Some of the great Olympic runners from sprinters to middle distance and marathon runners.
Sebastian Coe (1956 – ) (Great Britain, athletics) Double Olympic gold medallist at 1500m in 1980 and 1984. Also chairman of the successful London Olympics of 2012. In 2015 became President of the IAAF, amidst dificult circumstances of doping problems in the sport.
Hicham El Guerrouj (1972 – ) (Morocco, athletics) Double Olympic gold medallist in 2004 – at 1500m and 5,000m. Set World Record for mile at 3.43.13 and 1500m of 3.26.00.
Paavo Nurmi (1897 – 1973) ( Finland, athletics) Nurmi dominated middle distance running in 1920s, winning nine Olympic gold medals and setting 22 new world records from the distance of 1500m to 20km.
Grete Waitz (1953 – 2011 ) (Norway, athletics) First women to run the marathon under two and half hours. Waitz won nine NY marathons and five gold medals at the World Cross Country championships. Waitz won silver in the inaugural female Olympic marathon of 1984. She won gold at the inaugural World Championship marathon in 1983. Read On…
Famous Olympic sprinters, including the most prolific Olympic medallists, such as Usain Bolt, Carl Lewis, Gail Devers and Jesse Owens.
Usain Bolt (1986 – ) Jamaica, athletics. Usain Bolt has set the world record for 100m and 200m. The first 100m record was set in his first Olympic final of 2008. Bolt has won triple Olympic gold at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, in the 100m, 200m and 4*100m relay.
Carl Lewis (1961 – ) American sprinter. Nine time Olympic gold medallist, Carl Lewis won gold over four Olympics (1984-1996). He won gold in the long jump for four consecutive Olympics. He won the 100m in 1984 and 1988.
Fanny Blankers-Koen (1918-2004) (Netherlands, athletics) Koen participated in 1936 Olympics, and missed the best years of her career, due to the War. But, in the 1948 London Olympics she won four gold medals at 100m, 200m, 80m hurdles and 4*100m relay.
Eric Liddell (1902 – 1945) (Scottish, athletics) Liddell represented Scotland at Rugby Union and GB athletics. He was the Olympic gold medallist at 400m (1924). His preferred distance was 100m, but he didn’t compete because it involved racing on Sundays, which conflicted with his beliefs. His life featured in the film ‘Chariots of Fire’.
Feminism is a broad range of movements and ideologies which seek to work towards greater equality between men and women. Within feminism there are different strands and emphasis, but most feminists would share the same idea of equal rights and equal opportunities.
A list of famous feminists and famous quotes.
Mary Wollstonecraft (1759 – 1797) English author, Wollstonecraft wrote the most significant book in the early feminist movement. Her tract “A Vindication of the Rights of Women” laid down a clear moral and practical basis for extending human and political rights to women.
“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.”
– Mary Wollstonecraft
Sojourner Truth (1797 – 1883) African-American abolitionist and women’s rights campaigner. In 1851, gave a famous extemporaneous speech “Ain’t I a woman?” which explained in plain language how women were essentially equal to men.
J.S. Mill (1806-1873) John Stuart Mill was a leading liberal philosopher of the Nineteenth Century. He argued for universal suffrage (extending the vote to women and all classes of people) His pamphlet The Subjection of Women (1861) was important for raising the issue of votes for women.
“the legal subordination of one sex to the other — is wrong in itself, and now one of the chief hindrances to human improvement; and that it ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no power or privilege on the one side, nor disability on the other. “
– J.S. Mill Subjection of Women (1861)
Margaret Fuller (1810 – 1850) An American women’s rights advocate. Her book Women in the Nineteenth Century (1845) was influential in changing perceptions about men and women, and was one of the most important early feminist works. She argued for equality and women being more self-dependent and less dependent on men.
“Male and female represent the two sides of the great radical dualism. But in fact they are perpetually passing into one another. Fluid hardens to solid, solid rushes to fluid. There is no wholly masculine man, no purely feminine woman… Nature provides exceptions to every rule.”
