Archive for the ‘article’ Category

People Who Made a Difference in Health Care

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.

hippocratesHippocrates  (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_HarveyWilliam 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 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 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_ListerJoseph 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.

Henry_Heimlich 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 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_FreudSigmund 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.

christaan_BarnardChristiaan Barnard (1922 –  2001) South African cardiac surgeon who performed the world’s first successful human-to-human heart transplant.

Clara_Barton 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 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.

ParacelsusParacelsus (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.

peopleLouis 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 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 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.

Simpson_James_Young 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.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan “People who made a difference”, Oxford, UK., 18th July 2013. Updated 26 January 2018.


Sigmund_Freud Famous doctors

Florence_Nightingale Famous nurses – Famous nurses, such as Dorothea Dix, Clara Barton, Lillian Wald and Margaret Sanger.

Famous spies

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.


Joan_pujol_garcia 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.

guy-burgess 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 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.

Richard_Sorge 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_Anthony_Walker 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…

Famous Outlaws

A list of Famous Outlaws who committed numerous crimes and went on the run from the law.


Billy_the_Kid_corrected 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 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 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 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 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 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 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_ 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-clyde_f 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 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 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’.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Famous Outlaws”, Oxford,  UK. Published 22 April 2020.


Thurgood-marshall-100 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 donald_trump A list of people who have courted controversy or whose opinions have divided the world.

Famous Firsts

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 America Christopher 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 Circle Captain 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.

19321st Transatlantic solo flight by a woman  Amelia Earhart succeeded in completing the first transatlantic solo flight by a woman. Flying from Newfoundland to Ireland in 15 hours.



Mount Everest

1953 – Mount Everest Sir Edmund Hillary, with Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay, become the first men to climb Mt. Everest.


1783 – Hot air balloon. On Nov. 21 Marquis d’Arlandes and Pilatre de Rozier become the first humans to fly in a hot-air balloon for 20 minutes, in Paris.


1903 – First powered flight – 17 Dec. The Wright Brothers make the first powered flight in North Carolina in a flight lasting 12 seconds.

1947 – Faster than the speed of sound. Chuck Yeager becomes the 1st person to fly faster than the speed of sound. (670 mph in the Bell X-1 rocket.)

Firsts in Politics

508 BC – Democracy – First attempts to introduce concepts of democracy on a significant scale in ancient Greece, e.g.  democratic reforms of Cleisthenes. (see: People who shaped democracy)


Magna Carta

1215 – 15 June. Magna Carta. The 1st charter which sought to limit the power of kings by law. Magna Carta established the principle of habeas corpus (see: Key events in history of democracy)

1542 – First laws abolishing slavery. Spain enacted the first European law Leyes Nuevas‘ abolishing colonial slavery.

1777 – Religious freedom Thomas Jefferson drafted Virginia’s  Act of Establishing Religious Freedom. The first bill to explicitly allow religious freedom in the west.

1789 – Freedom of thought. 1st Amendment to US constitution allowing freedom of thought and religious belief was adopted.

1789 – 1st US Supreme Court of Justice. John Jay becomes 1st US Supreme Court chief justice.

1870  – 1st African American elected.  Jefferson Long becomes the 1st African American elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (for Georgia)

1946 – 1st Secretary-General of the United Nations – Trygve Lie (Norway) becomes the 1st Secretary-General of the United Nations.

1967 – 1st African American Supreme Court Thurgood Marshall the 1st African American to become a Supreme Court justice.

1981 – 1st female US Supreme Court justice. Sandra Day O’Connor – 1st female US Supreme Court justice.

Invention / Science

1656 1st Clock. Christian Huygens developed pendulum to create first reliable pendulum clocks

1668 – 1st Telescope First reflecting telescope invented by Sir Isaac Newton.

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.

18371st 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 Radio G. 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.

19291st Antibiotic. Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin which has anti-biotic properties.

1938Splitting 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.

usain-bolt 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

1440Printing Press Johannes Gutenberg (Germany) invents the world’s first printing press which enables the mass production of books.


1455The Gutenberg Bible was the first major book printed in Europe with movable metal type by Johannes Gutenberg.

