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

By Michelle Konstantinovsky

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.

By Michelle Konstantinovsky

Emmett Till would have turned 80 today. Instead his vicious kidnapping and lynching still 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?

By John Donovan

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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.

By Oisin Curran

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.

By Dave Roos

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.

By John Donovan

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.

By Wendy Bowman

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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.

By Patty Rasmussen

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.

By Carrie Whitney, Ph.D.

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?

By John Donovan

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.

By John Donovan

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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.

By Michelle Konstantinovsky

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?

By Dave Roos

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.

By Alia Hoyt

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

By John Donovan

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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.

By Nathan Chandler

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.

By John Donovan

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 misunderstand?

By Melanie Radzicki McManus

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.

By Carrie Whitney, Ph.D.

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

By Dave Roos

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.

By Dave Roos

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.

By John Donovan

Explorer Christopher Columbus died on this day in 1506, but did he really prove the world was round? Did he think he had found a new continent? And how was he perceived back home?

By Dave Roos

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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?

By Nathan Chandler

Like many other Chinese-Americans, Anna May Wong endured racism during her lifetime. But she persisted and eventually broke down barriers to become the first Chinese-American film star.

By Michelle Konstantinovsky