Historical Figures

From Musketeers to Nazis, Archimedes to Harriet Tubman, these famous historical figures changed the course of history -- for better or worse.


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Mary Edwards Walker: Civil War Surgeon and the Only Female Medal of Honor Recipient

We'll be blunt: Mary Edwards deserves mad respect. She was a feminist and abolitionist; the first female Civil War surgeon in the U.S. Army; and a Civil War POW. Plus she wore pants!

You'll Never Guess Why Thomas Jefferson Raised Geese

The Founding Father was a prolific writer during his day. He wrote so much, in fact, he required a steady supply of quills.

The Tragic Life of Joseph Merrick, the 'Elephant Man'

Over 130 years after his passing, the story of Joseph Merrick, the "Elephant Man" can still teach us important lessons about acceptance and love.

How Did Benedict Arnold Become America's Most Infamous Traitor?

Revolutionary War turncoat Benedict Arnold is one of the most reviled figures in American history. But what did he do to deserve this ignominious fate?

How Vladimir Lenin Took Russia From Romanov Rule to Communist U.S.S.R.

In a quest to build a socialist country that morphed into a communist society, Vladamir Lenin and the Bolsheviks executed and imprisoned hundreds of thousands, and starved millions more.

Who Was Viking Warrior Ivar the Boneless?

History says Ivar the Boneless was a ruthless Viking warrior. But why the name boneless? Was he truly disabled, or was there a another more sinister reason for the nickname?

Who Decides Which Americans Lie in State?

Lying in state beneath the U.S. Capitol Rotunda is an honor that has been bestowed on only a few people. Who decides which Americans are so honored?

RBG's Iconic Collars Spoke Volumes

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wore her heart on her sleeve — or her decision on her neck, to be more precise.

Jacques Cousteau: The Man Who Brought the Ocean Into Our Homes

Jacques-Yves Cousteau inspired an entire generation to take an interest in the deep sea and was one of the first to warn of the peril of its destruction.

Explorer Daniel Boone Blazed a Trail to the American West

Forget the coonskin cap. Daniel Boone didn't wear one. But he did inspire a TV show, live with (and fight) Indians and help establish Kentucky as the 14th colony.

Mob Boss John Gotti Never Lived Up to His 'Teflon Don' Nickname

Gambino crime boss John Gotti is remembered as the Teflon Don for beating the legal system. But Gotti died in prison, so did he really live up to that name?

How Geronimo Went From Guerilla Warrior to POW

The life and legacy of Apache warrior Geronimo is a tale that has been twisted over time. One thing that is certain is he spent much of his life avenging the death of his wife and children.

Why Jim Thorpe Is Often Considered the Greatest Athlete of All Time

Jim Thorpe overcame almost insurmountable obstacles, from a rough childhood to racial discrimination, to become one of the world's greatest athletes of all time.

Calamity Jane Rode Hard, Drank Even Harder and Became a Wild West Legend

Martha Jane Canary was a woman trying to make it in a man's world at a time when societal strictures held women tightly bound to norms of femininity. They called her Calamity Jane and here is her story.

Vasco da Gama, Portugal's Columbus, Is Just as Controversial

Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was a ruthless man determined to force his way into the lucrative spice routes of India. But without any valuable gifts to trade for the spices, the whole trip took a horrible turn.

John Wilkes Booth Didn't Act Alone: The Conspiracy to Kill Lincoln

Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth takes the blame in the history books, but he was part of a larger cast of characters that hoped to decapitate the Union government after the South lost the Civil War.

5 Facts About the Immortal Butch Cassidy

Butch Cassidy was a notorious train and bank robber who led a group of outlaws known as the Wild Bunch. He blazed his way through the Wild West, never killing a soul. Or did he?

The Man Behind the Legend Who Is Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull is one of the most famous Native Americans in history. And he's way more than just the Lakota warrior he's known for.

Think the Founding Fathers Were a Bunch of Old Men? Think Again

We see them in paintings of the day as a congregation of arthritic old men, drily deciding the terms of the new republic while complaining about their gout, when, in actuality, some of them were as young as 26.

Meet Kamala Harris, the First Black Female VP Candidate in U.S. History

With Joe Biden's pick, Kamala Harris became the third woman in history (and first Black woman and first Asian American woman) to be nominated for vice president by a major political party.

Beyond 'Braveheart': 5 Things We Get Wrong About William Wallace

The story of Scottish resistance hero William Wallace has morphed into fiction over time, but the truth is actually far more fascinating than the one we see in popular retellings.

Why Did Hitler Write 'Mein Kampf'?

In 1925, Adolf Hitler published the first volume of a semi-autobiographical book that laid out his racist policies. It is still in print today. But should anyone read it? And what would they find inside?

Amerigo Vespucci, a Lurid Pamphlet and the Naming of America

It pays to promote. That's how Amerigo Vespucci got a new continent named in his honor. That and a little historical misunderstanding.

Kate Warne: First Female Pinkerton Detective Thwarted Lincoln Assassination Attempt

Kate Warne was bold enough to walk into the Pinkerton Agency in 1856 and step into her role as the first female detective in U.S. history.

Aaron Burr: Yes, He Killed Hamilton, But What Else Did He Do?

Aaron Burr is perhaps best known as the man who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel, but he also served as an aide to George Washington, vice president to Thomas Jefferson and as U.S. senator from New York.