People who made a difference in health care, doctors, nurses, research scientists and those who brought in new medicine and techniques which helped save millions of lives.
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.
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.
Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910) British nurse. By serving in the Crimean war, Florence Nightingale was instrumental in changing the role and perception of the nursing profession. Her dedicated service won widespread admiration and led to a significant improvement in the treatment of wounded soldiers.
Margaret Sanger (1879-1966) – Through her work as a nurse in New York’s Lower east side in 1912, Margaret Sanger worked hard to improve birth control practice to prevent unwanted pregnancies. This groundbreaking shift in attitude led to the foundation of the American Birth Control League. Sanger is credited with playing a leading role in the acceptance of contraception.
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.
Joseph Lister (1827 – 1912) English surgeon. Lister pioneered the use of antiseptic (Carbolic acid) and antiseptic surgery which dramatically improved survival rates from major surgery. For this he is often referred to as the father of modern surgery as his use of antiseptic greatly increased the range of operations that could be carried out.
Dr. Henry Heimlich (1920 – 2016) Heimlich was an American surgeon and medical researcher. He came up with an innovative and simple procedure to help choking victims. It involves a technique of abdominal thrusts where a person stands behind and applies pressure on the diaphragm to increasingly apply pressure. It is claimed this has saved the lives of up to 50,000 people. Heimlich himself used the manoeuvre on two people, including an old lady in his nursing home. The Heimlich manoeuvre is included in guidelines for dealing with choking victims.
Maximilian Bircher-Benner (1867 – January 24, 1939) Bircher-Benner was a pioneering swiss physician and nutritionist. He advocated the eating of raw fruit and vegetables and discouraged eating meat and heavily processed foods. He also popularised eating muesli. Although he was criticised by the scientific establishment, his healthy eating ideas took off and helped create a backlash against the prevailing diet of processed bread, meat and carbs. The healthy eating trends he established pre-war, have continued to grow in popularity with more scientific research showing the health benefits of such a diet.
Sigmund Freud (1885 – 1939) Austrian /Czech physician, leading figure in the new science of psychoanalysis. Freud made an extensive study of dreams and the subconscious to try and understand better human emotions.
Christiaan Barnard (1922 – 2001) South African cardiac surgeon who performed the world’s first successful human-to-human heart transplant.
Clara Barton (1821-1912) – A nurse in the civil war, Clara Barton helped improve the treatment of wounded soldiers. After working with the international Red cross in Europe, she returned to the US where she set up the American Red Cross.
Marie Curie (1867-1934) – Curie was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry and physics. She played a key role in the development of Radiotherapy and X-Ray. During the First World War, she developed an X-Ray machine and began treating soldiers identifying breaks in bones. This has become standard practice for modern medicine.
Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) Scottish Biologist, pharmacologist and botanist who discovered penicillin. He discovered penicillin by accident but recognised its antibacterial properties. Fleming later shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine (1945) with Howard Florey and Ernst Boris Chain who succeeded in making it commercially available.
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.
Louis Pasteur – French scientist who found many important improvements in medical science, e.g. vaccination for Rabies, and a safe way to pasteurise milk.
Paul Lauterbur (1929 – 2007) Lautebur was an American chemist who with Peter Mansfield helped to develop magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which gave doctors to see inside a patient’s body without needing to cut it open. With MRI doctors can see far more than with x-ray, which is limited to bones. Awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2003.
Peter Mansfield (1933 – 2017). English physicist who with Peter Lauterbur helped to develop magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which gave doctors to see inside a patient’s body without needing to cut it open. With MRI doctors can see far more than with x-ray, which is limited to bones. Awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2003.
Sir James Young Simpson (1811 – 6 May 1870) Scottish doctor and obstetrician who discovered the use of chloroform and then demonstrated its effective use on patients. This was one of the first anaesthetics used in modern medicine. He was also a strong advocate for employing midwives to help deliver babies.
Michelle Obama (1964 – ) As First Lady 2009-2017, Obama played a high profile role in promoting better nutrition, healthy eating. In 2010, she launched an initiative “Let’s Move” which encouraged Americans to improve physical health by getting more exercise and eating healthier food.
Joan of Arc is a national heroine of France, who came from very humble surroundings to inspire the Dauphin of France to drive the British out of the country. She was initially very successful, but later was tried for witchcraft and burnt at the stake. However, seven years after her death, the British left France and she became revered as an inspired leader.
She was born in 1412 Domremy, France, the daughter of a tenant farmer and died at the age of 19.
Joan of Arc’s real name was Jehanne d’Arc. She is also known as Jeanne d’Arc (French) and at her trial, she called herself – “Jehanne la Pucelle” The Maid of Orléans. She may also have gone by the name Jehanne Vouthon.
From the age of 13, she reported hearing ‘voices from God’ – entrusting her with an important mission.
“I was thirteen when I had a Voice from God for my help and guidance. The first time that I heard this Voice, I was very much frightened; it was mid-day, in the summer, in my father’s garden. ”
– Joan of Arc from her trial transcript.
Mission to the Dauphin
There had long been a prophecy that a young female virgin would save France. This prophecy helped to build up a following for Joan of Arc.
Her mother had a dream that Joan led a band of soldiers because of this, her parents carefully watched over her – fearing one day she would leave home. Joan was outwardly obedient to her parent and when she felt it was time to leave, she took the help of her uncle.
When Joan of Arc first arrived in the court of the Dauphin in Chinon in 1428, she was initially greeted with incredulity and suspicion. She was refused a meeting with the Dauphin. However, she stayed and some locals became impressed with her honesty and fervour. Eventually, the Dauphin agreed to meet her and in a private meeting – Joan is said to have revealed something only a ‘messenger of God’ could have known. After this, the Dauphin accepted Joan of Arc and took her seriously.