1597First 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”

192050 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 Steamship Isambard 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 doctor Elizabeth 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

Mariecurie 1911  – 1st to win Two Nobel prizes Marie 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.

1979 – Margaret Thatcher  – 1st Female Prime Minister of UK (1979-90)

1988 – Benazir Bhutto1st Female Prime Minister of Pakistan, and first female Prime Minister of Muslim country. 1st women to give birth whilst Prime Minister.

Environmentalism firsts

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.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Famous Firsts”, Oxford, UK. Published 3 Feb. 2015. Last updated 23 March 2020.


Related pages

ramses Famous historical figures (throughout history) A list of the most famous figures throughout history.

Sir_Winston_S_Churchill People who changed the world. Famous people who changed the course of history.

Mariecurie Women who changed the world –  Famous women who changed the world, including Sappho, Marie Curie, Queen Victoria, and Catherine the Great.


Famous female spies

A selection of female spies who risked their lives to enter enemy territory and gain information or aid spy networks.


Nancy_Wake_ 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 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 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 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 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_(cropped) 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.

AndreeBorrel 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.

Sonya-Olschanezky 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.

VeraLeigh1943 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.

DianaRowden 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 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.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Famous Female Spies”, Oxford, UK., Published 19 April 2020.



lawrenceMilitary figures – Famous military leaders and soldiers, including Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Ataturk, Erwin Rommel, Winston Churchill and Dwight Eisenhower.

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.

Facts about Jacinda Ardern

ardernJacinda 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.

Early jobs


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.

First baby

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.

Wellbeing budget

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.

Global warming

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.

Random facts

  • 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.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Facts about Jacinda Ardern”, Oxford, UK., published 16 April 2020.

Jacinda Ardern: The Story Behind an Extraordinary Leader



Jacinda Ardern: The Story Behind an Extraordinary Leader at Amazon

ardern Jacinda Ardern – Biography, quotes

Mariecurie 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.

womenFemale biographies – A list of 100 famous women from Sappho and Cleopatra to Marilyn Monroe and Angela Merkel.

Facts about Mother Teresa

MotherTeresa_ “Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love….The smaller the thing, the greater must be our love.”
Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (2007)

  •  Mother Teresa (1910–1997) was a Roman Catholic nun who devoted her life to serving the poor and destitute around the world.
  • She was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu on 26 August 1910.
  • In Albanian Gonxhe means “rosebud” or “little flower”.
  • She considered 27 August to be her real birthday as it was the day she was baptized.

Memorial house of Mother Teresa in Macedonia.

  • She was born in the town Uskup (now Skopje). Her family were Kosovan-Albanians. In 1910 Skopje was part of the Ottoman Empire. It is now in the Republic of Macedonia.
  • Her mother was known for her charity to the poor, often inviting the poor to share food with the family. As she counselled her daughter. “My child, never eat a single mouthful unless you are sharing it with others,’
  • 330px-Mother_Teresa_1 In 1928, At the age of 18 Teresa, left home with the aim of becoming a Catholic missionary. She went first to the Loretto sisters in Ireland. She never saw her family again.
  • In 1929, she travelled to India, where she learnt Bengali. She arrived with the equivalent of 5 Rupees.
  • Mother Teresa learned and spoke five languages fluently. She spoke English, Albanian, Serbo-Croat, Bengali, and Hindi
  • In 1931 she made the decision to be a nun. She chose the name Teresa to honour St Therese of Lisieux and St Teresa of Avila.
  • She taught History and Geography at St Mary’s High School in Kolkata for 15 years and became its headmistress. Many of first to join her in her missionary work were former students.
  • Distressed by the sight of poverty and suffering, in 1946, she felt an inner call to serve the poor.

“I heard the call to give up all and follow Christ into the slums to serve Him among the poorest of the poor.” – Mother Teresa.

  • Mother Teresa gave up her traditional nun habit and adopted an Indian Sari – white with a blue edge.
  • The symbolism of her sari was that it was practical and in harmony with Indian culture. The colour blue is associated with the Mother Mary. White is associated with truth and purity. The three blue bands represent the three main vows of the order.
  • In Calcutta, Mother Teresa began an open-air school and established a home for the destitute. She persuaded the local city government to donate a dilapidated building she could use.
  • Over the next two decades, she established a leper colony, an orphanage, a nursing home, a family clinic and a string of mobile health clinics
  • In 1971, she opened her first house of charity in the west – in New York, US.
  • Mother Teresa often commented that the spiritual poverty of the west was harder to remove than the material poverty of the east.

