Bin Laden's money and preaching inspired the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which killed almost 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania and forever ripped a hole in America's feeling of security in the world.
His actions set off a chain of events that led the United States into wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a clandestine war against extreme Islamic adherents that touched scores of countries on every continent but Antarctica. America's entire intelligence apparat US was overhauled to counter the threat of more terror attacks at home.
Bin Laden was killed in an operation led by the United States, President Barack Obama said on Sunday. A small team of Americans carried out the attack and took custody of Laden's remains, Obama said.
Bin Laden's al-Qaeda organisation has also been blamed for the 1998 bombings of two US embassies in Africa, which killed 231 people, and the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 American sailors in Yemen, as well as countless other plots, some successful and some foiled.
Perhaps as significant was his ability -- even from hiding -- to inspire a new generation of terrorists to murder in his name. Most of al-Qaeda's top lieutenants have been killed or captured in the years since Sept. 11, 2001, and intelligence officials in Europe and Asia say they now see a greater threat from homegrown radical groups energized by bin Laden's cause.
Al-Qaeda is not thought to have provided logistical or financial support to the group of North African Muslims who pulled off the March 11, 2004, bombings in Madrid, Spain - which killed 191 people - but they were certainly inspired by its dream of worldwide jihad.
Likewise, no link has been established between al-Qaeda and the four British Muslim suicide bombers who killed 52 people in London on July 7, 2005, but few believe the attack would have taken place had bin Laden not aroused the passions of young Muslim radicals the world over.
The war in Iraq - justified in part by erroneous intelligence that suggested Saddam Hussein had both weapons of mass destruction and a link to al-Qaeda - has become the cauldron in which the world's next generation of terrorists are honing their skills.
While scant evidence has emerged of a link between Saddam and bin Laden's inner circle, there is no doubt that al-Qaeda took advantage of the chaos of post-Saddam Iraq - helping to drag the United States into a quagmire that led to the death of some 5,000 American troops, and many scores of thousands of Iraqis. Indeed, bin Laden's legacy is a world still very much on edge.
Frightening terms like dirty bomb, anthrax and weapons of mass destruction have become staples of the global vocabulary; others like Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and extraordinary rendition have fueled a burning anger in the Muslim world.