The 5 Most Influential Pre-20th Century Teachers

Written by on May 11, 2013 in Career - No comments | Print this page


Influential teachersEveryone has at least one teacher who touched their lives in a way that no other person possibly could.

These teachers were the ones that really connected with us and challenged us in a way that had never been done before.

Successful teachers that have this ability are the ones who reveal our hidden potential and encourage us to be the best versions of ourselves.

In addition to touching us on these deeply personal levels, teachers have the ability to actually change the direction of history. Before the dawn of the 20th century, teachers were helping to shape the education system and the society that we now know.

Laying the Foundations

Without Pythagorus, many of us would not have had the chance to learn anything from our math and philosophy professors. Mathematics and philosophical thought are unlikely to be anywhere near where they are today without this Greek mathematician, philosopher, and teacher.

He made his mark on history with the Pythagorean Theorem, a mathematical formula that defines right angles. Beyond this accomplishment, he developed early work related to the movement of the planets and the stars, and he devised the earliest relationships between mathematics and musical compositions.

He eventually taught students all across India, finally founding the Croatian Institute in which he taught philosophy courses.

Taking On the World

Not only was John Adams the second president of the United States, he was also a teacher in Worcester, Massachusetts. Adams himself was an excellent student, graduating from Harvard by the age of 20.

After graduation he spent one year teaching before beginning his studies in law, setting him on his path for his political career. He assisted in drafting both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence while he was employed as a lawyer.

The Renaissance Man

Sir Isaac Newton was another famous teacher of multiple talents. He was an alchemist, theologian, astronomer, and natural philosopher. If those things were not enough, each of these endeavors were secondary to his primary role in physics, mathematics, and as a teacher.

Newton is renown for his theory on the mechanics of gravity, allowing us to predict the paths of planets and stars. He held the world’s most coveted teaching position, the Lucasian Professorship, at the University of Cambridge.

While teaching, he made multiple other discoveries, was responsible for a host of inventions, including the world’s first reflecting telescope.

A Message of Social Change

Recognizing that the educational opportunities for women were severely lacking in the early American colonies, Nathan Hale established the first class in higher education that was completely open to females.

He began his career in Massachusetts before later moving to Connecticut. During the Revolution War, he lost his life at the hands of British troops after being convicted as a spy.

His last words, uttered before being hung, still echo down through history: “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”

Women Rise to the Occasion

Beginning her career as a teacher’s assistant at her sister’s seminary school, Harriet Beecher Stowe founded a school open to virtually anyone in the 1840’s. She began her school shortly after her marriage to Calvin Stowe in the state of Ohio.

During her time as a teacher, she interviewed slaves and migrant workers making their way to Ohio from Kentucky. These interviews were essential in composing her most famous work, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

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Teacher Janice White loves her job and enjoys writing about teaching as well as some of the most important educators in history. Janice is also a writer at, a terrific resource for aspiring teachers to locate the best place to receive their education.

Image courtesy of koratmember /


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