An obscure king who ruled West Africa in the 14th century has been named the richest person in history in a new inflation-adjusted list of the world’s 25 wealthiest people of all time.
Spanning 1,000 years and with a combined fortune of $4.317trillion, only three of the list’s 25 are alive today; none of them are women and 14 of them are American.
Using the annual 2199.6per cent rate of inflation, where $100million in 1913 is equal to $2.299.63billion in 2012, Celebrity Net Worth’s list includes familiar names like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett; but sitting at number one is Mansa Musa I of Mali.
Centuries apart: Mansa Musa I (left) was a 12th century African King, and the richest person to ever live worth $400 billion; Bill Gates (right) ranks 12th with a inflation adjusted $136 billion fortune at his peak in 1999
The West Africa king, the richest person in history, and the ruler of the Malian Empire which covered modern day Ghana, Timbuktu and Mali in West Africa, had a personal net worth of $400billion at the time of his death in 1331.
The list also includes the man who gave America Wal-Mart, another who developed mail-order shopping around 1870, as well as a few nobles who helped with the Norman conquest of England in the Battle of Hastings nearly one thousand years ago.
The Rothschild family, second on the list, are the richest people on earth today with assets that total at least $350billion – their wealth divided amongst mining, banks, private asset management, mixed farming, wine, and charities.
Meanwhile John D. Rockefeller, third on the list, is the richest American to have ever lived, worth $340billion in today’s USD at the time of his death in 1937.
In comparison, the poorest man on the list is 82-year-old Warren Buffett, who at his peak net worth, before he started giving his fortune to charity, was $64billion.
1. MANSA MUSA I – $400 BILLION (BORN 1280)
Mansa Musa I, the richest person in history, had a personal net worth of $400billion at the time of his death in 1331.
Born in 1280, he ruled West Africa’s Malian Empire which covered modern day Ghana, Timbuktu and Mali.
His country’s production of more than half the world’s supply of salt and gold contributed to Musa’s vast wealth, which he used to build large mosques that still stand today.
According to the writings of Arab-Egyptian scholar Al-Umari, Musa inherited his throne through a practice of appointing a deputy after the king goes on his pilgrimage to Mecca; later naming the deputy as heir.
Musa was appointed deputy of the king before him, who had reportedly embarked on an expedition to explore the limits of the Atlantic ocean, and never returned.
Just two generations after his death, however, Musa’s world record net worth was diminished after is heirs were not able to fend off civil war and invading conquerors.
2. ROTHSCHILD FAMILY – $350 BILLION (BORN 1744)
The Rothschild family, known as the House of Rothschild, are the richest people on earth today with assets that total at least $350billion.
As a European banking dynasty, of German-Jewish origin, they established European banking and finance houses starting in the late 18th century.
It all started with Mayer Amschel Rothschild, born in 1744, who developed a finance house and installed each of his five sons in five main European financial centers to conduct business, successfully spreading the family empire.
The Rothschild coat of arms contains a clenched fist with five arrows symbolizing the five dynasties established by the five sons.
The family’s wealth was divided amongst hundreds of descendants, and today, Rothschild businesses encompass the fields of mining, banks, private asset management, mixed farming, wine, and charities.
3. JOHN D ROCKEFELLER – $340 BILLION (BORN 1839)
John D. Rockefeller, third on the list, is the richest American to have ever lived. At the time of his death in 1937, he was worth $340billion in today’s dollars – he was also the first American acquire a net worth over $1billion.
In 1870, he founded the Standard Oil Company, which dominated American Oil production and his monopoly was eventually broken up by the U.S. government into smaller companies including Amoco, Chevron Conoco, and ExxonMobil.
Two years after building an oil refinery in 1863 with his business partner Maurice B. Clark, Mr Rockefeller bought him out for $72,500 and established the firm of Rockefeller & Andrews, which he said ‘determined’ his career.
He then spent the last 40 years of his life in retirement, using his fortune to create foundations that had an unparallelled effect on medicine, education, and scientific research.
In 1884, Rockefeller provided major funding for a college in Atlanta for African-American women, which became Spelman College, also giving $80million to the University of Chicago, turning the small Baptist college into a world-class institution by 1900.
It was after Standard Oil moved its headquarters to Manhattan at 26 Broadway that Mr Rockefeller became a central figure in the New York City’s community.
In 1901, he founded the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, which was instrumental in the eradication of hookworm and yellow fever, and later changed its name to Rockefeller University in 1965.
4. ANDREW CARNEGIE – $310 BILLION (BORN 1835)
Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American industrialist who led the enormous expansion of the American steel industry in the late 19th century, made most of his fortune when he sold his Carnegie Steel Company to JP Morgan for $480million in 1901, acquiring a net worth equivalent to $310billion in today’s dollars.
After selling his company, he dedicated his time to charity, giving away the majority of his fortune during his lifetime. His final $30million was then donated after his death.
Men of the 1800’s: Andrew Carnegie (left) made sold his Carnegie Steel Company to JP Morgan for $480million in 1901; Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (right) had a net worth of $300 billion when he was abdicated in 1917
5. TSAR NICHOLAS II OF RUSSIA – $300 BILLION (BORN 1868)
Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov, also known as Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, ruled the Russian empire from 1894, until his abdication in 1917.
