Benjamin Franklin Quotes 1–30 of 132 Quotes

Benjamin Franklin (17 January 1706 – 17 April 1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A renowned polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the U.S. Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. As an inventor, he is known for the lightning rod, bifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other inventions. He facilitated many civic organizations, including Philadelphia's fire department and the University of Pennsylvania.

Below are 30 of 132 sourced Benjamin Franklin quotes. Sources and related information appear under each quote. Use the 'Cite this quote' link to get citation references.

“Mankind naturally and generally love to be flatter'd: Whatever sooths our Pride, and tends to exalt our Species above the rest of the Creation, we are pleas'd with and easily believe, when ungrateful Truths shall be with the utmost Indignation rejected. "What! bring ourselves down to an Equality with the Beasts of the Field! with the meanest part of the Creation! 'Tis insufferable!" But, (to use a Piece of common Sense) our Geese are but Geese tho' we may think 'em Swans; and Truth will be Truth tho' it sometimes prove mortifying and distasteful.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: "A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain" (1725).

“I believe there is one Supreme most perfect being. … I believe He is pleased and delights in the happiness of those He has created; and since without virtue man can have no happiness in this world, I firmly believe He delights to see me virtuous.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: "Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion" (1728).

“If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: "Apology for Printers" (1730); later in Benjamin Franklin's Autobiographical Writings (1945) edited by Carl Van Doren

“Ambition has its disappointments to sour us, but never the good fortune to satisfy us.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: "On True Happiness", Pennsylvania Gazette (20 November 1735).

“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins. Republics and limited monarchies derive their strength and vigor from a popular examination into the action of the magistrates.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: "On Freedom of Speech and the Press", Pennsylvania Gazette (17 November 1737).

“If you would keep your Secret from an enemy, tell it not to a friend. Up, Sluggard, and waste not life; in the grave will be sleeping enough.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: September 1741. “Poor Richard, 1741,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed 27 May 2020. [Original source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 2, January 1, 1735, through December 31, 1744, ed. Leonard W. Labaree. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961, pp. 292–300.]

“The Face first grows lank and wrinkled; then the Neck; then the Breast and Arms; the lower Parts continuing to the last as plump as ever: So that covering all above with a Basket, and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know an old from a young on”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: 25 June 1745, "Advice to a Friend on Choosing a Mistress"

“Remember that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings a day by his labor, and goes abroad, or sits idle, one half of that day, though he spends but sixpence during his diversion or idleness, ought not to reckon that the only expense; he has really spent, rather thrown away, five shillings, besides. “Remember, that credit is money. If a man lets his money lie in my hands after it is due, he gives me interest, or so much as I can make of it during that time. This amounts to a considerable sum where a man has good and large credit, and makes good use of it. “Remember, that money is of the prolific, generating nature. Money can beget money, and its offspring can beget more, and so on. Five shillings turned is six, turned again it is seven and three pence, and so on, till it becomes a hundred pounds. The more there is of it, the more it produces every turning, so that the profits rise quicker and quicker. He that kills a breeding sow, destroys all her offspring to the thousandth generation. He that murders a crown, destroys all that it might have produced, even scores of pounds.” “Remember this saying, The good paymaster is lord of another man’s purse . He that is known to pay punctually and exactly to the time he promises, may at any time, and on any occasion, raise all the money his friends can spare. This is sometimes of great use. After industry and frugality, nothing contributes more to the raising of a young man in the world than punctuality and justice in all his dealings; therefore never keep borrowed money an hour beyond the time you promised, lest a disappointment shut up your friend’s purse for ever. “The most trifling actions that affect a man’s credit are to be regarded. The sound of your hammer at five in the morning, or eight at night, heard by a creditor, makes him easy six months longer; but if he sees you at a billiard table, or hears your voice at a tavern, when you should be at work, he sends for his money the next day; demands it, before he can receive it, in a lump. ‘It shows, besides, that you are mindful of what you owe; it makes you appear a careful as well as an honest man, and that still increases your credit.’ “Beware of thinking all your own that you possess, and of living accordingly. It is a mistake that many people who have credit fall into. To prevent this, keep an exact account for some time both of your expenses and your income. If you take the pains at first to mention particulars, it will have this good effect: you will discover how wonderfully small, trifling expenses mount up to large sums, and will discern what might have been, and may for the future be saved, without occasioning any great inconvenience. “For six pounds a year you may have the use of one hundred pounds, provided you are a man of known prudence and honesty. “He that spends a groat a day idly, spends idly above six pounds a year, which is the price for the use of one hundred pounds. “He that wastes idly a groat’s worth of his time per day, one day with another, wastes the privilege of using one hundred pounds each day. “He that idly loses five shillings’ worth of time, loses five shillings, and might as prudently throw five shillings into the sea. “He that loses five shillings, not only loses that sum, but all the advantage that might be made by turning it in dealing, which by the time that a young man becomes old, will amount to a considerable sum of money.””

