Back in 2010, Celebrity Net Worth published a list of the richest humans in history, adjusting for inflation. That original list, which was published right here on this URL, spawned countless copycat versions, wikipedia pages and clickbait galleries. It was referenced in songs, books, podcasts and television series. We spent a month compiling that first list. It was the first major long-form article (non net worth estimate) that we published.
To compute historical fortunes into modern present-day net worths, we used a combination of basic inflation calculations, the relative purchasing power of wealth to GDP over time, and finally, the historical value two primary assets: gold and land. We started with over 100 historical and present-day figures who were known to be exceptionally wealthy. Business tycoons, kings, queens, emperors, landowners, tyrants… We ended with 25 individuals. Those 25 individuals were the richest people of all time, at that point.
A lot has changed since 2010. In our original list, Warren Buffett's then-peak $64 billion net worth was enough to make him the 25th richest person in history. Today $64 billion would barely be enough to make you one of 25 richest richest people on the planet right now!
In 2010, Facebook was two years away from being a public company. At that point, the company's 26-year-old founder Mark Zuckerberg, was worth around $5 billion on paper based on Facebook's most recent private valuation. In September 2021, Mark's net worth peaked at $140 billion.
In 2010, a $100 billion fortune was extremely significant. Only a handful of people had ever produced a net worth greater than $100 billion, even after adjusting for inflation. Today people don't even blink at a $100 billion fortune. In July 2021, all 10 of the richest people in the world had net worths exceeding $100 billion. Even $200 billion has become somewhat unremarkable.
Perhaps most amazingly of all, our 2010 list did not feature the following two names:
Back in 2010, Jeff Bezos was worth an extremely respectable, but not exactly earth-shattering, $20 billion. Thanks to Amazon's incredible growth in the last decade, Jeff Bezos slowly and steadily established one of the largest personal fortunes in history. And that's true even after losing a sizable chunk of that fortune to his ex-wife.
And then there's Elon.
In the last decade, no billionaire has seen a more extreme explosion in wealth than Elon Musk. By total coincidence, we published our original 2010 list just a few weeks before a very important event in wealth history: On June 29, 2010, Tesla went public.
Tesla ended its first day of trading as public company with a total market cap of $1.77 billion. That is not a typo. $1.77 billion.
In November 2021, Tesla's market cap hit $1.2 trillion. At that level, thanks additionally to the increased valuation of his other company, SpaceX, Elon's net worth hit a truly historic level. To find out just how historic, you'll have to keep reading…
Who is the Richest Person In History?
Mansa Musa I – $400 Billion
Mansa Musa I of Mali is the richest human being in history with a personal net worth of $400 billion! Mansa Musa lived from 1280 – 1337 and ruled the Malian Empire which covered modern day Ghana, Timbuktu and Mali in West Africa. Mansa Musa's shocking wealth came from his country's vast production of more than half the world's supply of salt and gold. Musa used his wealth to build immense mosques that still stand today, nearly 700 years later. His kingdom and wealth didn't last much longer after his death. His heirs were not able to fend off civil war and invading conquerors. Just two generations later, his world record net worth was gone.
The Rothschild Family – $350 Billion
The Rothschild family are the richest people on earth today with assets that total at least $350 billion. Their net worth is difficult to peg because their holdings are so vast, but without question they are the most powerful family in the world. Many people believe they control over $1 trillion in real estate and banking assets alone.
Elon Musk – $341 billion
On November 4, 2021, with Tesla's stock price soaring to an all-time high, Elon Musk's net worth briefly topped $341 billion. For several hours that day, Elon was officially worth more than John D. Rockefeller's inflation-adjusted wealth record of $340 billion which hstood for 80 years.
John D. Rockefeller – $340 Billion
John D. Rockefeller is the richest American who ever lived. At the time of his death in 1937, Rockefeller was worth the equivalent of $340 billion in today's dollars. His company Standard Oil dominated American Oil production and was eventually broken up by The US Government for being a monopoly. Standard Oil was broken into smaller companies that you probably recognize today: Amoco, Chevron Conoco, and ExxonMobil. Rockefeller was the first American to ever have a net worth over $1 billion.
#4 Andrew Carnegie – $310 Billion
Andrew Carnegie made his vast fortune when he sold his Carnegie Steel Company to JP Morgan for $480 million in 1901. That equates to a peak net worth equivalent to $310 billion in modern dollars. When he sold his company to JP Morgan, Carnegie took home $230 million worth of gold bonds and received a 5% annual coupon to top it off. The bonds sat in a bank in New Jersey which Carnegie never visited. After selling his company, Carnegie retired from business life and dedicated his time to charity. He gave away the majority of his fortune during his lifetime and his final $30 million was donated after his death. Many universities and foundations still bear his name today.
#5 Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov – $300 Billion
Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov, also known as Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, ruled the Russian empire from 1894 to 1917 when Bolshevik revolutionists overthrew and murdered him and his family. In 1916, Tsar Nicholas II's net worth was nearly $900 million which is the inflation adjusted equivalent to $300 billion in 2012 dollars. $300 billion makes him the fifth richest person in history and since the Russian Orthodox canonized him, he is the richest saint in human history.