― Margaret Fuller, Women in the Nineteenth Century (1845)
A selection of people who have been prominent activists in the field of civil rights, women’s rights, animal rights and other political causes.
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) Douglass was a former slave who became committed to working for the emancipation of all slaves and ending the injustice of slavery and racism in America. He gave many stirring speeches criticising injustice and promoting the idea of a nation where all people were treated equally regardless of race, sex or religion.
Harriet Tubman (1822 – 1913) African American activist who campaigned against slavery. Tubman was born into slavery, but escaped and dedicated the rest of her life to overcoming the practise. She was active in the underground movement which sought to help free others currently enslaved. During the civil war, she served as a Union spy. After the civil war, she also spoke for women’s suffrage. Read On…
Dorothea Dix (1802 – 1887) American nurse and activist for the mentally insane. During the civil war, she served as the Superintendent of Army Nurses treating both Union and Confederate forces. She used her influenced to campaign for humane mental asylums for the insane.
Mary Seacole (1805 – 1881) – Born in Jamaica, Seacole took an active role in offering support to wounded soldiers in the Crimean War. She was of mixed race, both Scottish and Jamaican parents.
Walt Whitman (1818 – 1890) Whitman is best known as a ground-breaking American poet. During the American civil-war he also served as a nurse treating many severely injured men in field hospitals. During the course of the war, Whitman estimated in visited over 100,000 men in 600 hospitals. Whitman wrote that his nursing experience was “the greatest privilege and satisfaction . . . and, of course, the most profound lesson of my life.” His poem ‘The Wound Dresser’ is a passionate celebration of the role of nursing. Read On…
Ideas that have influenced and changed the world. This includes political ideas, such as democracy, nationalism and socialism; it also includes technological, religious, and scientific ideas and movements.
In early history, most societies were governed by a small clique of oligarchs or just one powerful king / ruler. Democracy has been a revolutionary idea that everybody in society should have a say in how they are governed, who governs them, and also gives everybody an opportunity to participate. The evolution of democracy has been a gradual process. Ancient Greece had some of the earliest experiments in participatory democracy, with writers like Aristotle sharing democratic ideas. In 1215 the King of England was forced to sign the Magna Carta – based on the important principle that the power of a king wasn’t absolute, but subject to approval by (at least some of) his subjects. It is only in the Twentieth Century that we have seen the widespread adoption of universal democracies with all adults able to vote and take part in the political system. See: People who helped shape the growth of democracy)
Independence Movements (1776)
In the Eighteenth Century the idea of empire building was well established. Major European powers took it as a natural right to increase their wealth through expanding their Empires overseas. The American Independence movement was one of the first major breaks from a colonial power. American colonies (which had previously thought themselves as British) sought independence and the right to govern themselves. Throughout the 19th and 20th Century, independence movements have been some of the most powerful political forces in the world. For example Simon Bolivar leading many Latin American countries to independence. In 1947, India gained independence from the UK, which marked the ending of the British Empire.
Through most of human history, power was largely exercised by men, with the lives of women limited to narrow spheres. It was widely believed that women were not suited to certain jobs, voting or taking part in politics. In the Nineteenth Century, the women’s suffrage movement campaigned for the right of women to have the vote. There were similar attempts for women to move into previously men only fields. For example, in the Nineteenth Century we see the first registered female doctors, lawyers and engineers. Gradually over the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries we have seen women gain increased rights and opportunities, which were previously denied. (see: Women’s rights activists)
Communism (19th and 20th Century)
Against the backdrop of Victorian Capitalism, Karl Marx and Frederich Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto, which called for a revolution to overthrow capitalism and replace it with a Communist society based on equality. The political and economic philosophy was an important feature in the Russian revolution. Communism led to a polarising of politics during the Twentieth Century, and was supported by many counties seeking liberation from colonial rule. Communism as a political force largely died out with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. (See: Famous Socialists)
A selection of over 50 books that helped to influence and change the world. These books have all had an impact on human society and human culture.
