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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He is famous for assassinating Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV. But what was his motive, other than to rid the world of the man who killed President John F. Kennedy days before?

By John Donovan

Nietzsche's prose is playful, but its meaning is often opaque. Though perhaps we should expect nothing less from a philosopher who wrote, "I am not a man. I am dynamite."

By Dave Roos

Born into a family of poor sharecroppers in Mississippi, Fannie Lou Hamer became field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and an indefatigable fighter for civil and voting rights.

By Yves Jeffcoat

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And he was still growing at the time of his death. But there was a lot more to Robert Wadlow than just his extraordinary height.

By Alia Hoyt

The brief and disturbing life of Tarrare is a fascinating study of perhaps the most bizarre and disgusting eating disorder ever known, and one that remains a medical mystery some 250 years later.

By Jennifer Walker-Journey

At 91, Dolores Huerta, the activist who inspired Barack Obama's "Yes, we can" campaign, continues to work tirelessly developing leaders and advocating for the working poor, women and children.

By Tara Yarlagadda

Brazenly ambitious, he became king of Scotland and won independence from the despised English to become a legendary figure of Scottish national pride, just like William "Braveheart" Wallace.

By Dave Roos

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Some say his IQ was 50 to 100 points higher than Albert Einstein's. So why haven't you heard his name before? We'll tell you the sad tale of why this incredible genius flamed out.

By John Donovan

Muir was personally involved in the creation of Yosemite, Sequoia, Mount Rainier, Petrified Forest and Grand Canyon national parks and earned the title of "Father of Our National Park System."

By Michelle Konstantinovsky

Beulah Mae Donald's son Michael Donald (Michael left and Beulah right) was lynched by the Ku Klux Klan in Mobile, Alabama, in 1981. She fought back and took them down. Her story is now a four-part CNN Original Series.

By John Donovan

Prince Philip's marriage to Queen Elizabeth helped cement 1,000 years of European royal dynastic history. His death puts an end to that system that endured for a millennium.

By Jonathan Spangler

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The late Zofia Kielan-Jaworowska was the first woman to lead a dinosaur excavation expedition — into Mongolia's Gobi Desert no less. And her volumes of research provide most of what we know today about the evolution of modern mammals.

By Mark Mancini

Malcolm X was the leader of the Nation of Islam for more than a decade. His speeches were often militant in tone and he was labeled a firebrand by many. But was he simply misunderstood?

By Oisin Curran

Bugsy — nobody called him that to his face — Siegel was a shrewd mobster whose crew was dubbed "Murder, Incorporated" by the press. But that fast life got him killed by age 41.

By John Donovan

Frédéric Chopin gave only 30 public performances of his stunning piano works during his lifetime, but his influence on the soul of classical music was immeasurable.

By Michelle Konstantinovsky

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We may think of Thoreau as the Walden Pond hermit who penned profound books on nature and philosophy. But he was also funny and sociable and valued his friends deeply. What can we learn from some of his best quotes?

By Dave Roos

An intrepid world traveler, skilled mountaineer and noted archaeologist, Gertrude Bell broke all the rules at a time when women lived under the oppressive thumb of Victorian-era England.

By Michelle Konstantinovsky

Bass Reeves was no ordinary officer of the law. Over his three-decade career, this African American arrested more than 3,000 individuals and survived countless skirmishes with armed outlaws. In short, he was a real frontier hero.

By Dave Roos

She was the first woman to ride solo on a motorcycle across the United States, and was known as the 'Motorcycle Queen of Miami.' And that's just the beginning of her story.

By Sharise Cunningham

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Sacagawea, at around the age of 16 or 17, guided the Lewis and Clark expedition thousands of miles from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean, and in the process became a legend.

By Carrie Whitney, Ph.D.

Edgar Allan Poe was the master of the macabre, but the story of his life and mysterious death is as fascinating as his most suspenseful work of fiction.

By Carrie Whitney, Ph.D.

Galileo Galilei made huge discoveries in physics and astronomy, helping to establish the modern scientific method of experiments and mathematics. Along the way, he fought for intellectual freedom and became the first celebrity scientist.

By Patrick J. Kiger

John Smith has been described as a tireless soldier, self-promoter and publicist. In today's speak, you might even call him an influencer.

By Carrie Whitney, Ph.D.

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What did these two U.S. presidents, who were also father and son, have in common beyond their first and last names?

By Patty Rasmussen

Walt Whitman's collection of poetry, "Leaves of Grass," is considered a landmark of American literature. But the man himself — and his lasting legacy — is much more complicated.

By John Donovan