Meet the Finest Teachers of the World


Sakshi Singh Tolani takes a walk through history to bring you notes on some of the finest teachers the world has seen.

In India, Teachers Day is celebrated on the birthday of the second President of India, academician and philosopher Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. It is considered a day of celebration, where teachers and students report to school as usual but the regular activities and classes are replaced by celebrations, thanks and remembrance. In some schools, on this day the responsibility of teaching is taken up by the senior students as a mark of appreciation for their teachers.

Let's meet a few Indian and international teachers who have made an impression on the minds of students for decades.



Dr S Radhakrishnan was born in the year 1888 in Madras (Now Chennai). He graduated with a Master's Degree in Arts from Madras University. Dr Radhakrishnan was of the opinion that only the right kind of education could solve the many ills of society and nation. He wanted to bring in a change in the educational system by improving the quality of education and building up a strong relationship between teachers and students. He was a very humble man and allowed everyone to meet him at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. He accepted only Rs 2,500 out of his salary of Rs 10,000 and donated the remaining amount to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund every month. Dr Radhakrishnan passed away on April 17, 1975.



The teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda have spread across India and throughout the world. He wanted to unite all religions and all his teachings were related to this belief. The technique of yoga that is associated with his teachings is Kriya Yoga. Yogananda taught his students the need for direct experience of truth, as opposed to blind belief. According to him, "The true basis of religion is not belief, but intuitive experience." He taught Kriya Yoga and other meditation practices to help people achieve that understanding, which he called "self-realisation."



Pythagoras was born in the island of Samos in ancient Greece. His first teacher was Pherecydes . Pythagoras stayed in touch with him until Pherecydes' death. When Pythagoras was about 18 years old, he went to the island of Lesbos. There, he worked and learned from Anaximander, an astronomer and philosopher, and Thales of Miletus, a very wise philosopher and mathematician. Pythagoras was known as 'The Father of Numbers'. He made significant contributions to philosophy and religious teaching in late 6BC. Pythagoras believed that everything was related to mathematics and could be predicted and measured in rhythmic patterns or cycles. When Cambyses invaded Egypt, he made Pythagoras his prisoner and sent him to Babylon. Pythagoras utilised the next 12 years to study and was initiated into the Chaldean Mysteries. Leaving Babylon, he made his way through Persia into India, where he continued his education and attained the wisdom of the East. Although Pythagoras went to India as a student, he left it as a teacher. Even to this day he is known in India as Yavanacharya, the 'Ionian Teacher'. The Pythagorean Theorem was known earlier in Mesopotamia, Egypt and India. Pythagoras died in 475BC.



Albert Einstein was born at Ulm, in Wurttemberg, Germany on March 14 1879. In 1901, he accepted a position as technical assistant in the Swiss Patent Office and obtained a Doctorate in 1905. Albert Einstein's special Theory of Relativity stemmed from an attempt to reconcile the laws of mechanics with the laws of the electromagnetic field. He dealt with classical problems of statistical mechanics and problems in which they were merged with quantum theory. This led to an explanation of the Brownian Movement of molecules. He examined the thermal properties of light with a low radiation density and founded the Photon Theory of Light. He accomplished valuable work in connection with atomic transition probabilities and relativistic cosmology. Albert Einstein died on April 18, 1955 at Princeton, New Jersey.



Aristotle was born in 384BC at Stagirus, a Greek colony. His father Nichomachus was court physician to King Amyntas of Macedonia. He went to Athens, the intellectual centre of the world, to complete his education.

He joined the Academy and studied under Plato, attending his lectures for a period of 20 years. At the invitation of Philip of Macedonia he became the tutor of his 13-year-old son Alexander. There he also set up his own school, at a place called the Lyceum. The works of Aristotle fall under three headings–dialogues and other works of a popular character, collections of facts and material from scientific treatment and systematic works. Aristotle died in 322BC.



Ayn Rand was a brilliant novelist and philosopher. She was born Alissa Rosenbaum on February 2, 1905 in St Petersburg, Russia. From an early age, she displayed an interest in literature and films. She started writing screenplays and novels at the age of seven. Ayn Rand graduated from the University of Petrograd in History when she was 21 years old. In 1926, she moved to the United States and took her surname from the typewriter she used, a Remington-Rand. She started to study English, working as a junior screenwriter and movie extra for Hollywood between the years 1926 and 1932.

In Hollywood Ayn Rand worked until 1949, when she became a fulltime writer and lecturer. She was a visiting lecturer at a number of American Universities such as Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut (1960), Princeton University, New Jersey (1960), Columbia University, New York (1960, 1962), University of Wisconsin (1961), Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore (1961), Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts (1962 and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1962).



Famous throughout the world as a Chinese thinker and social philosopher, Confucius laid great emphasis on personal and governmental morality. Confucius strongly believed in the rightness of social relationships and values such as honesty and fairness. His way of thought came to be developed into a system of philosophy known as Confucianism, which had a deep influence on Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Taiwanese and Vietnamese thought and life. A hallmark of Confucius' philosophy was his emphasis on education and study. He disparaged those who had faith in natural understanding or intuition and argued that the only real understanding of a subject comes from long and careful study. Study, for Confucius, meant finding a good teacher and imitating his words and deeds. A good teacher is someone older who is familiar with the ways of the past and the practises of the ancients.