The Dauphin of France was Charles de Ponthieu, he was considered weak and an ineffective rule, but after meeting Joan of Arc the fortunes of the French changed. The Dauphin was crowned King Charles VII on 17 July 1429, a year after meeting Joan of Arc.
Famous spies who operated in secret passing intelligence to different governments. Includes the exotic dancer Mata Hari and the unassuming, chain-smoking Spanish double agent ‘Garbo’ who played a key role in making Germany delay their response to D-Day.
Juan Pujol Carcia – codename ‘Garbo’ (1912 – 10 1988) – Garbo was a Spanish spy who developed a loathing to fascism and communism. At the start of the Second World War, he wished to spy against the Germans to ‘do something for humanity’. He posed as a fanatical Nazi-supporting Spanish officer and became accepted as a German agent. He supplied the Germans with reams of fictitious information and created a network of fictitious sub-agents. He was later taken on by the British and he played a key role in sending false information to the Germans during the lead up to D-Day. He would send some good information but designed to arrive too late. The Germans were so impressed with his virtual spy network they stopped trying to recruit spies in England. His main contribution was to help fool Germany into thinking the main invasion would be at Calais and not Normandy. He was so admired by his German handlers, he received the Iron Cross from Germany and an MBE from the British.
Sidney Reilly (1873 – 1925) A Russian who became famous for his espionage activities. He was a charismatic figure known for his womanising ways and love of leisure. He began spying for Russian in the 1890s on the even of Russo-Japanese War. After the Bolshevik Revolution, he became an agent for the British and supported a plot to overthrow Lenin’s Communist government. He was tried in absentia and executed in 1925. It is claimed he spied at various times for the four major powers of Russia, Japan, Germany and the UK. His activities were fictionalised by Bruce Lockhart and he became known as the “Greatest spy in history”. It is said Ian Fleming based the character of James Bond on Reilly.
Guy Burgess (1911-1963). Cambridge student who became a committed Communist and a spy for the Soviet Union. He joined the Foreign Office in 1944 and as confidential secretary, he gained access to thousands of confidential documents, that he passed on to the Soviet Union. He was also the second secretary to the British Embassy in Washington. With suspicion falling on him, he fled to the Soviet Union in 1951. His defection and treachery let to a major disruption in UK/Soviet relations.
Kim Philby (1912 – 1988). Philby was recruited by Soviet intelligence in 1934. The Soviets considered using Philby to assassinate General Franco, though this plan was dropped. By the end of the Second World War, he was a high ranking member of British intelligence and gained a position as First Secretary to the British Embassy in Washington. He passed large quantities of confidential information to the Soviets, such as a UK/US plot to undermine the Communist government of Albania. Philby tipped off his fellow Cambridge spies Maclean and Burgess in 1951. Suspicion over Philby lingered until 1963 when he was revealed to be conclusively a Russian spy, he fled to the Soviet Union where he lived in comfortable surroundings.
Francis Walsingham (1532 – 1590) Walsingham was known as the first ‘spymaster’ who was responsible for keeping Queen Elizabeth I informed by all domestic and foreign intelligence issues. In particular, he was a zealous Protestant and sought intelligence on practising Catholics. He was able to entrap Mary Queen of Scots finding evidence that she supported a plot to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I. He also received information about Spanish plans to prepare for the invasion of England.
Richard Sorge (1895-1944) German journalist who became a dedicated Communist and spied for the Soviet Union against the axis powers. During the First World War, he fought for Germany, but after becoming severely injured became a committed Communist. He started working as a secret agent for the Soviet Union and maintained a front as an ardent Nazi. He was sent to Japan, where he gained secrets from Japanese officers and was able to warn Stalin of the imminent invasion of Germany and more importantly that Japan intended to invade South East Asia and not Russia. This enabled Stalin to move troops from the east to the defence of Moscow. He was captured by the Japanese and executed in 1944.
John Walker (1937. A US naval officer who spied for the Soviet Union from 1968 to 1985, selling state secrets to fund his gambling debts. He is said to have earned over $1 million. It is estimated that he passed over one million encrypted naval messages and significantly helped the Soviet navy. He also betrayed Soviet double agent Oleg Gordievsky and led to a breech in UK/US intelligence relations. Read On…
A list of Famous Outlaws who committed numerous crimes and went on the run from the law.
Billy The Kid (1859 – 1881) It is said that Henry McCarty who took the nickname ‘Billy the Kid’ killed 21 people, for each year of his life. This included his first killing at the age of 12. He was convicted of four murders, including two officers of the law. He was tried and convicted in April 1881, but escaped before his execution – shooting two officers in the process. He went on the run for two months before being shot by Sheriff Pat Garret on 14 July 1881. Billy the Kid is seen as emblematic of the notorious American Old West and that era of lawlessness.
Butch Cassidy (1866 – 1908). Butch Cassidy led a notorious criminal career. He started out with petty crimes before progressing to major bank robberies. He created a criminal gang known as the Wild Bunch which included including Kid Curry and Harry Longabaugh a.k.a. the “Sundance Kid” They became famous for the huge sums they managed to steal over $200,000. In 1901, Cassidy and Longabaugh fled to Argentina to escape law enforcement agencies. They were discovered in 1908, and were killed in a shoot out with soldiers and law enforcement officers.
Robin Hood (13th Century) A famous legend of an outlaw who – “stole from the rich and gave to the poor” – fighting the Sheriff of Nottingham and fighting back against the unjust ruler of usurper Prince John. The legends say Robin Hood created a ‘band of men’ who worked together in Sherwood Forest to evade capture and plan raids on the rich and powerful. Difficult to know how much is a legend and how much is true but some stories may be based on factual events and outlaws who lived outside the law in the 13th and 14th century.
