microscope is one of the most important inventions of the twentieth century and has quite literally changed the way we see the world. Invented in the 1930s by Max Knoll and Ernst Ruska, it allows objects to be magnified up to 10 million times and has changed forever and for better the fields of biology and life sciences.

The Printing Press, invented by the father of book printing Johannes Guttenberg in around 1440, started the Printing Revolution and has had an incalculable impact on the evolution of the modern world.

Famous German Composers:

Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Wagner. There’s no disputing that Germany has produced many of the greatest composers of all; famous Germans who have shaped the world of classical music.

Famous German Philosophers:

Germany has been given the tag, ‘country of poets and thinkers.’ Let’s take a look at the ‘thinkers’ first:  Leibniz, Hegel, Marx, Schopenhauer, Heidegger, Kant, Nietzsche, Karl Marks, Wittgenstein…these are just a few of the great German philosophers and thinkers whose work has had a profound and lasting influence on the world of philosophy social and political thinking.

Famous Germans writers:

By 2009, the Nobel Prize for Literature had been awarded to German authors 13 times! A testament, if ever there was, to the greatness of German Literature! Goethe is Germany’s equivalent to Shakespeare. His best-known work, Faust, remains hugely popular today and is the basis for numerous literary, artistic, cinematic, and musical works that have reinterpreted it through the ages. Hermann Hesse, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946, was a novelist and poet whose most popular know works explored an individual’s search for truth, self-knowledge, and spirituality. Christa Wolf was the best-known writer to emerge from East Germany, her highly acclaimed novels gained huge popularity in the 70’s and 80’s. Franz Kafka is widely regarded as one of the major literary figures of the 20th century. His work fuses elements of realism and the fantastic, exploring themes such as existential angst, guilt, absurdity, and alienation. Kafka’s most well-known novel, The Trial, features high among most lists of the greatest novels ever written.

Famous German filmmakers and actors

Marlene Dietrich, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, Michael Haneke, Christoph Waltz, Roland Emmerich and Wolfgang Petersen to name a few, are all icons of German cinema with big international reputations. Hans Zimmer is one of the most sought-after film composers. German cinema made major artistic and technological contributions to the early days of cinema and the German film industry soon became the largest in Europe. German Expressionism was a major influence on the Hollywood of the 1920’s and 30’s. To this day, the annual Berlin International Film Festival remains one of the leading film festivals in the world.  

Famous German sportsmen

Where to start? The list is practically endless! Schumacher, Vettel, Becker, Steffi Graf, Katarina Witt, Oliver Kahn, Klinsmann, Beckenbauer, Langer, Angelique Kerber, etc… German sportspersons have made a name for themselves all over the world with their successes.

Famous German entrepreneurs

Karl Friedrich Rapp, founder of what was later to become BMW. Hugo Boss, founder of the most luxurious fashion brand in the world. Rudolph Dassler, founder of the Puma sports brand and his brother, ‘Adi’ who founded Adidas. Karl Albrecht, founder of the Aldi discount supermarket chain. Carl Benz, founder of Mercedes Benz.

A few other famous Germans!

Heidi Klum, Claudia Schiffer, and Karl Lagerfeld from the fashion industry. Angela Merkel, the most powerful female politician in the world. Albert Einstein, arguably the most important physicist of all time. Max Planck, the originator of Quantum Theory.  Martin Luther, theologian, and seminal figure in the Reformation!

During the course of this article, we have barely touched the sides of famous Germans who have shaped the world in which we live. The Germany of the 21st century is a prosperous, thriving, multicultural nation that opens its arms to people of all colours, creeds and backgrounds who share the country’s values of freedom and equal opportunity for all. So much is spoken of ‘the American Dream’, but it could equally well apply to Germany too. So, for all language learners with an ambition for self-improvement, and enhanced employability opportunities we offer you this one simple message: Learn German live online in the virtual classroom at Linguru and discover the country and its culture yourself!