“The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.” – Mother Teresa (1989)

  • She eventually suffered a heart attack and had a pacemaker surgically fitted to her chest. Even after this devastating blow to her health, she continued her work for another eight years.
  • In 1958, the trademark white and blue saris were specially made in Titagarh by the Gandhiji Prem Niwas for leprosy patients.
  • In 1950 Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity. A religious order within the Roman Catholic church. It has over 4,000 nuns who take vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and service to the poor.  Its mission statement was to serve.

“The hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved throughout society, people that have become a burden to the society and are shunned by everyone.”

  • The life and work of Mother Teresa were brought to the wider attention of the world through a film (1969) and a book (1972), Something Beautiful for God, by Malcolm Muggeridge.
  • Teresa did not seek to convert those she encountered to Catholicism. She wished to bring people closer to God, however they understood God.

“‘Yes, I convert. I convert you to be a better Hindu, or a better Muslim, or a better Protestant, or a better Catholic, or a better Parsee, or a better Sikh, or a better Buddhist. And after you have found God, it is for you to do what God wants you to do.”

  • Teresa saw herself as a spokesperson for the Vatican; she upheld the conservative teachings of the Catholic church on contraception, abortion and opposition to the death penalty.
  • Despite her apparent faith in dedicating her life to the poor, she also experienced periods of spiritual dryness.

“Where is my Faith—even deep down right in there is nothing, but emptiness & darkness—My God—how painful is this unknown pain.” Mother Teresa ‘Come be my Light

Prizes and honours

  • In 1979, Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • She turned down the Nobel honour banquet and requested the $192,000  prize money to be used to help the poor in India.
  • After receiving the prize, she was asked: “What can we do to promote world peace?” Mother Teresa answered, “Go home and love your family.”
  • In 1985, President Ronald Reagan awarded her the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom.
  • In 1972 she was awarded the Indian ‘Nehru Prize’ –“for the promotion of international peace and understanding”.

Mother Teresa holding Sri Chinmoy Oneness-Home Peace Run. October 1st 1994. Church of San Gregorio in Rome, Italy

  • Mother Teresa, died of heart failure on September 5, 1997 age 87 – just five days after Princess Diana. Whom she had recently met.
  • In 2016, Mother Teresa was declared a saint by Pope Francis.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Facts about Mother Teresa”, Oxford, UK., 18th Jan 2019.

Mother Teresa Biography

Book CoverMother Teresa Biography at Amazon

No Greater Love – Mother Teresa

Book Cover No Greater Love by Mother Teresa
at Amazon

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st-paul Christians – Famous Christians from Jesus Christ and the early Apostles to Catholic Popes and saints. Includes St Francis of Assisi, St Catherine of Sienna and St Teresa.

spiritualSpiritual figures – Famous saints, mystics and religious figures. Including Jesus Christ, The Buddha, Lord Krishna.

Was the First World War justified?

August 2014 is the Centenary of the First World War – a dreadful war which cost the lives of millions of soldiers and civilians. An estimated nine million soldiers were killed and countless more civilians.


First World War

The first thing is to feel grateful that we didn’t live through such an appalling catastrophe and a waste of human life. War is undoubtedly man’s greatest tragedy and the emotional suffering of this ‘Great War’ is incomparable. I’m glad I didn’t have to make the choice that many young men of the 1914-18 period did.

However, if we could go back in time, would you fight for your country of birth or would you be a conscientious objector?

Was there any justification for the First World War?

Would I fight for Britain?

I am British and have often thought about this question.

Firstly, I believe the British Empire was wrong. Britain had no right to be ruling in India, African countries, parts of Asia and parts of the Middle East. I would not fight to save the British Empire because I would support the independence movements in Ireland and India.

If I joined the British army and found myself in India or Ireland, I would feel compromised because I wouldn’t want to be party to supporting an Empire which denied the democratic rights of the inhabitants.