Sam Bass (1851 – 1878) – Bass was an Old West robber and outlaw who pulled off major robberies and heist. After squandering his wealth on gambling he took to crime and began holding up stagecoaches and later trains. He was part of a gang which stole $60,000 ($1.4 million) from a train on the Union Pacific Railroad. It was the first large scale train robbery in America. Buoyed by his success, he grew greedy for more and continued to hold up stagecoaches and trains, but this led to the Texas Rangers beginning a manhunt for Bass and his gang. He was eventually caught and died from gunshot wounds.
Thomas Dun (12th Century) – An outlaw in Bedfordshire and Yorkshire around 12th Century. Dun was notorious for launching highway robberies and terrorising people on the road. He was particularly active on the Great North Road and was said to be a master of disguise. He escaped justice for 20 years, in part because of sympathies of the local peasants who Dun was generous to.
Henry Plummer (1832-1864). Henry Plummer was a prospector, lawman and in 1863 he became a sheriff in Montana and helped to clean up crime in the area. He cleared up all crime except a notorious highway robbery gang called the “Innocents” who Henry Plummer was the secret leader of. Eventually caught, Henry was sent to the gallows.
Juro Janosik (1690-1713) – Described as the Slovak Robin Hood. He served in the Hapsburg army before deserting and becoming the leader of a bandit gang who stole from Hapsburg officials distributing some to local peasants. His life as a criminal was expanded as he became mythologised to represent a symbol of resistance to oppression
Jesse James (1847-1882) On the outbreak of civil war, Jesse James joined a confederate guerrilla army which terrorised the north. He was accused of atrocities against Union soldiers and abolitionist campaigners. After the war, Jesse James led a gang of outlaws which robbed banks, trains and stagecoaches. Despite the violence of their crimes, he became a public celebrity and a high price was put on his head. He was shot by a fellow gang member Robert Ford seeking the high price on Jesse James’ head.
Bonnie and Clyde – Bonnie Parker (1910 – May 23, 1934) and Clyde Barrow (1909 – May 23, 1934) – A pair of lovers who became famous in depression hit America as they travelled through America holding up banks and being involved in many crimes. They robbed numerous small stores and gas stations and they were believed to have killed 13 people including several police officers. Their exploits were covered in the national press and it led to a major manhunt. They were killed in a shoot-out with police in May 1934 in Louisiana.
Dick Turpin (1705 – 1739). Famous English highwayman. He was a poacher, burglar and horse thief and later took to being a highwayman on the London to York road. In 1735, some of his gang members were arrested, so Dick Turpin went into hiding and assumed a pseudonym John Palmer. However, his lavish lifestyle raised suspicions and he was arrested in York on suspicion of horse theft. He was executed on 7 April 1739 in York. His life was later romanticised in a novel by William Harrison Ainsworth 100 years after his death, the novel depicted Dick Turpin making a 200 mile overnight ride on his horse, Black Bess.
Al Capone (1899-1947) American gangster who rose to fame during the prohibition era. He was an uncompromising boss of the Chicago Outfit – behind the St Valentine’s Day Massacre. Eventually convicted of income tax evasion. Capone is an iconic representative of the mafia mobster and the dark side of the ‘Roaring Twenties’.
Famous lawyers – A list of great lawyers. Men and women who either achieved fame as a lawyer or who went on to become famous in another field. Includes Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Clinton, Shirin Ebadi, Thurgood Marshall.
Controversial people A list of people who have courted controversy or whose opinions have divided the world.
A list of famous firsts throughout human history. Including famous firsts in exploration, science, transport, politics, sport, culture and the arts.
First in Exploration
1492 – Reach AmericaChristopher Colombus becomes the first European from a major power to land in the Americas (now the Bahamas). Columbus was probably preceded by others, such as the Viking Leif Erikson in the 10th Century.
1498 – 1st European to reach India by sea. In 1498, Vasco de Gama became the first European to successfully sail around the Cape of Good Hope and reach the east coast of India.
1519 – 1st Circumnavigation of the globe. In 1519, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan completed a circumnavigation of the world by boat.
1773 – Cross the Antarctic CircleCaptain James Cook – becomes the first person to cross the Antarctic Circle.
1911 – South Pole. 14th December – Roald Amundsen (Norway) first person to reach the South Pole.
1919 – First transatlantic flight by John Alcock and Arthur Brown. They flew from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Clifden, Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. They flew in a First World War Vickers Vimy bomber
Amundsen at the South Pole
1926 – North Pole. – Roald Amundsen (Norway) recognised as being the first person to reach the North Pole.
1927 – New York to Paris flight. Charles Lindbergh – 1st nonstop transatlantic flight from New York to Paris. 3,600-statute-mile (5,800 km) in a time off 33.5 hours. A flight that gained more media coverage than that by Alcock and Brown in 1919.
1932 –1st Transatlantic solo flight by a womanAmelia Earhart succeeded in completing the first transatlantic solo flight by a woman. Flying from Newfoundland to Ireland in 15 hours.
1712 – 1st Steam Engine. Developed by Thomas Newcomen. Later improved by James Watt in 17
1790 – 1st US Patent Samuel Hopkins became the holder of US Patent #1. He patented a process for making potash and pearl ashes.
1798 – First Vaccine. Edward Jenner developed a vaccine for smallpox which killed around 10% of the UK population. This led to the development of many more vaccines.
1800 – 1st Battery. Alessandro Volta an Italian physicist developed the first battery which gave a steady current using copper and zinc
1832 – 1st Electricity generator. Michael Faraday (England) and Joseph Henry (US) built models for electricity generators.
1836 – 1st Telegraph message – Samuel Morse developed morse code to send messages over telegraph wires.
1837 – 1st Stamp. Rowland Hill in UK invents a way for people to pre-pay for postage.
1862 –1st use of Plastic. Alexander Parkes (develops) plastic made from heated cellulose.
1895 1st RadioG. Marconi – displays first radio – which uses radio airwaves for sending out audio recordings.
1925 – 1st Television. John Logie Baird displays the first moving pictures on a tv.
