This is a selection of inspirational people, people who have made a lasting contribution towards creating a better world. These people have inspired others by their various achievements, but also by their attitude and values.
Note: This does not aim to be a fully comprehensive list, rather it provides a start for further research. If you would like to suggest anyone else who you feel is inspirational, feel free.
Nelson Mandela (1918–2013) Campaigned for justice and freedom in his native South Africa. Mandela spent 20 years in jail for his opposition to apartheid. After his release, he became the first President of Democratic South Africa and helped heal the wounds of apartheid by his magnanimous attitude to his former political enemies.
Mikhail Gorbachev (1931–) Had the courage, tenacity and strength of character to give up the absolute power of Soviet Communism. Gorbachev moved the Soviet Union towards democracy and respect for human rights. In doing so he enabled the Berlin Wall to come down and Eastern Europe gained freedom from Communist control.
Martin Luther King (1929–1968) Inspiring leader of the non-violent civil rights movement. Inspired millions of people, black and white, to aspire for a more equal and just society.
Jesus Christ (c5 BCE–30 CE) Prophet and the inspiration of Christianity. Taught a message of love, forgiveness and faith. He was born in a turbulent period of Roman rule, and after his crucifixion, his message inspired millions around the world.
William Wilberforce (1759–1833) Fought tirelessly for ending the slave trade, at a time when many accepted it as an ‘economic necessity’. He awakened the conscience of many of his fellow countrymen and helped to make slavery appear unacceptable.
Albert Einstein (1879–1955) His theories of relativity were a very significant scientific breakthrough. As well as being a genius scientist, Einstein was also a champion of human rights and campaigned for a more peaceful world.
Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) One of the United States of America’s founding fathers. Jefferson helped draft the Declaration of Independence and he held a deep-seated belief in human rights. Jefferson passed one of the first bills on religious tolerance in his state of Virginia. He sought to improve education and was a noted polymath with a wide range of interests.
Mother Teresa (1910–1997) A modern day saint who sought to identify with and offer compassion to the unloved and destitute. She lived a life of voluntary poverty and service to the poor.
Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865) Abraham Lincoln overcame many setbacks to become the most influential American President. In his famous Gettysburg speech, he inspired the nation with his noble words and helped to bring about the abolishment of slavery.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) One of the greatest minds in human history. In many areas, he was a couple of centuries ahead of scientific discovery. He helped make great advances in anatomy, astronomy, physics, science and in other fields as well. Amidst all this, he found time to paint the most iconic picture in history – The Mona Lisa.
Helen Keller (1880–1968) Despite disability of both deafness and blindness, she learned to read and write, becoming a champion of social issues and helping to improve the welfare of deaf people.
Muhammad Ali (1942–2016) Champion boxer and great character. Ali refused to fight in the Vietnam war and became a champion of civil rights and African interests. When asked how he would like to be remembered, Ali said: “As a man who tried to unite all humankind through faith and love.”
Joan of Arc (1412–1431) As a young, illiterate peasant girl, Joan of Arc inspired the Dauphin of France to defeat the English. Although burned at the stake for ‘heresy’, her prophecy of French unity came true after her death.
Benjamin Franklin. (1706–1790) Great polymath and promoter of American ideals at home and in the US. A practical man of great dynamism and good character.
Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948) Gandhi was the principle figurehead of the Indian independence movement. Taught a philosophy of non-violence and peaceful protest.
Florence Nightingale (1820–1910) Nightingale volunteered to nurse soldiers during the Crimean War. Her statistical analysis of the pitiful conditions she found, and her management of them, helped to revolutionise the service of nursing and the treatment of patients.
Harriet Tubman (1822–1913) Tubman escaped from slavery but returned on many dangerous missions to Maryland where she helped lead slaves to freedom. She also served as agent and leader during the Civil War.
Winston Churchill (1874–1965) In the worst moments of 1940, the Nazi war machine looked invincible as it swept through Europe. Churchill inspired the free nations to keep alive the fight against the tyranny of Hitler’s Germany.
Anne Frank (1929–1945) Anne Frank was nobody special, just an ordinary teenage girl. But she became a symbol of how ordinary people can get caught up in Man’s inhumanity. Despite the most testing of conditions, Anne retained an optimistic spirit and faith.
