The Most Influential People in the World

They are the 25 most influential people of the past 25 years -- those who changed our world, transformed technology, mapped the human body and affected the way we relate to one another.

1. Bill Gates, software entrepreneur

His Microsoft software shaped the way millions use the technology that has transformed communications and commerce -- making him the world's richest man and, now, a leading philanthropist.

2. Ronald Reagan, 40th U.S. president

Elected in 1980 and re-elected in 1984, he put the United States on a more conservative course, restored buoyancy and confidence in the presidency and forged a partnership with a reformist Soviet leader who helped end the Cold War.

3. Oprah Winfrey, talk show host

As a talk show host, first at WLS-TV's AM Chicago in 1984, she pioneered a form of intimate public discourse that brought taboo subjects into the open and sparked a confessional, self-help culture.

4. & 5. Francis Collins & J. Craig Venter, mappers of the human genome

The Human Genome Project headed by Francis Collins with a parallel private effort by Celera Genomics under Craig Venter jointly announced the mapping of the human genome in 2000, opening the door to breakthroughs in identifying, treating and preventing the world's most-feared diseases.

6. Osama bin Laden, terrorist

For most Americans, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, by the al Qaeda network he leads marked the beginning of a global battle against radical Islamists 12 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of the Cold War.

7. Stephen Hawking, physicist

In the tradition of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, he explored the nature of the universe. He popularized science, wrote the best-selling "A Brief History of Time" in 1988 and remains a puckish personality despite being severely disabled by Lou Gehrig's disease.

8. Lance Armstrong, cyclist and cancer activist

He won a record-breaking seven consecutive Tour de France races, cycling's most prestigious event, after battling testicular cancer. Sales of his iconic "Livestrong" wristbands have raised millions of dollars to help fight cancer.

9. Pope John Paul II

Polish-born Karol Jozef Wojtyla helped propel a peaceful revolution in Poland in 1989 that ended Soviet domination and reverberated through Eastern Europe. In a 26-year papacy, he redefined the Roman Catholic Church's role in modern times.

10. Bono, rock musician and activist for Africa

Born Paul Hewson, the lead singer of the Irish rock band U2 has shrewdly pressed world leaders to forgive Third World debt and address the AIDS pandemic in Africa.

11. Mikhail Gorbachev, Soviet leader

The last leader of the Soviet Union, from 1985 to 1991, he introduced economic and political reforms -- glasnost and perestroika -- and forged a partnership with an anti-communist U.S. president. On Gorbachev's watch, the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union dissolved.

12. & 13. Sergey Brin & Larry Page, co-founders of Google

After meeting as doctoral students at Stanford in 1995, they devised a way to organize information on the Internet by analyzing relationships between Web sites. Google is now the Web's most-used search engine -- so familiar it's become a verb.

14. George W. Bush, 43rd president

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