1929 – 1st Antibiotic. Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin which has anti-biotic properties.
1938 – Splitting the atom – Nuclear fission was first discovered by German Otto Hahn. It showed the potential energy which can occur when an element like uranium is split into different elements.
1971 –1st Email. Ray Tomlinson (US) developed the first electronic communication message between two computers.
1982. – 1st Internet protocol. TCP/IP
1990 – 1st Internet browser – the World Wide Web – Tim Berners Leed developed the World Wide Web (WWW)
Firsts in Sport
490 BC – 1st Marathon. Greek legend says that Pheidippides, a Greek messenger ran from the battle of Marathon to Athens to declare Greece had won. (and collapsed and died after delivering the message.)
1896 – 1st Olympic games. Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin (French) – Organises the 1st Modern Olympic games.
1896 – 1st Olympic marathon was won by Spyridon Louis, in 2:58:50 on 10 April
1872 – 1st F.A. Cup Final. 16 March 1872 Wanderers beat Royal Engineers in the first F.A. Cup final, at the Kennington Oval. The first major football competition to be played.
1875 – Swim English Channel. Matthew Webb (GB) becomes the first person to swim across the English Channel.
1903 – Tour de France. Maurice Garin (France) wins the 1st Tour de France winner.
1930 – World Cup. 30 July. Uruguay becomes the first country to win the first World Cup, held in Uruguay.
1954 – Sub four-minute mile. 6 May – Roger Bannister (GB) becomes the 1st person to run a mile race in under four minutes (3 minutes 59.4 seconds). He broke the four-minute barrier at Iffley Road, Oxford on the. His time was
1968 – 100m under 10 seconds. Jim Hines (US) – First person to run 100m under 10 seconds (9.95)
1969 – 1000th football goal. 19 November Pelé scored his 1000th goal in all competitions. Becoming the first and only player to reach that milestone.
1984 – First women’s Olympic Marathon. Joan Benoit (US) wins first women’s Olympic Marathon in a time of 2 hours 24 minutes and 52 seconds.
2012 – 100m and 200m titles. – Usain Bolt (Jamaica) becomes the first athlete in history to retain the Olympic 100m and 200m titles after winning previous 2008 games. He went on to win another three gold medals at the 2016 Olympics
2019 – First sub two-hour marathon. Eliud Kipchoge (Kenya) ran the first marathon under two hours in a time of one hour 59 minutes 40 during a special event in Vienna, Austria.
Firsts in Culture
105 –Paper.Cai Lun (China) credited with the first papermaking process
1440 – Printing PressJohannes Gutenberg (Germany) invents the world’s first printing press which enables the mass production of books.
1455 – The Gutenberg Bible was the first major book printed in Europe with movable metal type by Johannes Gutenberg.
1597 – First Opera. Jacopo Peri (Italy) writes the world’s first opera in Florence in Italy. It was called Dafne.
1623 – 1st Folio of William Shakespeare. William Shakespeare’s First Folio publishes 36 of Shakespeare’s plays.
1917 – 1st Jazz music Original Dixieland Jazz band make first ‘jazz’ recording “Livery Stable Blues”
1920 – 50 Home runs in a season. Babe Ruth becomes the first player to hit 50 home runs in a season – changing the game of baseball into a big-hitting game
1927 – Talking picture. Al Jolson is the main star of the first talking movie – “The Jazz Singer.”
1939 – 1st televised presidential address.Franklin D. Roosevelt – 1st US president to speak on television.
1955 – 1st African American US Television host Nat King Cole – 1st African American US Television host on “The Nat King Cole Show”
2000 – Ebook readers. Amazon and Microsoft collaborate to make available one of the first ebook readers. Also, free software Glassbook ebook reader for PC is launched.
2007 – Smartphone. Apple launch first iPhone, a device that changes the way people use computers and phones.
First in Transport
1817 – 1st prototype of a bicycle. Karl von Drais (Germany) builds the first ‘wooden horse’ a prototype for the modern bicycle (though there were no pedals on this wooden horse)
1830 – 1st Railway George Stephenson builds the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The world’s first major inter-city railway.
1837 – 1st Transatlantic SteamshipIsambard Kingdom Brunel launches the ‘Great Western’, – the first steamship to engage in transatlantic service
1885 – 1st Bicycle. John Kemp Starley produced the first successful “safety bicycle” – which is close to the standard used by bicycles today.
1885/86 1st Internal combustion engine. – Karl Benz built and tested the world’s first purpose-built car powered by an internal petrol combustion engine
1887 – Pneumatic tyre John Dunlop invents the first practical pneumatic tyre, first used on bicycles and later on motor cars
1892 – 1st Diesel engine Rudolf Diesel (German) patents his first diesel engine for the motor car
1961 – 1st to Travel in space. Yuri Gagarin (Russian) becomes the first man to travel to outer space – completing an orbit of the earth on 12 April 1961.
1963 – 1st Woman in Space. Valentina Vladimirovna Tereshkova – Russian cosmonaut becomes the 1st woman in space.
1969 – 1st to Land on the Moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin become first men to walk on the moon as part of the Apollo moon landing programme
1553 – 1st Queen of England. Queen Mary I – 1st reigning queen of England.
1762 – 1st female newspaper editor. Ann Franklin – 1st woman to hold the title of a newspaper editor, “The Newport Mercury” in Newport, RI.
1608 – Juliana Morell (Spanish nun) First woman to earn a doctorate degree – Doctor of Laws degree
1849 – 1st Female Doctor in US. Elizabeth Blackwell – 1st woman to receive a medical degree in US. (from the Medical Institution of Geneva, N.Y.)
1865 – 1st UK female doctorElizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836 – 1917) – Britain’s first qualified female doctor. She passed the medical exam and obtained a licence (LSA) from the Society of Apothecaries. She set up her own medical practice. In 1873 was the first women to be admitted to the British Medical Association (BMA)
1869 – 1st Female Lawyer (US) Arabella Mansfield (US) 1st American woman lawyer. A year later, Ada H. Kepley, of Illinois, graduates from the Union College of Law in Chicago. She is the first woman lawyer to graduate from a law school.