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by an Old One (1748), as quoted by Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Chapter II: The Spirit of Capitalism, 1905. [//www.archive.org/download/littlemasterpiec00fran/littlemasterpiec00fran_djvu.txt][//www.archive.org/download/selectionsfroma00frangoog/selectionsfroma00frangoog_djvu.txt], http://www.historycarper.com/resources/twobf2/advice.htm

“History will also afford frequent Opportunities of showing the Necessity of a Publick Religion, from its Usefulness to the Publick; the Advantage of a Religious Character among private Persons; the Mischiefs of Superstition, &c. and the Excellency of the Christian Religion above all others antient or modern. History will also give Occasion to expatiate on the advantage of Civil Orders and Constitutions, how men and their properties are protected by joining in Societies and establishing Government; their Industry encouraged and rewarded, Arts invented, and Life made more comfortable: the Advantages of Liberty, Mischiefs of Licentiousness, Benefits arising from good Laws and a due Execution of Justice &c. Thus may the first Principles of sound Politics be fixed in the minds of youth. On Historical occasions, Questions of Right and Wrong, Justice and Injustice, will naturally arise, and may be put to Youth, which they may debate in Conversation and in Writing. When they ardently desire of Victory, for the Sake of the Praise attending it, they will begin to feel the want, and be sensible of the use of the Use of Logic, or the Art of Reasoning to discover Truth, and of Arguing to defend it, and convince adversaries.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pensilvania (1749), p. 22; the statement relates to the teaching of History as a subject, and the last quoted paragraph concludes with the footnote "†": Public Disputes warm the Imagination, whet the Industry, and strengthen the natural Abilities.

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“The Game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement; several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired and strengthened by it, so as to become habits ready on all occasions; for life is a kind of Chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effect of prudence, or the want of it. By playing at Chess then, we may learn: 1st, Foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action … 2nd, Circumspection, which surveys the whole Chess-board, or scene of action: — the relation of the several Pieces, and their situations; … 3rd, Caution, not to make our moves too hastily...”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: "The Morals of Chess" (article) (1750).

“why should the Palatine Boors be suffered to swarm into our Settlements, and by herding together establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion. 24. Which leads me to add one Remark: That the Number of purely white People in the World is proportionably very small. All Africa is black or tawny. Asia chiefly tawny. America (exclusive of the new Comers) wholly so. And in Europe, the Spaniards, Italians, French, Russians and Swedes, are generally of what we call a swarthy Complexion; as are the Germans also, the Saxons only excepted, who with the English, make the principal Body of White People on the Face of the Earth. I could wish their Numbers were increased. And while we are, as I may call it, Scouring our Planet, by clearing America of Woods, and so making this Side of our Globe reflect a brighter Light to the Eyes of Inhabitants in Mars or Venus, why should we in the Sight of Superior Beings, darken its People? why increase the Sons of Africa, by Planting them in America, where we have so fair an Opportunity, by excluding all Blacks and Tawneys, of increasing the lovely White and Red? But perhaps I am partial to the Complexion of my Country, for such Kind of Partiality is natural to Mankind.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: 1751 Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind

“Make a small Cross of two light Strips of Cedar, the Arms so long as to reach to the four Corners of a large thin Silk Handkerchief when extended; tie the Corners of the Handkerchief to the Extremities of the Cross, so you have the Body of a Kite; which being properly accommodated with a Tail, Loop and String, will rise in the Air, like those made of Paper; but this being of Silk is fitter to bear the Wet and Wind of a Thunder Gust without tearing. To the Top of the upright Stick of the Cross is to be fixed a very sharp pointed Wire, rising a Foot or more above the Wood. To the End of the Twine, next the Hand, is to be tied a silk Ribbon, and where the Twine and the silk join, a Key may be fastened. This Kite is to be raised when a Thunder Gust appears to be coming on, and the Person who holds the String must stand within a Door, or Window, or under some Cover, so that the Silk Ribbon may not be wet; and Care must be taken that the Twine does not touch the Frame of the Door or Window. As soon as any of the Thunder Clouds come over the Kite, the pointed Wire will draw the Electric Fire from them, and the Kite, with all the Twine, will be electrified, and the loose Filaments of the Twine will stand out every Way, and be attracted by an approaching Finger. And when the Rain has wet the Kite and Twine, so that it can conduct the Electric Fire freely, you will find it stream out plentifully from the Key on the Approach of your Knuckle. At this Key the Phial may be charg'd; and from Electric Fire thus obtain'd, Spirits may be kindled, and all the other Electric Experiments be perform'd, which are usually done by the Help of a rubbed Glass Globe or Tube; and thereby the Sameness of the Electric Matter with that of Lightning compleatly demonstrated.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: "Franklin's statement", The Pennsylvania Gazette , October 19, 1752.

“These Thoughts, my dear Friend, are many of them crude and hasty, and if I were merely ambitious of acquiring some Reputation in Philosophy, I ought to keep them by me, ’till corrected and improved by Time and farther Experience. But since even short Hints, and imperfect Experiments in any new Branch of Science, being communicated, have oftentimes a good Effect, in exciting the attention of the Ingenious to the Subject, and so becoming the Occasion of more exact disquisitions (as I before observed) and more compleat Discoveries, you are at Liberty to communicate this Paper to whom you please; it being of more Importance that Knowledge should increase, than that your Friend should be thought an accurate Philosopher.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: Letter from Benjamin Franklin to Peter Collinson, September 1753.

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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More on this quote: This was first usedhttps://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-06-02-0107#BNFN-01-06-02-0107-fn-0005 by Franklin for the Pennsylvania Assembly in its "Reply to the Governor" (11 Nov. 1755)
• This quote was used as a motto on the title page of An Historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pennsylvania (1759); the book was published by Franklin; its author was Richard Jackson, but Franklin did claim responsibility for some small excerpts that were used in it.
• In 1775 Franklin again used this phrase in his contribution to Massachusetts Conference (Objections to Barclay’s Draft Articles of February 16.) - "They who can give up essential Liberty to obtain a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
• An earlier variant by Franklin in Poor Richard's Almanack (1738): "Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power."
• Many paraphrased derivatives of this have often become attributed to Franklin:
 • They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.
He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security.
He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.
People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.
If we restrict liberty to attain security we will lose them both.
Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
He who gives up freedom for safety deserves neither.
Those who would trade in their freedom for their protection deserve neither.
Those who give up their liberty for more security neither deserve liberty nor security.

“How much more than is necessary do we spend in Sleep! forgetting that The sleeping Fox catches no Poultry,[Sept. 1743] and that there will be sleeping enough in the Grave,[Sept. 1741] as Poor Richard says.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: “Father Abraham's Speech,” preface to: “Poor Richard Improved, 1758,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed 27 May 2020. [Original source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 7, October 1, 1756 through March 31, 1758, ed. Leonard W. Labaree. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1963, pp. 326–355.]

