Historical Figures

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


Learn More / Page 3

10 Things You Probably Don't Know About Queen Victoria

The Victorian Age gets its reputation for uptight prudishness from her, but there was a lot more to Queen Victoria than you may know.

Frances Perkins: The Unsung Creator of U.S. Social Security

FDR's secretary of labor was responsible for the important social "safety net" programs that kept Americans afloat during the dark days of the Depression and that still serve as lifelines today.

Why Emmett Till's Murder Shook the Conscience of the U.S.

The vicious kidnapping and lynching of Emmett Till stands out among the thousands of lynchings in the U.S. after the Civil War. What was it about his murder that made the world stand up and take notice?

7 Famous Folks Who Were Also Doctors

Earning a medical degree takes a lot of hard work, but sometimes destiny calls to other things. These folks abandoned their medical careers to get involved in other lines of work and make their names.

How Much Power Does Queen Elizabeth Really Have?

She can't shout 'Off with his head!' and have her order carried out. But the queen still has some special powers, most of which she's careful not to use.

The Inconvenient Truth Behind Revolutionary Icon Che Guevara

Revolutionary Che Guevara has become the personification to all those who want to defy the establishment. But his full true story is one of a ruthless killer who died a sad, unceremonious death.

9 Heavy-hitting Facts About the Greatest, Muhammad Ali

He was cocky when it came to his boxing career but charitable when it came to his heart. We're talking of course about Muhammad Ali, whose legacy shines as brightly today as his left jab once stung opponents in the ring.

Polio Doctor Jean Macnamara's Work Reminds Us That Viruses Can Be Vanquished

Dame Jean Macnamara's research helped eventually lead to the Salk vaccine for polio. Her lasting legacy as an advocate for people with disabilities still lives on today.

How Global Icon Coco Chanel Completely Reinvented Women's Fashion

Coco Chanel is a symbol for fashion and feminism. She's credited with designing the little black dress and the Chanel suit, after all. But hanging beside those in her closet were a few pretty big skeletons, too.

Chairman Mao Zedong Used Death and Destruction to Create a New China

Chairman Mao is one of history's worst despots, having murdered millions of Chinese during his communist reign. So why is he also still revered by many in that country?

How King Tut Became a Pharaonic Rock Star Only After Death

Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun didn't make much of an impression in his time on Earth, even while he was king. But in the afterlife King Tut rules.

How Gloria Steinem Became a Feminist Shero

She is the face of feminism – a revolutionary pioneer who changed the trajectory of the feminist movement. We're talking about Gloria Steinem, who has been on the front lines of the fight for equality for more than 50 years.

Why Are We Still Talking About Plato 2,100 Years Later?

The ingenious Greek, who started as a young devotee of Socrates, laid the groundwork for more than two millennia of philosophical thought. But what did he say that was so remarkable?

Why Frederick Douglass Was the Father of the Civil Rights Movement

Frederick Douglass spent the first 15 years of his life as a slave but rose to become a famous orator and abolitionist – as well as the most photographed American of the 19th century.

How Cesar Chavez United Thousands of Farmworkers and Became a Civil Rights Icon

Cesar Chavez was able to do something nobody before him could — organize abused farmworkers through nonviolent resistance. His work transformed their lives forever.

Spartacus Was a Real Gladiator and the Baddest Rebel Leader in Rome

He's been the subject of several movies and TV shows, but make no mistake, Spartacus was a real person who started a short-lived rebellion against the Roman Empire with lasting consequences.

Why John Adams Despised Being Vice President

John Adams was the first vice president of the United States, a role he thought was contrived and insignificant. But the function of the VP has changed, and Adams played a huge part in that.

What People Get Wrong About Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Parks didn't refuse to move from her bus seat because her feet were tired. "The only tired I was, was tired of giving in," she said. What else do we get wrong?

Susan B. Anthony: Suffragist, Abolitionist, Teetotaler and Renegade

Susan B. Anthony's enduring legacy is for her tireless work for women's voting rights in the United States. But there's so much more to her story than just as a suffragette.

7 Facts About Socrates, the Enigmatic Greek Street Philosopher

"The unexamined life," said Socrates, "is not worth living." So what was the life of this Athenian sage really like?

A Short History of Napoleon, the Ambitious, Charismatic Emperor of France

Statesman, military leader and Emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte was one of the most fascinating characters in European history and his height was the least of it.

7 Atrocities Soviet Dictator Joseph Stalin Committed

Joseph Stalin ruled over the Soviet Union through force, fear mongering and absolute tyranny. His acts of cruelty made him one of the 20th century's worst dictators.

7 'Facts' They Got Wrong in School About Christopher Columbus

Did Columbus really prove the world was round? Did he think he had found a new continent? And how was he perceived back home?

Why the Ghost of Andrew Jackson Haunts the Modern U.S. Presidency

While all presidents seem to wax and wane in the public consciousness, Jackson's name pops up regularly, even more so in recent years. Why does a president who died in 1845 haunt contemporary political discourse?

Chinese-American Actress Anna May Wong Fought Racism in Life and Onscreen

As the first major Chinese-American film star, it wasn't easy for Anna May Wong. But she persisted and fought against stereotypes, eventually breaking down barriers in Hollywood.