1875 – 1st women to receive a degree. Stefania Wolicka, first women to receive honours degree in the modern era – from the University of Zurich in 1875.
1893 – First Female mayor in British Empire. Elizabeth Yates (NZ) elected Mayor of Onehunga, the first female mayor in the British Empire. In that year, Women given the vote in New Zealand, a first for modern democracies.
1894 – 1st African-American women to be a mainstream journalist. Ida Wells becomes the first African-American women in US to write for a white, mainstream newspaper (Daily Inter-Ocean), where she denounced practise of lynching
1911 – 1st to winTwo Nobel prizesMarie Curie becomes the 1st person ever to win two Nobel Prizes. Curie received Nobel Prizes in Physics (1903) and the second in Chemistry (1911) She was also the first women to receive Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry.
1972 – 1st Women – sportsperson of the year. Billy Jean King – named Sports Illustrated ‘sportsperson of the year’ – becoming the first women to be given the honour.
1975 – 1st woman to climb Mt Everest. Junko Tabei (Japan) — 1st woman to reach the summit of Mt. Everest.
1988 – Benazir Bhutto – 1st Female Prime Minister of Pakistan, and first female Prime Minister of Muslim country. 1st women to give birth whilst Prime Minister.
1306, 1st laws to protect from pollution. the English king Edward I passed laws limiting coal burning in London due to smog and pollution.
1780 1st philosophical defence of environment. Jeremy Benthum, wrote An Introduction to Principles of Morals and Legislation which was first major philosophic argument in defense of argued for animal rights.
1970 1st World Earth Day – 22nd April – The first World Earth Day – raising awareness of environmental issues.
2015 – 1st School Strike. Nov. Around the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, an independent group of students advocated an international school strike.
A selection of female spies who risked their lives to enter enemy territory and gain information or aid spy networks.
Nancy Wake. Born in New Zealand, Wake was in France at the start of WWII. She drove an ambulance during the Battle of France, then with her French husband, served in an escape ring for Allied serviceman. She was very successful in escaping capture, the Gestapo suspected her and called her the “White mouse” In 1943, she herself escaped to Britain, where she received training by the SOE and was parachuted back in to support the Marquis uprising against the Germans in 1944.
Odette Sansom – British SOE operative. Worked in the French resistance. In 1942, she travelled to France by boat and was responsible for looking after members of the Spindle Resistance Group. In 1943, the resistance group was discovered by the Germans and she was arrested and tortured. Despite her toenails being pulled out, she stuck to her story that she was related to Winston Churchill. She was sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp where, despite brutal treatment, she managed to survive the war. She was later awarded the George Cross and Legion d’honneur.
Noor Inayat Khan. (1914 – 1944) British spy during World War 2. Khan was the daughter of Indian Sufi mystic and musician Hazrat Inayat Khan. She was brought up in England and France. After the fall of France, she escaped back to England and volunteered for the British SOE – despite her pacifist ideals, she felt a duty to fight Hitler. She worked as a radio operator in occupied France (the most dangerous jobs in the resistance). After operating in the field she was betrayed and arrested by the Gestapo. She was tortured and, after failed escape attempt executed at Dachau concentration camp.
Edith Cavell (1865 – 1915) British nurse who found herself in Belgium when it was overrun by the German army. In her position as a nurse, she helped many British prisoners of war escape occupied Belgium and return to England. She was also quite outspoken in criticising the Germany occupation. Eventually, she was arrested on charges of ‘treason’ and despite international condemnation, she was executed by the Germans in 1915. Cavell wasn’t really a spy, but a pioneering nurse who sought to help prisoners of war escape.
Mata Hari (1876-1917) – Hari came from neutral Netherlands but had extensive contact with men from across Europe – both German, French and English. She was famed for her beauty, dancing and promiscuous ways. In reality, she probably did very little, if any spying. he was arrested by the British in 1916, who were convinced she worked for the French. She was later arrested in 1917 by the French authorities. At the time there was much fear about German spies in France. On flimsy evidence, she was found guilty of spying and ‘causing the death of 50,000 Frenchmen’ and executed by firing squad. There is considerable doubt as to her guilt. She is said to have said before her execution ‘Harlot yes, but traitor, never’
Rose O’Neal Greenhow (1817-1864) Rose O’Neal was a spy for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. She lived in Washington when the civil war broke out. However, she used her contacts and knowledge to pass on information about the Union forces to the Southern armies. The Confederate Presidency Jefferson Davis credited her information with helping their victory in the First Battle of the Bull Run. In 1862, she was arrested for espionage activities along with her daughter and she was deported to the south. She drowned in 1864 off the coast of North Carolina.
Andrée Borrel (1919 – 1944) Frenchwoman who joined the French resistance under the guise of the SOE. In 1942, she was one of the first female agents to be parachuted back into France. She worked on the Prosper circuit in Paris, helping to organise weapon drops, sabotage and information. Arrested in June 1943, she maintained a dismissive silence to her captors and gave nothing away. She was later executed at Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp.
Sonia Olschanezky (1923 – 1944) Jewish German woman who was a member of the French Resistance during World War II. She was a member of SOE Juggler network in occupied France. She took part in sabotage and blowing up of trains and passing messages between different resistance groups. She was captured and executed in 1944.
Vera Leigh (1903 – 1944) Leigh was born in Leeds, England and was in France in 1940. For two years she helped Allied airmen and refugees escape to Spain. She later volunteered for SOE and worked in French Resistance. She served as a courier for the Donkeyman and Inventor circuit. She was betrayed by double agent and executed at Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp.