“[T]he waters moved away from the North American Coast towards the coasts of Spain and Africa, whence they get again into the Power of the Trade Winds, and continue the Circulation. ...so long and so strong a Current as that of the Gulph Stream, thro’ all the Latitudes of variable Winds, can only be accounted for, by its having a considerable Descent, and moving from Parts where the Water is higher, to Parts where it is lower.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: Letter to John Pringle (May 27, 1762) See also Louis De Vorsey, "Pioneer of the Gulf Stream: The Contributions of Benjamin Franklin and William Gerard De Brahm" Imago Mundi (1976) 28: p. 106.

“I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer. There is no country in the world where so many provisions are established for them; so many hospitals to receive them when they are sick or lame, founded and maintained by voluntary charities; so many alms-houses for the aged of both sexes, together with a solemn general law made by the rich to subject their estates to a heavy tax for the support of the poor. Under all these obligations, are our poor modest, humble, and thankful; and do they use their best endeavours to maintain themselves, and lighten our shoulders of this burthen? On the contrary, I affirm that there is no country in the world in which the poor are more idle, dissolute, drunken, and insolent. The day you passed that act, you took away from before their eyes the greatest of all inducements to industry, frugality, and sobriety, by giving them a dependence on somewhat else than a careful accumulation during youth and health, for support in age or sickness. In short, you offered a premium for the encouragement of idleness, and you should not now wonder that it has had its effect in the increase of poverty.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: On the Price of Corn and Management of the Poor (29 November 1766).

“The good particular men may do separately, in relieving the sick, is small, compared with what they may do collectively.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: Appeal for the Hospital The Pennsylvania Gazette (8 August 1751).

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“That the vegetable creation should restore the air which is spoiled by the animal part of it, looks like a rational system, and seems to be of a piece with the rest. Thus fire purifies water all the world over. It purifies it by distillation, when it raises it in vapours, and lets it fall in rain; and farther still by filtration, when keeping it fluid, it suffers that rain to percolate the earth. We knew before that putrid animal substances were converted into sweet vegetables when mixed with the earth and applied as manure; and now, it seems, that the same putrid substances, mixed with the air, have a similar effect. The strong, thriving state of your mint, in putrid air, seems to show that the air is mended by taking something from it, and not by adding to it. I hope this will give some check to the rage of destroying trees that grow near houses, which has accompanied our late improvements in gardening, from an opinion of their being unwholesome. I am certain, from long observation, that there is nothing unhealthy in the air of woods; for we Americans have everywhere our country habitations in the midst of woods, and no people on earth enjoy better health or are more prolific.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: "Letter to Joseph Priestley" in response to Priestley's "experiments on the restoration of air [by plants] made noxious by animals breathing it, or putrefying it..." read in Philosophical Transactions LXII 147-267 of the Royal Society (1772) and quoted in John Towill Rutt, Life and Correspondence of Joseph Priestley... Vol.1 (1831).

“But our great security lies, I think, in our growing strength, both in numbers and wealth; … unless, by a neglect of military discipline, we should lose all martial spirit …; for there is much truth in the Italian saying, Make yourselves sheep, and the wolves will eat you.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: Letter to Thomas Cushing (1773).

“[A] great Empire, like a great Cake, is most easily diminished at the Edges.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: "Rules By Which A Great Empire May Be Reduced To A Small One"; The Public Advertiser (September 11, 1773).

“He has paid dear, very dear, for his whistle.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: The Whistle (November, 1779); reported in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. (1919).

“Can sweetening our tea, &c. with sugar, be a circumstance of such absolute necessity? Can the petty pleasure thence arising to the taste, compensate for so much misery produced among our fellow creatures, and such a constant butchery of the human species by this pestilential detestable traffic in the bodies and souls of men?—Pharisaical Britain! to pride thyself in setting free a single Slave that happens to land on thy coasts, while thy Merchants in all thy ports are encouraged by thy laws to continue a commerce whereby so many hundreds of thousands are dragged into a slavery that can scarce be said to end with their lives, since it is entailed on their posterity!”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: For The London Chronicle (20 June 1772). The Somersett Case and the Slave Trade As quoted in Let This Voice Be Heard - Anthony Benezet, Father of Atlantic Abolitionism (2010), p. 113.