#6 Mir Osman Ali Khan – $230 billion
Mir Osman Ali Khan, also known as The Nizam of Hyderabad, was the ruler of Hyderabad until the country was invaded by neighbor India. Mir Osman Ali Khan had a personal collection of gold that was worth more than $100 million and owned over $400 million worth of jewels including the famous Jacob Diamond which is worth $95 million today. Khan used the diamond as a paperweight in his office. He supposedly owned more than 50 Rolls Royces.
#7 William The Conqueror – $229.5 Billion
William The Conqueror lived from 1028-1087 and was most famous for invading and subsequently seizing England in 1066. When you spend a lifetime conquering other kingdoms, you tend to acquire quite a bit of money. In Williams case, when he died he left the equivalent of $229.5 billion to his sons.
#8 Muammar Gaddafi – $200 Billion
After his death in 2011, reports surfaced that Muammar Gaddafi was secretly the wealthiest person in the world with a net worth of $200 billion. In the months surrounding his death nearly $70 billion in cash was seized in foreign bank accounts and real estate. Muammar Gaddafi's iron fisted rule over Libya's oil fields made up the rest of his net worth.
#9 Henry Ford – $199 Billion
Ford motor company founder Henry Ford built an iconic brand which we all still know and see today. At the time of death in 1947, he had accumulated a net worth equivalent to $199 billion modern dollars.
#10 Cornelius Vanderbilt – $185 Billion
Cornelius Vanderbilt is the third richest American ever, the 10th richest person in history and CNN anchor Anderson Cooper's great-great-great-grandfather. Cornelius Vanderbilt made his first fortune in the steamboat industry but didn't see his wealth really explode until he invested in railroads at the age of 70. When he died, his estate was worth the equivalent of $185 billion.
#11 Alan Rufus – $178.65 billion
Alan Rufus was the 11th century military companion of William The Conqueror. Going to war with William was a very profitable endeavor. Rufus was given 250,000 acres of land in England, which at the time was worth the equivalent to $178.65 billion.
#12 Bill Gates – $136 Billion
At the peak of the dotcom bubble, Gates' Microsoft stock soared, giving him a net worth equal to $136 billion in today's dollars. That's enough to make him the 12th richest human ever.
#13 William de Warenne – $147.13 Billion
William de Warenne, the first Earl of Surey was an English military leader and nobleman who was awarded large grants of land for his service during the battle of Hastings. That land was worth the equivalent of $146.13 billion in 1088.
#14 John Jacob Astor – $121 Billion
John Jacob Astor has the honorable distinction of being the very first American multi-millionaire in history. He made his first million by trading furs from Canada to wealthy women in New York City. He used his money to acquire vast amounts of real estate and had a net worth equivalent to $121 billion when he died in 1848.
#15 Richard Fitzalan 10th Earl of Arundel – $118.6 Billion
The 10th Earl of Arundel also known as Richard Fitzalan, was a prominent English nobleman and land owner who had a net worth equivalent to $118.6 billion at the time of his death in 1376.
#16 John of Gaunt – $110 Billion
John of Gaunt was English King Richard II's Regent and had a net worth equal to $110 billion in today's dollars thanks to very generous land grants.
#17 Stephen Girard – $105 Billion
French born shipping and banking mogul Stephen Girard died with the equivalent of $105 billion in 1831. Girard didn't have any heirs so he left the bulk of his estate to charity.
#18 A.T. Stewart – $90 Billion
Alexander Turney Stewart, also known as A.T., came to the US from Ireland and ended up creating the largest department store ever at the time. He had accumulated over $1 million by 1876 which was unheard of. When he died in 1876 he was worth the equivalent of $90 billion.
#19 Henry Duke of Lancaster – $85.1 Billion
Henry Duke of Lancaster was an English nobleman who lived from 1310 to 1361 and acquired a net worth equivalent to $85.1 billion in modern dollars.
#20 Friedrich Weyerhauser – $80 Billion
Friedrich Weyerhauser made his first fortune in the timber business and then went on to acquire enough land to make him the largest private land owner in America. When he died in 1914, his estate was worth the equivalent of $80 billion in 2012 dollars.
#21 Jay Gould – $71 Billion
Railroad king Jay Gould amassed an impressive $71 billion net worth by the time of his death in 1892.
#22 Carlos Slim Helu – $68 Billion
Mexican business mogul Carlos Slim Helu's net worth peaked a few years ago at $68 billion. That made him the richest person on the planet for a little while. Unfortunately, even his peak net worth was not not enough to even crack the top 20 of the richest people of all time.
#22 Stephen Van Rensselaer – $68 Billion
Born in 1764, Stephen Van Rensselaer inherited one of the largest land grants in American history from his father. Stephen Van Rensselaer's family owned much of what would become New York State, including the island of Manhattan. During his lifetime his net worth peaked at $68 billion.
#23 Marshall Field – $66 Billion
Chicago based retail and real estate mogul Marshall Field was worth $66 billion, inflation adjusted, at the time of his death in 1906. Field coined the phrase "The customer is always right."
#24 Sam Walton – $65 Billion
At the time of his death in 1992, Sam Walton's net worth was $65 billion which he left to his widow and three children. Today the total value of that stock has grown to over $100 billion!
#25 Warren Buffett – $64 Billion
Billionaire investor Warren Buffett is probably not used to being the poorest guy in the room, but on this list that's exactly who he is. Buffett's peak net worth before he started giving all his money to charity was $64 billion which is enough to make him the 25th richest human being who ever lived.