Diana Rowden (1915 – 1944) Rowden served in SOE. She was parachuted into France in 1943 and she worked as courier delivering messages to the French resistance, mostly by bicycle. She also co-ordinated the dropping of materials from the air. Resistance colleagues noted she was ‘without fear’. But, in 1944 she was betrayed and later executed.
Violette Szabo (1921 – 45) Born in Paris, France, British female agent sent to occupied France during World War. She was arrested on her second mission in occupied France, she was sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp where she was executed. Posthumously, she became the second women to be awarded the George’s Cross.
Military figures – Famous military leaders and soldiers, including Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Ataturk, Erwin Rommel, Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower.
People of the Second World War (1939-45) Influential leaders, generals and civilians who caused, influenced and fought during the Second World War. Including; Hitler, Churchill, Stalin, Roosevelt, Truman, Emperor Hirohito, Eisenhower, Rommel and De Gaulle.
Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern was born 26 July 1980 and from 26 Oct 2017, she became the youngest female Prime Minister of New Zealand. She is the third female prime minister New Zealand has had.
New Zealand was the first democracy to grant women the vote after a large petition was gathered in 1893. Her great, great grandmother Kate Wiltshire signed the 1893 petition demanding votes for women. (NZ history) Kate Wiltshire was an excellent long-distance walker who completed walk-races and claimed the title ‘The Greatest Female Pedestrienne in the World’
Jacinda Ardern grew up on an apple orchard in Murupara. She learned to drive a tractor before she could drive a car.
She was raised a Mormon in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She left the church in her mid 20s, as she felt their teachings were incompatible with her own beliefs, especially those on gay rights.
Her first job was at a fish and chip shop in Morrinsville called the ‘Golden Kiwi’. She recounts one experience where a contemporary from school robbed the till when she was out the back but when she met him at a party she got his telephone number and gave it to the police.
Photo: Ulysse Bellier-cc-by-2.0
In 1999, she left her job at the fish and chip shop to work full time for the New Zealand Labour Party in the general election.
One job she held for a short while was working as a DJ at Auckland’s Laneway Festival.
Aged 17 she spent six months volunteering in a soup kitchen in New York, where she served food to the homeless.
She served as policy adviser for the UK government in 2008, even though she was critical of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair due to his decision to invade Iraq.
President of the International Union of Socialist Youth
In 2008, the year of the financial crisis she was elected President of the International Union of Socialist Youth, and later in the year, was elected for the first time to the New Zealand parliament.
Giving birth as Prime Minister
On 21 June 2018 Ardern became only the second elected leader in the world (after Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto) to give birth while in office. Bhutto was dismissed from office seven months later.
For the first six months, she continued to breast-feed her new child, Neve and took her with her partner on official business. In 2018, she became the first leader to bring their child to a United Nations meeting. Three-month-old Neve sat in as Ardern gave a speech to the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit.
In 2019, she met Steve Colbert for a special segment on his tv show. Ardern met Colbert at the airport and made several interesting revelations, such as how she applied to be an extra in “Lord of the Rings” but was not accepted. Jacinda also talked about how she passed gun control after the Christchurch massacre.
Ardern is keen to promote frugality in government. She encourages ministers to carpool to events and has announced pay freezes for MPs. In 2020, she announced a 20% cut in pay for herself and cabinet ministers in response to the Covid-19 economic crisis.
As Prime Minister, she has sought to divert resources to those areas which do most to increase well being. This has included funds to reduce child poverty, funds for mental health and funds to combat domestic violence.
Audiences with children
In a departure from previous approaches, Ardern has sought to deal with difficult issues in audiences specifically with young children. For example in 2020, explaining the impact on Covid lockdowns on Easter egg hunts and the tooth fairy.
Early response to Covid
In 2020, Ardern’s government was one of the first to issue lockdown orders. Ardern locked country down saying “We go hard, we go early.” in contrast to other countries who sought to ‘flatten the curve’ she sought to ‘eliminate the virus’ completely. Death rates in the early months of 2020 were significantly lower than in other countries.
In 2019, she made a keynote speech to the United Nations on Global Warming stating that “If we are to overcome the extraordinary threat that climate change poses we all must start with an honest appraisal of our current situation.” In 2019, she helped pass through NZ parliament a zero-carbon bill which commits the country to new climate change laws and to reduce its carbon emissions to zero by 2050
In 2018, Ardern travelled to Waitangi for the annual Waitangi Day. A key part of NZ history were early settlers signed an agreement with Maori chiefs. She stayed five days and was the first female leader to be invited to speak at the marae (meeting ground). She fave the first 49 seconds of her speech in te reo, the Māori language.
She doesn’t drink coffee.
She is distant cousins of Shane Ardern a National MP and on the opposite side of the political spectrum.
She had a ginger-and-white polydactyl cat named Paddles, who became the nation’s First Cat until the cat was run over and killed by a car.
Her babies name Neve Te Aroha. Neve is derived from the Irish Niamh (meaning bright) Aroha is a Maori word for love and Te Aroha is a mountain near Ardern’s home town.
Her partner is Clarke Timothy Gayford who is a tv presenter and has presented a tv show ‘Fish of the Day’
She has called capitalism a ‘blatant failure’ for the levels of homelessness.
Women who changed the world – Famous women who changed the world. Features female Prime Ministers, scientists, cultural figures, authors and royalty. Includes; Cleopatra, Princess Diana, Marie Curie, Queen Victoria, and Joan of Arc.
Female biographies – A list of 100 famous women from Sappho and Cleopatra to Marilyn Monroe and Angela Merkel.
Sir Edmund Hillary, along with Sherpa Tenzing was the first person to climb Mount Everest – the world’s highest peak – in May 1953. The news was released on the morning of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation.