Socrates (469 BC–399 BC) Socrates showed the power and integrity of independent thought. He taught by encouraging people to honestly question their preconceptions. His method of self-enquiry laid the foundations of Western Philosophic thought.
George Orwell (1903–1950) George Orwell was a democratic socialist who fought in the Spanish civil war on the side of the Republicans. He gave up his privileged education to spend time with the unemployed of the Great Depression. His greatest contribution was warning about the dangers of totalitarian regimes, whatever the ideology may be behind them.
Buddha (c 563–483BC) The Buddha was a young prince who gave up the comforts of palace life to seek the meaning of life by meditating in the wilderness. After gaining realisation, the Buddha spent the remainder of his life travelling around India teaching a middle path of meditation and inner peace.
Sri Chinmoy (1931–2007) An Indian spiritual teacher who combined the best of Eastern and Western cultures. He founded the Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run, a worldwide run to promote peace and greater understanding.
William Shakespeare (1564–1616) Shakespeare remains the king of English literature. His plays and poetry captured the richness and diversity of human existence in the most powerful and poetic way.
St Therese de Lisieux (1873–1897) A Carmelite nun, who died aged 24, unknown to the world. Yet after her death, her simple writings had a profound effect, becoming one of the best selling spiritual writings. Her approach was a simple approach of doing the smallest acts with love.
Desmond Tutu (1931–) Nobel Peace Prize winner. Campaigner against apartheid and instrumental in promoting human rights and justice. Tutu helped to heal the wounds of apartheid in South Africa.
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962) Helped draft United Nations declaration of human rights. Strived to improve civil rights in the US. Inspired many people because of her positivity, compassion and self-giving.
Edward Jenner (1749–1823) Led pioneering work on the development of an inoculation against deadly smallpox. Opened up the way to more immunisation treatments, arguably saving the lives of millions of people around the world.
Jesse Owens (1913–1980) Jesse Owens’ four gold medals at Hitler’s 1936 Olympics in Berlin was one of the great moments of sport, which helped to puncture the Nazi ideology of Aryan supremacy. Jesse Owens was a modest hero who remained a great ambassador for Sport.
Akbar (1542–1605) The great Moghul Emperor who went a long way to uniting India under his rule. Although a great warrior, Akbar was also known for his love of culture, music and philosophy. He introduced enlightened laws on religious tolerance in his kingdom and encouraged representatives of different religions to come to his court.
Sir Isaac Newton (1642–1727) One of the greatest scientists of all time. Isaac Newton led the foundation of modern physics with his development of theories of gravity and mechanics.
Leo Tolstoy (1828–1910) Influential Russian author, whose great epics include War and Peace. His philosophy of non-violence and a return to rural simplicity inspired other politicians such as Gandhi.
Emil Zatopek (1922–2000) Greatest long-distance runner, winning three gold medals at the 1954 Olympics. He was a principled supporter of Czech democracy, being sent to work in mines for his opposition to the Communist government.
Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) One of the most popular female poets who wrote unique, uplifting poems which captured the imagination of many people.
Sri Krishna (c. 3000 BCE) Sri Krishna was a great Spiritual Teacher who gave the immortal discourses in the Bhagavad Gita, teaching a practical yoga for all.
J R R Tolkien ( 1892–1973) Writer and creator of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Tolkien was a modest professor at Oxford University but found time to create a whole mythical world.
William Blake (1757–1827) Mystical poet and artist. William Blake wrote poems of great depth and power, celebrating both the joys of spirit and nature and also fiercely criticising the injustice of the times.
Pope John Paul II (1920–2005) Lived through two totalitarian regimes, eventually becoming a priest and then the first Polish pope. He was a charismatic spiritual leader who retained great faith in moral and spiritual values.
Mozart (1756–1791) Music genius who composed a range of breathtaking music from piano concertos to his immortal Requiem.
Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902 ) a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, Vivekananda helped spread Sri Ramakrishna’s message and mission to the West.
St Teresa of Avila (1515–1582) Christian mystic and writer. She also played a key role in the Spanish church at a time when women were largely marginalised.