However, the First World War wasn’t primarily about promoting the British Empire. Most soldiers were sent to the Western Front to fight the German army.

Defence of Belgium and France

Sometimes, the First World War is portrayed as a senseless war where we fought for no reason. However, in 1914, there seemed to be a certain moral necessity for Britain to be involved.

Although the causes of the First World War are complex and multifarious – in August 1914, Germany was invading Belgium and France. This violated Belgian neutrality and also French borders. Britain had signed a guarantee of Belgian independence, and should Belgium request support from an invading army, Britain had a treaty obligation to support.

This makes it very difficult not to join the British war effort. It is true, Britain was fighting for self-interest. We didn’t want Germany to dominate Europe, we wanted to protect our trade interests and also the rule of international law. But, it wasn’t entirely selfish. It was wrong for the Germans to invade Belgium and France. In that sense, the First World War could be seen as a defensive war against an invading army.

If Britain had stayed neutral, it is very likely that ultimately Germany would have defeated the French and occupied both Belgium and France. Germany was not a democracy but ruled by an autocratic military state and powerful Tsar. A military victory would arguably have strengthened the militaristic tendencies within Germany and the occupation of France and Belgium would have violated the rights of the Belgians and French.

German atrocities

German atrocities were definitely exaggerated by the Allied powers. Yet, they did occur. Belgian civilians were shot. The Germans did sink neutral shipping with civilians on board. It is inevitable that an invading and occupying army commit atrocities; another reason why the invasion of German forces needed to be opposed.

The Allies were definitely not blameless; for example, there are reports of shooting German prisoners of war soon after capture. But, when an invading army occupies a neutral country and kills innocent civilians – it becomes hard to refuse to fight.

The senseless nature of the conflict

In August 1914, there seemed to be a clear case for war. If the Allies had prevailed by Christmas – defeated the German army, reigned in imperialistic ambitions and restored the continent to peace – we may look back and think ‘What a wonderful war.’

But, the First World War didn’t end quickly and decisively. For the soldiers in the trenches, it seemed a senseless slaughter with lives needlessly sacrificed for inevitable failures. Sitting in a London coffee shop, it is easy to say the war was justified. But, when you are drowning in the mud of Ypres with death and destruction all around you – many soldiers (on both sides) started to ask – is it really worth it? Why are we fighting? They just wanted to go home.

“the old lie:
dulce et decorum est
pro patria mori”

Wilfred Owen

The long and bloody conflict meant the initial idealist aims seemed lost in the mud and death of the trenches. Both sides became increasingly desperate in their quest to win. The media was used to whip up hatred of the other side. People of German descent were abused in the street and there was a growing intolerance of any dissent from the official line.

Even if you see a moral justification for fighting for Britain, it is impossible not to sympathise with the horrors of the soldiers and their desire to just see the war end.

The difficulty is how could Britain have ended the war in 1916, 1917? It would have essentially meant giving into German demands and allowing the German army to occupy France. The death would have stopped, but it leaves a militaristic regime controlling most of Europe.

It is like a terrible Hobson’s choice – both continuing to fight and stopping fighting had terrible consequences.


I admire the courage of conscientious objectors. But, at the same time, I am not a pacifist. I do believe war can be justified to protect your country from an invasion.

I dislike the patriotic vitriol that was created in Britain and (all participant countries). Yet, despite that, there were still reasons to fight for Britain.

I don’t support the British Empire and many actions of Britain in the First World War (such as promising the Arabs a homeland in return for fighting against the Ottoman Empire – show how Britain could be deceitful and ignore democratic ideals when it felt like it.)

Yet, however, the many failings Britain had – the alternative of a militaristic Germany dominating Europe was much worse.

Would I fight for Germany?

If I was born in Germany, I would like to think I would be a conscientious objector. I believe following orders and fighting for your Fatherland is no excuse for supporting an illegal invasion. There are greater ideals than nationalism. Your country isn’t right, just because you were born in it.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Was the First World War justified?”, Oxford, UK., 18th June 2014


Douglas_Haig People of the First World War (1914 to 1918) The principal figures involved in the First World War from Germany, Britain, US and the rest of the world. Includes David Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson, the Kaiser and George Clemenceau.