Bhagavad Gita (c. 3100 B.C) – ‘The Song of God‘ – is a classic Hindu scripture which records the discourse of Sri Krishna and Arjuna on the Battlefield of Kurushetra. Sri Krishna taught a practical spirituality that could be practised in the world and did not require world-renunciation. The philosophy of the Gita includes bhakti yoga (devotion) and karma yoga (selfless action)
The Iliad (8th Century BC) – Homer. One of the earliest surviving classics of Western literature, the Iliad is an epic poem telling the story and characters of the Trojan War – such as Achilles and King Agamemnon. The Iliad also tells of ancient Greek legends.
The Histories (c. 450 – 420s BC) – Herodotus (Greek) The Histories was one of the first major works of history – documenting the peoples and times of ancient Greece, Persia and Northern Africa. It is an important source for knowledge about those times and set an important precedent for documenting history.
The Torah (c. 600 – 400 BC) Judaism believes the Torah was received by Moses on Mount Sinai; it incorporates five main books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). It is the principle account of Jewish history, traditions and customs. It is highly influential in Judeo-Christian culture, and the five principle books were incorporated into the Bible.
The Dhammapada (c 3rd-1st Century BC) – Sayings of the Buddha. The Dhammapada is a written account of Buddha’s sayings on the spiritual life and his advice to monks. They contain the essence of Buddhism through topics, such as meditation, detachment, liberation and controlling the mind. Read On…
Hippocrates (460 – 377 BC) –- Hippocrates was a great doctor of ancient Greece. Through his careful examination of patients, treatments and success rates, he was able to vastly improve his medical treatment. Hippocrates built up one of the great libraries of medical science in Kos. He is also credited with the Hippocratic oath which is still sworn today by medical practitioners.
Paracelsus (1493 – 1541) Swiss-German physician and leading health reformer. Paracelsus founded the discipline of toxicology and pioneered the use of chemicals in treating patients. He rebelled against the medical orthodoxy of the day, emphasising practical experience rather than ancient scriptures. He was also one of the first doctors to note illnesses can be psychological in nature.
Richard Lower (1631 – 1691) English physician who pioneered work on blood transfusions. He observed the circulation of blood and how it interacted with air.
William Harvey (1578 – 1657) English physician. He was the first known doctor to describe in detail the circulation and properties of blood being pumped to the brain and body by the heart.
Benjamin Rush (1745 – 1813) American physician, social reformer and ‘American Founding Father’. Rush was a professor of medical theory, and clinical practice at the University of Pennsylvania. He pioneered improved hygiene standards in hospitals and was the principle founder of American psychiatry. He also served as Surgeon General in the Continental army.
Edward Jenner (1749 – 1823) English physician and scientist who was the pioneer of a smallpox vaccine. Jenner’s breakthrough vaccine also enabled many other vaccines to be developed.
René Laennec (1781 – 1826) French physician. Laennec invented the stethoscope – which helped improve treatment of many chest infections. He also developed an understanding of peritonitis and cirrhosis.
Elizabeth Blackwell ( 1821 – 1910) Born in Britain, Blackwell was the first women to receive a medical degree in America and the first women to be on the UK medical register. Blackwell helped to break down social barriers, enabling women to be accepted as doctors. Read On…
A list of the greatest and most influential mathematicians.
Thales (c. 624 – c.547 BC) Greek philosopher who is considered one of the first mathematicians. Thales made pioneering use of geometry to calculate height and distance. He also used deductive reasoning in creating ‘Thales’ theorem. Thales was an important figure in the ‘Scientific Revolution of Ancient Greece, which rejected the use of mythology and developed science and reason.
Pythagoras (c. 570 BC – c 495 BC) Greek philosopher, spiritual leader and mathematician. Pythagoras is believed to be one of the first Western men to describe himself as a philosopher – ‘lover of wisdom’ His philosophy was based on the mystic traditions of Egypt and Greece. He was also credited with Pythagoras theorem – about relation of triangles in geometry.