B.R Ambedkar (1891–1956) Indian social reformer. Ambedkar was born in the Mahar ‘untouchable’ caste but became a pioneering political activist and social reformer. He was the principal figure in the drafting of the Indian Constitution, which outlawed ‘untouchability’ and promoted equality.
Marie Curie (1867–1934) Marie Curie is the only person to win a Nobel Prize for both Chemistry and Physics. Her discoveries with radiation helped advance medical science. Her achievements were even more remarkable at a time when few women had the opportunity to gain an education.
Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924) Woodrow Wilson had a vision for a League of Nations a forum where nations could come together to solve disputes. The League of Nations struggled to make an impact before the Second World War, but his vision was important in the development of the United Nations.
Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906) Susan Anthony was an active member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, despite meeting hostility she continued to press for an amendment to the US constitution to outlaw slavery. She was also a prominent women’s rights activist who helped push forward the women’s suffrage campaign in the Nineteenth Century.
Rosa Parks (1913–2005) Rosa Parks became a well respected figurehead of the American civil rights movement. Rosa showed what ordinary people can do when they stick fast to their beliefs in testing conditions.
Tom Paine (1737–1809) English-American writer and political activist. He wrote influential pamphlets arguing for independence for the US, and the end of slavery. He was a key figure of the enlightenment and age of reason, supporting the revolutionary principles of US and France.
Charles Darwin (1809–1882) Darwin published his Origin of Species detailing a belief in evolution at a time when such a decision was very controversial.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945 ) was a Lutheran Pastor who was an influential critic of Hitler and Nazism, executed in 1945. His theology and writings remain influential today.
Dalai Lama (1938– ) The fourteenth Dalai Lama has been awarded the Nobel Prize for his non-violent resistance to Chinese rule. The Dalai Lama teaches a path of tolerance and compassion.
Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941) Poet, writer, humanitarian, Tagore was the first Indian to be awarded Nobel Prize for Literature.
Oprah Winfrey (1954– ) Influential talk show host. Oprah Winfrey has become a role model for African American women.
Maximilian Kolbe (1894–1941 ) was a Franciscan priest who encouraged devotion to Mary and was committed to praying for those hostile to the Church. In 1941, he was arrested for sheltering Jews and sent to Auschwitz. He volunteered to take the place of a man condemned to death.
Eric Liddell (1902–1945) Eric Liddell won Olympic gold in the 400m in the 1924 Paris Olympics. He is also famed for turning down the opportunity to compete in the 100m because the heats were on a Sunday. Eric was an accomplished sportsman also representing Scotland at rugby union.
Pope Francis (1936– ) The first Jesuit pope and the first pope from the Americas, he has sought to reform the Vatican and the Catholic church. Pope Francis has stressed the importance of humility, modesty and concern for the poor. He is seen as a reforming Pope, trying to bring back the tradition of emphasis on the Gospels.
Malala Yousafzai (1997– ) Pakistani schoolgirl who defied threats of the Taliban to campaign for the right to education for girls. She survived being shot in the head by the Taliban and has become a global advocate for women’s rights, especially the right to education.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Inspirational People“, Oxford, UK. www.biographyonline.net, 7th May 2013. Last updated 1 March 2018.
Courageous people – People who overcame difficult circumstances with great courage and strong principles.
People who fought for human/civil rights – People who campaigned for equality, civil rights and fairer treatment of individuals.
Women’s Rights Activists – Women who championed the cause of women’s rights.
Writing an academic essay means fashioning a coherent set of ideas into an argument. Because essays are essentially linear—they offer one idea at a time—they must present their ideas in the order that makes most sense to a reader. Successfully structuring an essay means attending to a reader's logic.
The focus of such an essay predicts its structure. It dictates the information readers need to know and the order in which they need to receive it. Thus your essay's structure is necessarily unique to the main claim you're making. Although there are guidelines for constructing certain classic essay types (e.g., comparative analysis), there are no set formula.
