Famous humanists

Stephen Fry (novelist, actor)
Stephen Fry (novelist, actor)

Alice Roberts (scientist)
Alice Roberts (scientist)

Virginia Woolf (novelist)
Virginia Woolf (novelist)

Through history

Confucius (philosopher)
Confucius (philosopher)

Humanists have probably been around for as long as there have been people. Humanism is simply the term we give to viewing the world as a natural place and using reason to understand it, rather than by believing in gods and goddesses, and seeking to live a good and fulfilling life on that basis.

For example, lots of thinkers in the ancient Greek world were humanists, including the great philosophers Socrates, Democritus, and Epicurus. Similarly, the ancient Chinese philosopher Confucius expressed clearly humanist ideas as well.

Other humanists have been poets, playwrights, novelists, artists, social reformers, human rights activists, politicians, scientists, mathematicians – you name it. The humanist legacy and contribution to culture is vast. The famous humanists from history on this page were all people whose various achievements and outlook on life were significantly influenced by a humanist perspective.

Aphra Behn (playwright)
Aphra Behn (playwright)

Percy Shelley (poet)
Percy Shelley (poet)

Matthew Arnold (poet)
Matthew Arnold (poet)

George Eliot (novelist)
George Eliot (novelist)

Marie Curie (scientist)
Marie Curie (scientist)

Jawaharlal Nehru (Prime Minister of India)
Jawaharlal Nehru (Prime Minister of India)

Albert Einstein (scientist)
Albert Einstein (scientist)

Terry Pratchett (novelist)
Terry Pratchett (novelist)

Linda Smith (comedian)
Linda Smith (comedian)

Today

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Happy Human, more successful people than ever before are openly and confidently identifying as humanists. Today many of these people are Patrons of the British Humanist Association or other humanist organisations in other countries, which means they support their work to promote understanding of Humanism and other good causes.

A C Grayling (philosopher)
A C Grayling (philosopher)

Margaret Atwood (novelist)
Margaret Atwood (novelist)

Joss Whedon (writer-director)
Joss Whedon (writer-director)

Matt Healy (musician)
Matt Healy (musician)

Polly Toynbee (journalist)
Polly Toynbee (journalist)

Richard Dawkins (scientist)
Richard Dawkins (scientist)

Sandi Toksvig (comedian)
Sandi Toksvig (comedian)

Ricky Gervais (comic actor)
Ricky Gervais (comic actor)

Shappi Khorsandi (comedian)
Shappi Khorsandi (comedian)

Stephen Hawking (scientist)
Stephen Hawking (scientist)

Isaac Hempstead-Wright (actor)
Isaac Hempstead-Wright (actor)

Alice Walker (novelist)
Alice Walker (novelist)