In his diary many years, Tenzing said Hillary reached the top of Mount Everest first, though there was no competitive feeling between the two. FOr many years they kept a pact that they did not reveal who was ‘first’ They climbed with a sense of oneness and friendship. Hillary had made a determined effort to become friendly with Tenzing and the two became life-long friends, though ironically when they met never talked about the Everest expedition, only their families
“After the expedition, Tenzing and I spent quite a lot of time together, but we never, ever, talked about the climb up Everest. I don’t know why.” (NYT)
On top of Mount Everest, Hillary went to shake the hand of Tenzing, and Tenzing responded by warmly embracing him. They spent 15 minutes at the summit. Hillary took photos of Tenzing and down the mountain. There are no photos of Hillary at the summit as he wasn’t sure Tenzing had ever used a camera. Describing his experience of reaching the summit, Hillary said
“I felt a quiet glow of satisfaction spread through my body — a satisfaction less vociferous but more powerful than I had ever felt on a mountain top before.”
Before the Second World War, Hillary had said to a friend that “I will climb Mount Everest” – but at the time, there was uncertainty over whether it was possible. For many decades climbers had dreamt of scaling the world’s highest peak, but many had died in their failed attempt to reach it. Hillary later said, he was very lucky to be able to complete his dream. Describing the view from the top he said
“The whole world around us lay spread out like a giant relief map… “I am a lucky man. I have had a dream and it has come true, and that is not a thing that happens often to men.” (NY Times)
On the 1953 British expedition, there were 350 porters, 20 sherpas and ten climbers. From these ten climbers, there were three teams of two who would be chosen to go from the final camp to the summit. The first pair to make an attempt on the summit were Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans. But, they were forced back only 101 metres short of the summit on 26 May. Three days later Hillary and Tenzing made their successful climb.
View of Mount Everest
In 1960, Hillary organised the expedition which led to the first successful ascent of Everest without oxygen. Griffith Pugh climbed to the top after spending many months acclimatising at altitude.
During the 1960 expedition, Hillary also investigated the legend of the ‘abominable snowman’ or great yeti. Hillary found rational explanations for the feared legend.
South pole. In 1958, Hillary reached the south pole as part of the Commonwealth-Trans-Antarctic Expedition. They reached the south pole by motor vehicles and were the first cross-land expedition since Amundsen and Scott pre-WWI.
North Pole. In 1985, he flew to the North Pole with a party that included Neil Armstrong (first man on the moon), Steve Fossett — (first man to fly a balloon around the world) — and Patrick Morrow — (the first person to climb the highest peaks of all seven continents) It made Edmund Hillary the first person to attain the ‘Three Poles Challenge” – Everest, North pole, south pole.
Source of the Ganges – In 1977, he took an expedition from the mouht of the Ganges, to its source in the Himalays.
Hillary’s first experience of climbing mountains came in 1935, when aged 16, he went on a school trip to Mount Ruapehu. This trigged a life-long love of high mountains.
Hillary didn’t like using the term ‘conquer’ mountains. He felt it was better to describe as completing the ascent. After climbing Everest, like the Sherpa tradition, he was grateful to the mountain for allowing a successful ascent.
“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”
In New Zealand, he spent three days looking after young women Ruth Adams, who slipped 20m and broke her arm. Hillary dug an ice cave until a rescue mission could be launched. Hillary believed in the importance of safe and forceful climbing.
“I’ve always hated the danger part of climbing, and it’s great to come down again because it’s safe,”
After climbing Everest, Hillary thought no one would ever want to do it again. The opposite happened with many thousands now ascending on routes made easier with steps. He has criticised the commercialisation of climbing Mount Everest and feels it is not like the mountaineering of old
As a youngster, he had great insecurity about his physique. His physical training teacher looked at him with contempt. Hillary said, “I developed a feeling of inferiority about my physique which has remained with me to this day, not about what [it] could achieve but a solid conviction about how appalling I looked.” However, a late growth spurt and realisation he was stronger than others when climbing helped to boost his esteem.
After his successful climb of Everest, Hillary devoted much of his time to the Himalayan Trust which built schools, hospitals and airstrips in Nepal. Hillary later received honourary citizenship for Nepal in recognition of his lifelong love of the country.
After dropping out of college he became a beekeeper. The business was started by his father and his mother was known for breeding ‘Queen bees’ During a working day he could be stung several times by bees. After looking after bees in the summer, he concentrated on climbing in the winter.
For a time, he followed a spiritual group called “Radiant Living” this was the forerunner of new age movements, with an emphasis on vegetarian diet, eating fruit and veg, physical exercise and positive attitude. Hillary became a teacher for the group a short while.
For a time Hillary was a pacifist – influenced by the Radiant Living movement. He initially applied to join NZ air force in 1939 but withdrew his application because of pacifist beliefs. By 1943, he had lost his pacifism and joined the RNZAF for the remainder of the war.
Hillary did not follow a particular religion, but he had an interest in all main religions, especially Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism of Nepal and India.
“I have no particular religious beliefs at all, but I am interested in all religions… I think that we have to learn to choose our own path, to make our own way, and in many ways, to overcome our own problems.”
A couple of months after climbing Everest, he became engaged to Louise Mary Rose – who was 11 years younger. She was 23, he was 34. He was so nervous about proposing, he asked his future mother-in-law to do it on his behalf. He later said the marriage was ‘the most sensible action that I have ever taken’
His first wife Louise, tragically died in a plane crash in 1975, along with his daughter Belinda. They were travelling in Nepal to help Hillary build a hospital.
Hillary died on 11 January 2008, at the age of 88, He died of heart failure at Auckland City Hospital. Most of the ashes were scattered in the Hauraki Gulf in Auckland, while some were sent to a Nepalese monastery near Mount Everest.
After Everest, Hillary received innumerable awards and praise by the media, including a knighthood. He found the attention difficult and when seeing a big crowd appear for his return to Auckland, he commented to a friend “Gosh this is going a bit far”
In 1992, he became the first living Kiwi to be featured on a banknote. Hillary insisted that the mountains in the background be of NZ mountains rather than Everest. And when being told of the honour he wryly remarked – does this mean I have to be respectable for the rest of my life?