Sir_Winston_S_Churchill Great Briton list – Top 100 famous Britons as voted by a BBC poll. Including Winston Churchill, William Shakespeare, Thomas Cromwell and Queen Elizabeth I.

Edward_vii Edwardian Age (1901 to 1914). A period of growth in science, technology and also rising tensions between the major powers. Also saw the ‘heroic age’ of exploration.


Related articles

Famous Composers

A list of famous and influential composers throughout history, including the greatest composers Bach, Mozart, Beethoven and Franz Schubert.

Composers of the Medieval period

hildegard-von-bingen Hildegard von Bingen (1097 – 1179) German writer, mystic, composer and polymath. Hildegard wrote many liturgical songs, which pushed the boundaries of traditional Gregorian Chant. Her greatest work was Ordo Virtutum (Play of the Virtues) – a morality play.

Composers of the Renaissance period


john-dunstable John Dunstable (1390 – 1453) English composer of polyphonic music. Dunstable had a big influence on the development of music through his creation of chords with triads, which became known as the Burgundian School: la countenance angloise or “the English countenance” e.g Quam pulchra es.

Giovanni-da_Palestrina Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525 – 1594) Italian Renaissance composer of sacred music. Palestrina was a prolific composer of masses, motets, madrigals and offertories. An influential work was Missa Papae Marcelli (Pope Marcellus Mass)

William_Byrd William Byrd (1543 – 1623) English composer of the Renaissance. He wrote in many of the forms current in England at the time, including various types of sacred and secular polyphony. He helped the development of Anglican church music, and also secular vocal music with his use of Tudor consort and keyboard fantasia.

Composers of the Baroque Period


Henry_Purcell Henry Purcell (1659-1695) English composer of the Baroque period. Purcell wrote some early baroque classics such as Te Deum and Jubilate Deo. He also wrote for theatre and England’s first opera.

j.s.bach Bach (1685 – 1750) German composer of the Baroque period. One of the most prolific composers of all time. Bach brought Baroque music to its pinnacle of musical maturity. Famous works of Bach include: Brandenburg Concertos, the Mass in B minor, St Matthew’s Passion, St John’s Passion; Bach also wrote organ pieces and over 300 sacred cantatas.

George_Frideric_Handel George Frederick Handel (1685 – 1759) German-born composer who spent a lot of time in England. He wrote operas and oratorios. Famous works include Messiah “Hallelujah Chorus”, Music For The Royal Fireworks, Jephtha, Chaconne Variations in G  Coronation Anthems, Zadok the Priest.

Composers of the Classical Period


Joseph_Haydn Joseph Haydn (1732 – 1809) Prolific Austrian composer of the classical period. He helped develop chamber music such as the piano trio and string quartet. Also wrote amongst first extensive symphonies and contributed to the development of sonata. Haydn’s famous works include Cello Concerto No.1 in C major and Symphony No.94 in G major.

mozart Mozart (1756 – 1791) Austrian classical composer. Composing from the age of 6, Mozart’s repertoire varied from light waltzes and dances to the spiritual elevating choral music of Missa Brevis and Mass in C minor. He composed over 600 pieces, including symphonies, operas (e.g. Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), concertos (e.g. Piano Concerto no. 21) and chamber music.

Ludwig_van_Beethoven Beethoven (1770 – 1827) German composer and pianist of the classical and romantic period. Another prodigious genius. Beethoven’s compositions invoked both tremendous power, and soulfulness; he had a lasting influence on western classical music. His greatest works include his Symphonies No.6 and his choral work Missa Solemnis.

Gioachino-Rossini Gioachino Rossini (1792 – 1868) Italian composer. Rossini wrote 38 great operas, transforming the opera into its modern form. Great Italian works include The Barber of Seville (1816) and La Cenerentola. He also moved to Paris and wrote for the French theatre, including the operas Count Ory (1828) and William Tell (1829)

Franz_Schubert Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828) Austrian composer who bridged the classical and romantic periods. One of the few composers to evoke the spirit of Mozart, especially in his work – Symphony number 5. Schubert composed seven symphonies sacred music, operas and piano music. He was also a great composer of secular vocal songs. Famous works include his immortal version of Ave Maria D.839Piano Sonata in A major, D 959, Symphony in C major (Great C major, D 944), and Symphony No.5 in Bb major D.485.

