Name at birth: Niccolo di Bernardo dei Machiavelli
Machiavelli has been called the brilliant creator of modern political science by some, and a cynical beast by others; he is considered the originator of the idea of a political pragmatism that says "the end justifies the means." Either way, his 1513 book The Prince is a landmark work in the history of political power. A high-level statesman in Florence (1498-1512), he traveled on diplomatic missions throughout Europe before he was exiled by the Medicis. Imprisoned for a time, he later retired to his private estate and concentrated on studying and writing. A rumination on the acquisition and uses of power, The Prince remains a mainstay of college bookstores everywhere.