He was named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the twentieth century.
Simon Bolivar was responsible for liberating the modern-day countries of Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. He is one of the very few people who have had a country named after them.
His parents died when he was young and he was brought up by a family slave called Hipolita. He described Hipolita as the ‘only mother I have known.
During the movement for independence, 696 battles were fought using on average 1,400 men. Bolivar often acted as a military leader and sometimes left to his chief commander Antonio Jose de Sucre.
Bolivar married in 1801, but his wife Maria died early the next year from yellow fever. Bolivar was so upset he vowed never to marry again, which he didn’t. He did have several lovers.
When Bolivar was only 22 years old, he got down on his knees and made a vow to his friend Alexander von Humboldt that he would lead his people to freedom. He was standing on Monte Sacro, Rome – a hill famous for being the scene of a popular uprising of poor Romans against the upper-class.
Bolivar was at the coronation of Napoleon, and he was impressed with the adulation Napoleon received. Bolivar couldn’t hide the fact he wanted to be a great hero. He loved to receive praise and flattery.
On 5 July 1811, the national congress of Venezuela declared its independence. Bolivar was overjoyed and to mark the occasion of Venezuela’s freedom he made the decision to free all the slaves in his family. (at a time when slavery was important to the economy)
In 1815, he fled to Jamaica where he wrote one of his most powerful words on freedom
“A people that love freedom will in the end be free. We are a microcosm of the human race. We are a world apart, confined within two oceans, young in arts and sciences, but old as a human society. We are neither Indians nor Europeans, yet we are a part of each.” – Bolivar, Letter from Jamaica, 1815
Bolivar received support from many countries and rulers across Latin America. For example, President Alexandre Petion of Haiti gave substantial support to Bolivar. Haiti had recently freed itself from French rule.
Bolivar was a great self-publicist and he used this to good effect. When he returned to Venezuela in 1816, he was successful in spreading rumours about his successful army. Even inventing military victories. This helped bolster morale amongst the population for the cause of liberation.
One story about Bolivar is that he was on his own when he saw 15 Spanish troops about to encircle him. He shouted out to his own troops the order to attack. (his troops were not there) but the Spanish retreated rather than face his imaginary army.
Bolivar visited Great Britain and was impressed at their model of political governance. He sought to emulate their government in his own constitution. He was able to secure the help of many troops from Great Britain and Ireland which were vital in later battles to drive out the Spanish.
“The freedom of the New World is the hope of the Universe.” – Simon Bolivar
In 1819, hinter of 1824, he led his troops over another Andes pass – 3,600m high to liberate Peru. He lost many men due to exposure and the blinding sun, but proceeded to defeat the Spanish forces at the Battle of Junin, starting the liberation of Peru. Never one to hold back on drama, Bolivar exclaimed to his men on the trek
“Soldiers you are about to finish the greatest undertaking Heaven has confided to men – that of saving an entire world from slavery!”
Bolivar had a grand plan and vision for a federation of southern American states. It was bold and forward thinking but alas did not come to anything as there was too much internal division.
“It is harder to maintain the balance of freedom that it is to endure the weight of tyranny.” – Simon Bolivar
The last few years for Bolivar were upsetting. Despite achieving the liberation of many countries, former allies turned on him and there was a serious attempt on his life. His greatest general, Sucre was assassinated on the orders of a former friend of Bolivar – Jose Maria Cordoba.
In 1829, Bolivars own country Venezuela left the Gran Colombia federation.
Bolivar died from tuberculosis in the house of a Spaniard who was loyal to Bolivar. He requested all his papers destroyed but his friends did not listen.
Bolivar has often been called the “Washington of South America” – like George Washington, Bolivar had to deal with poorly equipped and poorly paid armies. They both overcame great odds to liberate their country from a colonial power. Both were enlightenment thinkers though Bolivar freed his slaves, Washington never did. Bolivar was also more of a dictator than Washington.
Bolivar was born rich to an aristocratic family. But, throughout his life, his wealth diminished and he died quite poor. Despite loving fame and flattery, he had little interest in material wealth.
Bolivar was first buried in Santa Maria where he died. But, in 1842, his remains were moved to Caracas in Venezuela. In 1842, he was moved to the cathedral of Caracas and in 1876, he was relocated to a monument at the Pantheon of Venezuela. In 2010, his remains were dug up and tested for poison, but found to be negative.
Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Facts Simon Bolivar”, Oxford, UK. www.biographyonline.net, Last updated 21 March 2020.
Famous Hispanics – A list of famous people of Spanish-speaking origin. Includes Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, Simon Bolivar, Selena and Jorge Ramos.
Courageous people – People who have overcome difficult circumstances and difficult odds. Includes Joan of Arc, Galileo, Harriet Tubman, Socrates, Malala Yousafzai.
Simon Bolivar (1783 – 1830) Bolivar was known as ‘El Libertador’ – the Liberator. He led several Latin American countries (Peru, Bolivar, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela) to independence from the Spanish monarchy. After successfully leading the liberation struggle, he served as president for a federation of Latin American countries until his death in 1830.
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 (Rama) (c. 7th century BC) A principal 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. Devotion to Krishna is a major aspect of Hinduism in 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 includes 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 an 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 for 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 the 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 principal 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 a 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 Blavatsky (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 practices 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.
Ramana Maharshi (1880 – 1950) Spiritual teacher who experienced self-realisation at the age of 16 and spent the remainder of his life at the Holy Mountain of Arunachala in south India. He taught a path of self-inquiry. “Who Am I?”
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 Nhat 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.
Sadhguru (1954 – ) Indian yogi and guru. Founder of Isha Yoga centre. Teaches course of ‘Inner Engineering” Frequently travels around the world answering questions on yoga, politics and spirituality.
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.’