Composers of the Romantic Period


Hector_Berlioz Hector Berlioz (1803 – 1869) French composer of the Romantic period. Berlioz composed a Requiem for 210 voices Grande Messe des morts (Requiem) and Symphonie fantastique. He made significant contributions to the romantic period and the development of the modern orchestra.

Felix-Mendelssohn Felix Mendelssohn (1809 – 1847) German composer of the romantic period. Mendelssohn wrote symphonies, concerti, oratorios, piano music and chamber music. His famous works include Hebrides Overture (Fingal’s Cave) (1830), Violin Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 (1844) and his piano compositions – ‘Songs without words’

frederic-chopin Frederick Chopin (1810 – 1849) Polish-born classical composer. Important compositions include piano collections, Études, Opp. 10 and 25, and the 24 Preludes, Op. 28. Chopin also wrote numerous polonaises, sonatas, waltzes, impromptus and nocturnes. Chopin is the most influential composer for the piano, becoming a staple for all piano students.

Franz_Liszt Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886) Hungarian composer and virtuoso pianist. Liszt was a prominent member of the “New German School” of musicians. Significant compositions include Piano Sonata in B minor (1853), “Liebesträume No. 3”. He also transcribed for the piano great works by other composers, such as Schubert. Also developed new musical ideas, such as the symphonic poem.

Giuseppe-verdi Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901) Italian opera composer of the romantic period. Verdi is considered one of the greatest opera composer of all time. Famous works include “Va, Pensiero” (The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves), the “Coro di zingari” (Anvil Chorus) from Il Trovatore and the “Grand March” from Aida. He also composed other works outside opera, such as Messa da Requiem (1874).

Richard-Wagner Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883) German composer who wrote epic operas such as the  Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung). Beginning in the romantic tradition, Wagner developed his own complex and unique style of ‘total art.’

Johann_Strauss_II Johann Strauss Jr. (1825 – 1899) Austrian composer of popular light music. He wrote over 500 waltzes, polkas, quadrilles. Famous works include Blue Danube Waltz, Egyptian March, Persian March and Roses from the South Waltz.

Johannes-Brahms Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897) German composer who spent most of his life in Austria. Although of the romantic period, Brahms used many of the principles of baroque and classical music in his compositions. Famous works include Violin Concerto in D major, Op 77, “Symphony No. 3 in F Major, Op. 90: Allegro con brio”  and Sinfonia n. 2 em ré major op. 73

Tchaikovsky Pyotr Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893) Russian composer. Tchaikovsky was the greatest composer of the Romantic period. Compositions include the 1812 Overture, Romeo and Juliet Overture, Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor and ballet compositions – Swan Lake and Nutcracker.

Saint-Saens Camille Saint-Saëns (1835 – 1921) French composer, conductor and pianist of the Romantic era. Famous works include  Second Piano Concerto (1868), the First Cello Concerto (1872), Danse macabre (1874), the opera Samson and Delilah (1877), the Third Violin Concerto (1880) and The Carnival of the Animals (1887).

Rimsky-Korsakov Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844 – 1908) Russian composer who infused a Russian tradition of folk music into a classical genre. He wrote five operas, symphonies and orchestral works. Famous works include Scheherazade, Capriccio Espagnol  (including The Flight of the Bumble Bee).

Gabriel-Faure Gabriel Faure (1845 – 1924) French composer of the late Romantic period. Faure composed intimate Chamber music and many compositions for the piano. Famous works include choral masterpieces – Pavane and Requiem, and his Nocturnes for piano, such as Après un rêve” and “Clair de lune”.