Answering Questions: The Parts of an Essay
A typical essay contains many different kinds of information, often located in specialized parts or sections. Even short essays perform several different operations: introducing the argument, analyzing data, raising counterarguments, concluding. Introductions and conclusions have fixed places, but other parts don't. Counterargument, for example, may appear within a paragraph, as a free-standing section, as part of the beginning, or before the ending. Background material (historical context or biographical information, a summary of relevant theory or criticism, the definition of a key term) often appears at the beginning of the essay, between the introduction and the first analytical section, but might also appear near the beginning of the specific section to which it's relevant.
It's helpful to think of the different essay sections as answering a series of questions your reader might ask when encountering your thesis. (Readers should have questions. If they don't, your thesis is most likely simply an observation of fact, not an arguable claim.)
"What?" The first question to anticipate from a reader is "what": What evidence shows that the phenomenon described by your thesis is true? To answer the question you must examine your evidence, thus demonstrating the truth of your claim. This "what" or "demonstration" section comes early in the essay, often directly after the introduction. Since you're essentially reporting what you've observed, this is the part you might have most to say about when you first start writing. But be forewarned: it shouldn't take up much more than a third (often much less) of your finished essay. If it does, the essay will lack balance and may read as mere summary or description.
"How?" A reader will also want to know whether the claims of the thesis are true in all cases. The corresponding question is "how": How does the thesis stand up to the challenge of a counterargument? How does the introduction of new material—a new way of looking at the evidence, another set of sources—affect the claims you're making? Typically, an essay will include at least one "how" section. (Call it "complication" since you're responding to a reader's complicating questions.) This section usually comes after the "what," but keep in mind that an essay may complicate its argument several times depending on its length, and that counterargument alone may appear just about anywhere in an essay.
"Why?" Your reader will also want to know what's at stake in your claim: Why does your interpretation of a phenomenon matter to anyone beside you? This question addresses the larger implications of your thesis. It allows your readers to understand your essay within a larger context. In answering "why", your essay explains its own significance. Although you might gesture at this question in your introduction, the fullest answer to it properly belongs at your essay's end. If you leave it out, your readers will experience your essay as unfinished—or, worse, as pointless or insular.
Mapping an Essay
Structuring your essay according to a reader's logic means examining your thesis and anticipating what a reader needs to know, and in what sequence, in order to grasp and be convinced by your argument as it unfolds. The easiest way to do this is to map the essay's ideas via a written narrative. Such an account will give you a preliminary record of your ideas, and will allow you to remind yourself at every turn of the reader's needs in understanding your idea.
Essay maps ask you to predict where your reader will expect background information, counterargument, close analysis of a primary source, or a turn to secondary source material. Essay maps are not concerned with paragraphs so much as with sections of an essay. They anticipate the major argumentative moves you expect your essay to make. Try making your map like this:
- State your thesis in a sentence or two, then write another sentence saying why it's important to make that claim. Indicate, in other words, what a reader might learn by exploring the claim with you. Here you're anticipating your answer to the "why" question that you'll eventually flesh out in your conclusion.
- Begin your next sentence like this: "To be convinced by my claim, the first thing a reader needs to know is . . ." Then say why that's the first thing a reader needs to know, and name one or two items of evidence you think will make the case. This will start you off on answering the "what" question. (Alternately, you may find that the first thing your reader needs to know is some background information.)
- Begin each of the following sentences like this: "The next thing my reader needs to know is . . ." Once again, say why, and name some evidence. Continue until you've mapped out your essay.
Your map should naturally take you through some preliminary answers to the basic questions of what, how, and why. It is not a contract, though—the order in which the ideas appear is not a rigid one. Essay maps are flexible; they evolve with your ideas.
Signs of Trouble
A common structural flaw in college essays is the "walk-through" (also labeled "summary" or "description"). Walk-through essays follow the structure of their sources rather than establishing their own. Such essays generally have a descriptive thesis rather than an argumentative one. Be wary of paragraph openers that lead off with "time" words ("first," "next," "after," "then") or "listing" words ("also," "another," "in addition"). Although they don't always signal trouble, these paragraph openers often indicate that an essay's thesis and structure need work: they suggest that the essay simply reproduces the chronology of the source text (in the case of time words: first this happens, then that, and afterwards another thing . . . ) or simply lists example after example ("In addition, the use of color indicates another way that the painting differentiates between good and evil").
Copyright 2000, Elizabeth Abrams, for the Writing Center at Harvard University