You always hear about how rich Bill Gates is, how rich Oprah is, how rich J.K. Rowling is. But none of them even make the top 10 richest people of all time. Compiled by Forbes magazine, this a list of the wealthiest people ever (EVAR!). They ranked these bazillionaires (my term, not theirs) according to the total GDP of the nation they lived in and adjusted their net worths to account for inflation as of 2007.
1. John D. Rockefeller, worth a staggering $318.3 billion. He could have funded nearly half of the bailout all on his own! He was America's first-ever billionaire (not even including inflation). He was generous with his money, though, and gave away an estimated $550 million to various charities and foundations, including the ones he founded. When he was much older, he was known for giving money away wherever he went - dimes to adults and nickels to children.
2. Andrew Carnegie's steel company earned him about $298.3 billion. Nothing to sneeze at. I recently visited his grave in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., and was surprised at how modest it was for a billionaire. Watch for more on my trip to the home of the Headless Horseman in a few weeks!
3. Nicholas II of Russia. $253.5 billion, inherited from his dad, Alexander III, who was the previous Emperor of Russia.
4. William Henry Vanderbilt, $231.6 billion, mostly thanks to the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroads. He inherited $100 million from his dad, but he definitely had financial chops of his own - by the time he died nine years after the inheritance, he had nearly doubled the fortune ($194 million).
5. Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII was worth $210.8 billion. He was the last ruler of Hyderabad, which was invaded and annexed by India in 1948. In 1937, Time magazine named Osman Ali the richest man in the world.
6. Andrew Mellon, $188.8 billion. Dude was destined to accumulate wealth: by 17, he had already started his own lumber company. At 17, I was working part-time as a clerk at a drug store and wearing a really sweet mauve smock (that's right: mauve). By 1889, Mellon had expanded to shipbuilding, construction, steel and oil.
7. Henry Ford, $188.1 billion, a fortune was amassed thanks to Ford Motor Company, of course.
8. Marcus Licinius Crassus, $169.8 billion. Never heard of him? That's because he lived more than 2000 years ago. He was a Roman general and politician and the man who suppressed Spartacus' slave uprising. He acquired his wealth through inheritance, slave ownership, land ownership and various mining prospects.
9. Basil II of the Byzantine Empire, $169.4 billion. He came by his by merely being his father's son. His father was Emperor Romanos II. Basil never married or had children (at least, none that are documented), so when he died, his wealth was passed on to successor Constantine VIII and the goverment. He used his financial prowess for the imperial treasury as well - at the time of his death, he had accumulated about 200,000 pounds of gold for it.
10. Cornelius Vanderbilt, $167.4 billion, courtesy of the New York and Harlem Railroad and the shipping industry.
Other notables to make the list include:
#15, Elizabeth I - $142.9 billion.
#17, Sam Walton - $128 billion.
#20, Bill Gates - $101 billion.
#22, Cleopatra "“ $95.8 billion.
#39, Warren Buffett "“ $62 billion.
#45, J. Paul Getty - $50.1 billion.
#52, Howard Hughes "“ $43.4 billion.
#83, Queen Elizabeth II "“ $43.4 billion.
#116, John Hancock, $19.3 billion.
#181, Ben Franklin, $10.3 billion.
#190, Rupert Murdoch, $9 billion.
And Oprah? Oprah is only worth about $2.7 billion. But she's only 54 "“ she's still got time to crack the top 200. J.K. Rowling is said to have $1.1 billion at the young age of 43. With three more Harry Potter movies and the theme park yet to open, I predict that she's definitely in the top 200 by the time she is 50, if not sooner.