Edvard_Grieg Edvard Greig (1843 – 1907) Norwegian composer. Greig was one of the most notable composers of the Romantic period. Famous works include – Piano Concerto in A minor Op. 16, Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, Op. 46, IV. (In the Hall of the Mountain King) and Peer Gynt Suite No.1

Late Nineteenth and Twentieth Century – neo-classical / Impressionist

Edward_Elgar Edward Elgar (1857 – 1934) English composer who created many great orchestral works of the late classical repertoire. Famous works include Enigma Variations (1899) and Symphony No. 2 in E-flat, Op. 63 (1909–1911). Many works are important for British / English musical identity, e.g. Pomp and Circumstance, (including Land of Hope and Glory)

Gustav_Mahler Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911) (Austrian Empire / now the Czech Republic) Mahler was a composer of the late Romantic period. His symphonies (No. 5, No. 2 and No.1) have become some of the best known in the classical repertoire.

Claude_Debussy Claude Debussy (1862 – 1918) French composer of Impressionist music. Debussy used non-traditional scales and chromaticism to develop new strands of classical music. Famous works include Clair de Lune (from Suite Bergamasque), Reverie (1890) and Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune.

Sergei_Rachmaninoff Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873 –1943) Russian composer. Rachmaninoff wrote five works for piano and orchestra. His most popular works included Concerto No. 2 in C minor, and Concerto No. 3 in D minor, Op. 30 (1909). Rachmaninoff was one of most daring composers, noted for his difficult pieces and extensive chords.

Gustav_Holst Gustav Holst (1874 – 1934) English composer best known for his orchestral works The Planets. Holst was influenced by Wagner, but later developed his own style inspired by both English folk music and Indian mythology / Vedas.

stravinsky-igor Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) Russian born composer, who lived in both France and America. He was an influential composer for his development of neo-classical styles. He wrote ballets, such as The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911) and The Rite of Spring (1913)

George_Gershwin George Gershwin (1898 – 1938) American composer who combined both classical and popular music. Famous for his modern jazz classic Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and the opera “Porgy and Bess.”

Dmitri-shostakovich Dmitri Shostakovich (1906 – 1975) Russian composer who fused neo-classical and post-romantic styles. Famous works include Waltz, no.2, Symphony No. 15 and Piano Concerto No.2.

Leonard_Bernstein Leonard Bernstein. (1918 – 1990) American composer. The conductor of the New York Philharmonic orchestra. Bridged classical music and popular music. Wrote musicals: “On The Town,” “Wonderful Town,” and “West Side Story.”

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Famous Composers”, Oxford, UK. Published 4 March. 2015. Last updated 8 February 2018.

Meet the Famous Composers

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Famous Austrians

maria_theresia Maria Theresa (1740–1780) The only female ruler of the Habsburg Empire. Maria Theresa succeeded to the throne after the death of her father Charles VI. With great strength of will, Maria held together the disparate empire and instituted military, financial and education reforms which strengthened the international position of the Habsburg Empire.

Marie Antoinette (1755 – 1793) Born in Vienna Austria, she had an arranged marriage to the King of France (King Louis XVI) to help secure peace between the two countries. The marriage was not a great success, with Marie Antoinette often held up as a symbol of Royal decadence and profligacy, which was a factor in the French revolution. The negative portrayal was heightened by her Austrian origins. Whether fair or not, she was executed in 1793 for treason and holding principles in opposition to the French revolution.

mozart Mozart (1756 – 1791) (Austria)  Born in Salzburg, and spending much of his life in Vienna, Mozart was one of the greatest classical composers of all time. A child prodigy, Mozart began composing at the age of six, and by the time he died, aged just 35, he had completed a remarkable array of symphonies, opera, chamber music and more.

Franz_Schubert Franz Schubert (1797 – 1828) Born in Vienna, Schubert was one of the great composers of the late classical and romantic period. He composed symphonies, sacred choral work, operas and a large body of piano music.

johann_strauss Johann Strauss, Sr., composer (1804 –  1849) Austrian composer. He was famous for his waltzes and marches. His most famous work was the Radetsky March. The work became an unofficial anthem of Austria and was used to celebrate Austrian military victories.

Franz_Liszt Franz Liszt (1811 – 1886) Hungarian born composer and virtuoso pianist. Liszt was a prominent member of the “New German School” of musicians. Significant compositions include: Piano Sonata in B minor (1853), “Liebesträume No. 3”. He also transcribed for the piano great works by other composers, such as Schubert. Also developed new musical ideas, such as the symphonic poem. Read On…