With a net worth of nearly $900million, which is the 2012 inflation adjusted equivalent to $300billion, Bolshevik revolutionists (a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party) murdered the Tsar and his family, overthrowing his empire in 1918.
Under his rule, he approved the Russian mobilization of August 1914, which marked the beginning of Russia’s involvement in World War I, in which 3.3 million Russians were killed.
6. MIR OSMAN ALI KHAN – $236 BILLION (BORN 1886)
The ruler of Hyderabad until the country was invaded by India, Mir Osman Ali Khan, also known as The Nizam of Hyderabad, had a personal collection of gold that was worth more than $100million and owned over $400million worth of jewels.
His famous Jacob Diamond, worth $95million today was used as a paperweight in his office. He supposedly owned more than 50 Rolls Royces.
7. WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR – $229.5 BILLION (BORN 1028)
William The Conqueror was most famous for invading and subsequently seizing England in 1066. Born in 1028, he he died in 1087 leaving an equivalent of $229.5billion to his sons.
8. MUAMMAR GADDAFI – $200 BILLION (BORN 1942)
According to Celebrity Net Worth, after his capture and death in 2011, reports surfaced that Muammar Gaddafi had a secret net worth of $200 billion.
In the months surrounding his death, nearly $70billion in cash was seized in foreign bank accounts and real estate, his assets frozen.
One of the assets Gaddafi owned was an Airbus A340 private jet, which he bought from Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia for $120million in 2003.
The plane was captured at Tripoli airport in August 2011 as a result of the Libyan civil war, and found by BBC News reporter John Simpson to contain various luxuries including a jacuzzi.
A year prior to acquiring the private jet, Gaddafi purchased a 7.5per cent share of Italian football club Juventus for US$21million.
Nine years later on 25 February, 2011, Britain’s Treasury traced Gaddafi’s assets in Britain after he allegedly worked for years with Swiss banks to launder international banking transactions.
In November 2011, The Sunday Times identified property worth £1 billion in the UK that Gaddafi owned.
9. HENRY FORD – $199 BILLION (BORN 1863)
Henry Ford, founder of the iconic Ford Motor Company, also helped to develop the assembly line technique of mass production.
Although Mr Ford did not invent the automobile, he developed and manufactured the first car that middle class Americans could afford to buy, revolutionizing the U.S. transportation industry; and credited with Fordism: mass production of inexpensive goods coupled with high wages for workers.
At the time of death in 1947, Mr Ford had accumulated a net worth equivalent to $199billion dollars in 2012. While he left most of his vast wealth to the Ford Foundation, his family continues to control the company.
10. CORNELIUS VANDERBILT – $185 BILLION (BORN 1794)
Better known as the great-great-great-grandfather of CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Cornelius Vanderbilt, born in 1794, is the third richest American to ever live.
Making his first fortune in the steamboat industry, his wealth exploded through his investments in railroads at the age of 70. At his death in 1877, his estate was worth the equivalent of $185billion.
Mr Vanderbilt began working on his father’s ferry in New York Harbor as a boy, quitting school at the age of 11. Eight years later, the 19-year-old married his first cousin, Sophia Johnson, and together they had 13 children.
By the end of 1820, Mr Vanderbilt dominated the steamboat business, and began to take over the management of New York’s connecting railroads, also buying large amounts of real estate in Manhattan and Staten Island, taking over the Staten Island Ferry in 1838.
During the 1850s, he served on the boards of directors of the Erie Railway, the Central Railroad of New Jersey, the Hartford and New Haven, and the Harlem and in 1869, he directed the Harlem to begin construction of the Grand Central Depot on 42nd Street in Manhattan, later to become Grand Central Station.
His legacy lives on in his family’s long lineage of prominent public figures. For example, Gloria Vanderbilt, his great-great-granddaughter, is also Anderson Cooper’s mother.
Born in 1924, she went on to become an American artist, author, actress, heiress, and socialite, most noted as an early developer of designer blue jeans.
11. ALAN RUFUS – $178.65 BILLION (BORN 1040)
Alan Rufus was the military companion of William The Conqueror, the list’s seventh richest person to ever live.
For his efforts in fighting with William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, in the Battle of Hastings, Mr Rufus was given 250,000 acres of land in England, which at the time was worth the equivalent to $178.65billion.
12. BILL GATES – $136 BILLION (BORN 1955)
While Bill Gates is currently the second richest person alive with a net worth of $62.5billion, at his peek in 1999, Mr Gates’ Microsoft stock soared, giving him a net worth equal to $136billion in today’s dollars.
The former chief executive and current chairman of Microsoft, the world’s largest personal-computer software company, remains the largest individual shareholder, with 6.4per cent of the common stock.
Mr Gates has pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors, donating large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, established in 2000 after he stepped down as Microsoft’s CEO that same year.
Bill Gates: Pictured left in 1984, Mr Gates is the second richest person alive with a current net worth of $62.5billion; at his peek in 1999 (right) , Mr Gates’ Microsoft stock gave him a net worth equal to $136billion