The Top Ten Richest People Of All Time

Bill Gates barely cracks the top ten.
Richest People In History Breakers

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.

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.

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 — adjusted for inflation and excluding despots and those who lived so long ago that their wealth can’t be verified –itself:

Richest People In History Mellon
Stephen Girard
Bill Gates
John Jacob Astor
The Top Ten Richest People Of All Time
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Sources: CNN, TIME, MSN


Next, check out the recent study claiming that the richest one percent are to blame for your unhappiness. Then, see what Bill Gates looked like way back in 1983.

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