“They appeared all to have made considerable progress in reading for the time they had respectively been in the school, and most of them answered readily and well the questions of the catechism. They behaved very orderly, and showed a proper respect and ready obedience to the mistress, and seemed very attentive to, and a good deal affected by, a serious exhoration with which Mister Sturgeon concluded our visit. I was on the whole much pleased, and from what I then saw, have conceived a higher opinion of the natural capacities of the black race, than I had ever before entertained. Their apprehension seems as quick, their memory as strong, and their docility in every respect equal to that of white children.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: Letter to Waring (17 December 1783), after visiting a school, as quoted in [//web.archive.org/web/20131118045451/http://www.home.nas.com/lopresti/bf.htm The First American: The Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin] (March 2002), by H.W. Brands, p. 355.

“Much less is it adviseable for a Person to go thither [to America], who has no other Quality to recommend him but his Birth. In Europe it has indeed its Value; but it is a Commodity that cannot be carried to a worse Market than that of America, where people do not inquire concerning a Stranger, What is he? but, What can he do?”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: March 1784 Information to Those Who Would Remove to America.

“The first man put at the helm will be a good one. No body knows what sort may come afterwards. The Executive will be always increasing here, as elsewhere, till it ends in a Monarchy.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: Records of the Federal Convention (which resulted in the United States Constitution), June 4, 1787

“I've lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing Proofs I see of this Truth — That God governs in the Affairs of Men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that except the Lord build the House they labor in vain who build it. I firmly believe this, — and I also believe that without his concurring Aid, we shall succeed in this political Building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our Projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a Reproach and Bye word down to future Ages.”

— Benjamin Franklin

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Quote source: 1780s, Constitutional Convention of 1787 Speech to the Constitutional Convention (28 June 1787); Manuscript notes by Franklin preserved in the Library of Congress

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Beyoncé Bob Dylan Bob Marley Drake Ed Sheeran Eminem J. Cole Jimi Hendrix John Lennon Justin Bieber Kanye West Kendrick Lamar Kurt Cobain Lana Del Rey Lil Wayne Michael Jackson Taylor Swift Tupac Will Smith Wiz Khalifa

Philosophers

Alan Watts Albert Camus Aristotle Ayn Rand Confucius Dalai Lama Friedrich Nietzsche Henry David Thoreau Karl Marx Lao Tzu Machiavelli Marcus Aurelius Noam Chomsky Plato Ralph Waldo Emerson Socrates Thomas Jefferson Voltaire

Poets

Charles Bukowski E. E. Cummings Edgar Allan Poe Emily Dickinson Friedrich Nietzsche Henry David Thoreau J. R. R. Tolkien Kahlil Gibran Rabindranath Tagore Ralph Waldo Emerson Robert Frost Rumi Shakespeare Walt Whitman

Politicians

A. P. J. Abdul Kalam Abraham Lincoln Adolf Hitler Alexander the Great Arnold Schwarzenegger Barack Obama Ben Carson Benjamin Franklin Confucius Donald Trump Eleanor Roosevelt George Washington Hillary Clinton Isaac Newton John F. Kennedy Julius Caesar Machiavelli Marcus Aurelius Michelle Obama Napoleon Nelson Mandela Ronald Reagan Theodore Roosevelt Thomas Jefferson Winston Churchill

Polymaths

Benjamin Franklin Goethe Leonardo da Vinci Rabindranath Tagore Thomas Jefferson

Religious & Spiritual

Buddha Dalai Lama Gandhi Jesus Martin Luther King Mother Teresa Muhammad Osho Pope Francis Swami Vivekananda Thich Nhat Hanh

Scientists

A. P. J. Abdul Kalam Albert Einstein Aristotle Isaac Newton Leonardo da Vinci Marie Curie Neil deGrasse Tyson Nikola Tesla Stephen Hawking Thomas Edison