Euclid (c. 325 – 265 BC) Greek mathematician. Euclid is often referred to as the ‘father of modern geometry.’ His book ‘Elements‘ provided the basis of mathematics into the Twentieth Century.
Archimedes (287 B.C – 212) Mathematician, scientist and inventor. Archimedes made many contributions to mathematics, such as a calculation of pi, geometrical theorems and developing a concept of exponentiation for very large numbers.
Ptolemy (c. 90 – c. 168 AD) Greek / Roman mathematician, astronomer, poet and geographer. Ptolemy wrote one of the few surviving ancient works on astronomy – the Almagest.
Aryabhata (c. 476 – c. 550) Indian mathematician and astronomer. Aryabhata was influential in the development of trigonometry. In astronomy he made accurate explanations of lunar eclipses’ and the circumference of the earth. His great works include: Āryabhaṭīya and the Arya-siddhanta
Omar Khayyám (1048-1131) Persian poet, philosopher, astronomer and mathematician. Khayyam wrote an influential work on algebra – Treatise on Demonstration of Problems of Algebra (1070)
Leonardo Pisano Bigollo (1170-1250) Italian mathematician. Bigollo helped standardise the Hindu–Arabic numeral system – through his Liber Abaci (Book of Calculation) (1202). Considered the greatest mathematician of the medieval ages.
Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650) French philosopher and mathematician. Descartes made important discoveries in analytical geometry (bridging algebra and geomoetry), calculus and other fields of mathematics.
Pierre de Fermat (1601-1665) French lawyer and amateur mathematician. Fermat helped develop infinitesimal calculus. Best known for his ‘Fermat’s Last Theorem, which he described in a margin of a copy of Diophantus’ Arithmetica
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) French mathematician, philosopher and inventor. Pascal worked on projective geometry and corresponded with Pierre de Fermat on probability theory. Pascal’s Triangle is a term given to his presentation on binomial coefficients, (“Treatise on the Arithmetical Triangle”) of 1653.
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1726) English scientist. Newton made studies in mathematics, optics, physics, and astronomy. In his Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, he laid the foundations for classical mechanics, explaining the law of gravity and the Laws of Motion. In mathematics, he also studied power series, binomial theorem, and developed a method for approximating the roots of a function. Read On…
A selection of famous spiritual / religious figures and leaders. Many of these religious personalities have founded a new religion or new religious movement. In other cases, they helped to revitalise a particular religion or spiritual movement.
Sri Ramachandra (c. 7th century BC) A principle figure of the Ramayana – an important spiritual classic of Hinduism. Rama is considered to be an incarnation of Vishnu and the supreme teacher of dharma – the devotion to duty, self-control and virtue.
Sri Krishna (3/4th Century BC) – Within Hinduism, Krishna is recognised as an Avatar of Vishnu. Krishna’s teachings to Arjuna form the basis of the Bhagavad Gita, which is considered one of the most sacred texts of Hinduism. Krishna is an important object of worship within the Vaishnava tradition.
Moses (1391 BC – 1271 BC) Moses was a key prophet of the Old Testament. He received the Torah (law) on Mount Sinai, which include the Ten Commandments. Moses is a prophet within Judaism, but also Christianity and Islam.
Laozi (Lao Tsu) (c 571 BC) Laozi was a Chinese poet and philosopher. He was the author of the Tao Te Ching and the founder of philosophical Taoism. Also important figure in traditional Chinese religions.
Pythagoras (c. 570 BC – c 495 BC) Greek philosopher, spiritual leader and mathematician. Pythagoras was credited by Plato with many key ideas in maths, science, ethics and philosophy. Pythagoras was a religious leader of a secret mystical school.
Confucius (551–479 BC) Chinese philosopher and author of The Analects. Confucius shaped Chinese culture, writing about family, loyalty, virtue and respect of elders. His philosophy created Confucianism.
Zoroaster/ Zarathustra (c 550-523 BC) A prophet and spiritual teacher who founded the religion of Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster was a religious reformer teaching a monotheistic religion based on choosing between light and darkness / truth and falsehood.
