The Ten Richest People Of All Time

Published October 2, 2021
Updated December 6, 2021

Learn about the ten richest people ever — and see if you can even wrap your head around fortunes that dwarf that of Bill Gates.

Each year, Forbes releases its ranking of the world’s richest people. And each year, some smart aleck chimes in with the news that if you adjust for inflation, Bill Gates wouldn’t even be close to the number one richest person in history.

Not only is that true, but Gates would barely even crack the top ten. In fact, five of the top six richest people in history (when figures are adjusted for inflation) all made their fortunes well over a century ago.

The Richest People In History

Wally Gobetz/FlickrThe Breakers, the Newport, Rhode Island summer home of 19th century New York railroad baron Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the top ten richest people in history.

It’s worth asking why, throughout all of history, a hugely disproportionate majority of the all-time wealthiest people were white, American males born between 1820 and 1870 and working as industrialists in the northeastern U.S. — but that’s a larger, thornier topic for another time.

For now, here’s the list itself — adjusted for inflation and excluding despots and those who lived so long ago that their wealth can’t be verified:

Richest People In History Mellon
Stephen Girard
Bill Gates
John Jacob Astor
The Ten Richest People Of All Time
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After reading about the richest people in history, check out the recent study claiming that the richest one percent are to blame for your unhappiness. Then read up on Mansa Musa, who may have been the richest person in human history.

John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society of history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.