Mahavira (540 BCE–468 BCE) Mahavira was an important propagator and reformer of Jainism. He helped to spread the Jain religion of non-violence across India.
Buddha (c 560BC – c 460BC) Siddharta the Buddha attained nirvana after years of meditation and spent many years teaching his philosophy of enlightenment. His teachings led to the creation of Buddhism.
Jesus Christ (around 0 AD – 32 AD) Jesus Christ was a spiritual teacher who taught a gospel of love and forgiveness. His message was spread by his disciples and it led to the birth of Christianity.
St Paul (c.5 – c. 67) – Missionary and influential early Christian. The letters of St Paul form a significant part of the New Testament. St Paul is responsible for the growth and development of Christianity as a modern religion.
Mani (216–274 AD) founder of Manichaeism, a gnostic religion of Late Antiquity. Mani taught a form of gnostic Christianity fused with elements of Buddhism and Hinduism. Manichaeism, like Zoroastrianism, stressed the battle between good and evil and the necessity for individuals to strive for purification and greater devotion.
Bodhidharma (5th or 6th century AD) Buddhist spiritual teacher who travelled from India to China and founded the branch of Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism, which focuses on meditation as a path to enlightenment.
Muhammad (c. 570 – 8 June 632) Prophet and messenger of God. The revelations he shared became the foundation of the Qu’ran and the Muslim religion. His main spiritual teachings were centred on the complete “surrender” (lit. islam) to the One God.
Adi Shankara (9th Century AD) Shankaracharya was a noted spiritual teacher and philosopher. He spread a philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, which stresses the underlying unity of creation. He also founded the Dashanami monastic order
St Francis of Assisi (1182 – 1226) St Francis devoted his life to poverty, chastity and living the truth of the Gospels. He successfully persuaded the Pope to allow the creation of a new religious order (The Franciscans) – devoted to the spirit of the gospels.
John Wycliffe (1330 -1384) Translated some of first versions of Bible into English. Wycliffe was an early critic of the Papacy and clerical power. His followers became known as Lollards and were precursors to the Protestant Reformation.
Guru Nanak (1469-1539) Spiritual Guru and founder of Sikhism. Nanak was born in a Hindu family, but taught God was beyond religious distinction and sought to teach that God was in all.
Sri Chaitanya (1486–1534) a devotee of Lord Krishna, Sri Chaitanya’s followers saw him as an incarnation of Vishnu. Sri Chaitanya taught the path of bhakti – devotional love for Sri Krishna. Chaitanya played a significant role in the revitalisation of Vaishnavism in India and Bengal in particular.
Martin Luther (1483-1546) – Sought to reform the Roman Catholic Church which he felt had been corrupted and lost its original focus. Luther was a principle figure in the Protestant reformation and growth of the Protestant tradition.
Ignatius of Loyola (1491– 1556) Basque Spanish Priest and theologian. Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) during the Counter-Reformation – emphasising absolute loyalty to the Pope and Catholic Church.
Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515 – 1582) – Spanish mystic, writer and reformer. St Terese of Avila was an influential and pivotal figure of her generation. She reformed and helped to expand the Carmelite order.
George Fox (1624 – 1691 ) Founder of the Quaker movement – known as the Religious Society of Friends. Fox was a radical religious reformer who spoke against rituals and outer prestige, developing a religion which encouraged equality, the importance of silence and using meditation as well as scripture.
Emanuel Swedenborg (1688 – 1772) Christian mystic who wrote volume on the afterlife, Heaven and Hell (1758). He advocated a version of Christianity where works count as much as faith.
Baal Shem Tov (1698–1760) Polish Jewish mystic. Founder of Hasidic Judaism. Baal Shem taught the importance of immanent spiritual experience and rejected some of the more legalistic aspects of Judaism.
John Wesley (1703-1791) – Anglican preacher and evangelist. Wesley is credited with founding the Anglican tradition of Methodism. Methodism stresses the role of social service to cultivate love of one’s fellow man.
Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758) American Christian revivalist preacher. Edwards was a leading figure in the Reformed movement of Christian evangelism which swept America in the Eighteenth Century. He gave a classic sermon – “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (1741)
Raja Rammohun Roy (1772 – 1833) Influential political and cultural activist who helped found the Brahmo Samaj. – A social / religious organisation dedicated to the revival of rational / modern Hinduism.
Brigham Young (1801 – 1877) was an American leader in the Latter Day Saint movement. He led his early Mormon followers to Salt Lake City, Utah.
Joseph Smith (1805 – 1844) Founder of Mormonism / Latter Day Saint movement. Smith published the Book of Mormon which is an important text to the Latter Day Saint Movement.
Bahá’u’lláh (1817 – 1892) Bahá’u’lláh was the founder of the Bahai Faith. Bahaism is a monotheistic faith which has roots with Shia Islam. Bahaullah is seen as the last in a line of prophets stretching from Moses, to Jesus, Muhammad and also Krishna and Buddha.
Mary Baker Eddy (1821 – 1910) Founder of Christian science – a new religious movement which believes physical illness is a mental illusion that can only be corrected through prayer.
William Booth (1829 – 1912) Booth was the founder of the Salvation Army. This was a Christian humanitarian charity which sought to help and evangelise the underprivileged sections of society.
Helena Blavatksy (1831 – 1891) Co-founder of the Theosophical movement. Blavatsky was a medium and mystic who helped develop the esoteric and philosophical society.
Sri Ramakrishna(1836 – 1886) An influential Bengali mystic and spiritual Guru. Ramakrishna followed the practises of all religions and came to the conclusion that all religions and sects could lead a man to God. The Ramakrishna Math was founded by his disciple Vivekananda.
Swami Vivekananda (1863 – 1902 ) A disciple of Sri Ramakrishna, Vivekananda helped bring yoga to the West and spoke about the underlying unity of world religions at the Parliament of World Religions (1893). Vivekananda also founded the Ramakrishna Movement or Vedanta Movement.
Sri Aurobindo(1872 – 1950 ) A spiritual Teacher, philosopher and poet. He taught an integral yoga – a yoga of world acceptance and divine surrender. His spiritual philosophy was expressed in works such as The Life Divine and Savitri.
Pope Saint John XXIII (1881 – 1963) Pope of the Roman Catholic Church (1958-63). He instigated the historic Second Vatican Council (1962–65) which introduced many new reforms for the Catholic church.
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada: (1896-1977) Founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), commonly known as the “Hare Krishna Movement”. His mission was to spread a form of Vaishnavism in the West.
Mother Teresa (1910-1997) – Albanian Catholic nun. Mother Teresa devoted her life to the care and service of the poor, especially in India where she founded her Missionaries of Charity organisation.
L Ron Hubbard (1911–1986) American science fiction writer and creator of Scientology religion.
Abbe Pierre (1912-2007) – French Catholic priest who found the Emmaüs movement, which has the goal of helping the poor, homeless and refugees.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1918- 2008) Indian spiritual Teacher, who founded the popular Transcendental meditation movement.
Pope John Paul II (1920 – 2005) Polish Pope of the Catholic Church. Pope John Paul II was an influential pope who helped define the role of the Catholic church in modern society.
Thich Naht Hanh(1926 – ) Vietnamese monk who inspired the movement of engaged Buddhism. Hanh has been a prominent peace activist and has written extensively on incorporating Buddhist teachings into everyday life.
Dalai Lama (14th) (1950 – ) The leader of Tibetans both politically and spiritually. The Dalai Lama taught the importance of loving kindness and a practical Buddhism for both Easterners and Westerners.
Pope Francis (1936 – ) The first Jesuit Pope and the first Pope from the Americas. Pope Francis has been credited with revitalising the Catholic Church by concentrating on the basic message of the Gospels, ‘selflessness, humility, charity and faith.’