Famous people of the Nineteenth Century

A list of influential and famous people of the Nineteenth Century, including Napoleon Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln and Queen Victoria.

The early Nineteenth Century saw the rise and fall of Napoleon’s France. It was a century which saw the emergence of the United States as a global power and the dominance of the British Empire which spread across the globe. The Nineteenth Century saw rapid industrialisation and globalisation, which saw rising living standards but also increased awareness of economic and social division. The later half of the Nineteenth Century saw a rise in new political ideologies, such as Marxism and the growing importance of national identity, especially in Europe.

Politicians / Heads of State

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821) – French military and political leader. Napoleon revolutionised Europe. He cemented the ideas of the French revolution (in his own autocratic style) and enabled these ideas and his Napoleonic code to be spread across Europe.

Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826) Principal author of The Declaration of Independence (1776). Jefferson was the US’s third President of the US (1801 to 1809) Jefferson helped to expand the territory of the US through the Louisiana Declaration (1803) and bring a period of peace and stability to US foreign affairs.

James Madison (1751-1836) Father of the US Constitution and the fourth president of the US (1809-1817.) As President, Madison strengthened the US National Bank and Federal government and the US Army.

v Thomas Malthus (1766 – 1834) Malthus was an English rector who was an influential economist in the early nineteenth century. Best known for his book An Essay on the Principle of Population, (1798) which  had the prophecy that the population would grow faster than food production.

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) Lincoln was US president 1861-1865. He led the United States during the Civil War to prevent the secession of the south. During the war, Lincoln also issued the Emancipation Proclamation and promoted a bill to end slavery in the United States.

Queen Victoria (1819-1901) – Queen of Great Britain from 1837 to 1901. Victoria oversaw the extension of the British Empire and the rapid social and economic change of the Industrial Revolution.

Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-1872) Italian political activist. Campaigned for a United Republic of Italy. Mazzini supported insurrections against foreign rule and played a key role in cementing support for a united Italy. Also spoke about the ideals of a ‘United Europe.’

Simon Bolivar (1783 – 1830) known as ‘El Libertador’ – the Liberator. Bolivar 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.

Benjamin Disraeli (1804 – 1881) – British Prime Minister and close friend of Queen Victoria. Associated with ‘One Nation’ Conservatism and the expansion of the British Empire.

William Gladstone (1809 – 1898) Gladstone served as Liberal Prime Minister on four different occasions, and also as Chancellor of Exchequer. Considered to have the epitome of Victorian moral values.

Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) The last German Emperor, the Kaiser led Germany on a more bellicose, self-assertive foreign policy, where he wished to see Germany become a major European power. He formed a key alliance with Austria-Hungary, which later played a role in starting the First World War.

theodore_roosevelt-150 Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919) Roosevelt was a leading political figure of the Progressive Era – fighting corruption and the power of monopoly trusts. As President, he challenged corruption and monopoly power. He also created the first American Natural Parks and pursued a more activist US foreign policy, building up the navy.



Charles Dickens (1812-1870) – Writer and social critic. Dickens, more than any other writer, captured the Victorian age, especially the poverty that was endemic in Victorian inner cities.

Karl Marx (1818 – 1883) – German philosopher, founder of Marxism. Karl Marx wrote Das Capital and The Communist Manifesto. Marx argued that Capitalism was inherently unequal and unjust. Marx argued that there was a historical inevitability that a Communist revolution would occur in industrial societies.

frenchVictor Hugo (1802 – 1885) French author and poet. Hugo’s novels include Les Misérables, (1862) and Notre-Dame de Paris (1831).

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 – 1882) Emerson was a leading poet, Transcendentalist and influential philosopher. He espoused no fixed doctrine but expanded on ideas of freedom, nature and the possibilities of man.

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811 – 1896) – Stowe was a writer who helped popularise the anti-slavery movement. Her book ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ depicted life under slavery and helped to mobilise public opinion in the north against slavery.

henry_david_thoreau Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862) – American poet, writer and leading member of the Transcendentalist movement. Thoreau’s “Walden” (1854) was a unique account of living close to nature.

Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892) – Poet who provided a bridge between Transcendentalism and realism. Whitman was the leading American poet of his era. He helped to shape a new American literary identity.

Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886). One of America’s greatest female poets, Emily Dickinson’s themes of death and immortality became very popular and influenced the development of modern poetry.

Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809 – 1892) Popular Victorian Poet Laureate, wrote Charge of the Light Brigade, Ulysses, Although In Memoriam A.H.H.

Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900) – Wit, playwright, poet and author. Oscar Wilde dazzled theatre goes with his innovative and witty plays. However, he got caught up in scandal and was sentenced to jail for gross indecency after attempting to sue the Marquis of Salisbury for libel.

writer Leo Tolstoy (1828 – 1910) Russian novelist and moral philosopher. Famous works include the epic novels – War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877). Tolstoy also became an influential philosopher with his brand of Christian pacificism.

fyodor-doestovsky Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) Russian novelist, journalist and philosopher. Notable works include Notes from Underground, Crime and Punishment and The Idiot.

writer Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) American writer and humorist, considered the ‘father of American literature’. Famous works include The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885).

John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873) Utilitarian philosopher and supporter of radical/liberal politics. John Stuart Mill wrote an influential tract “On Liberty” – a classic account of individual liberty.


Cultural figures

Ludwig_van_Beethoven Beethoven (1770 – 1827) German composer and pianist of the classical and romantic period. In the early Nineteenth Century, Beethoven composed some of his greatest works.

David Livingstone (1813-1873) Explorer. Famously trekked through Africa and became the first European to discover the source of the Nile. A popular Victorian hero, who epitomised the age of ‘enlightened Empire’ and the quest for discovery.

Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910) – Pioneering nurse who served in the Crimean war and helped to improve conditions of hospitals by evaluating which practices contributed to better health.

monet Claude Monet (1840 – 1926) French impressionist painter. It was Monet’s painting – Impression, Soleil levant (Impression, Sunrise), that led to the title of the impressionist movement. Monet painted many open-air scenes, such as his own garden in Giverny.

artist Vincent Van Gogh (1853 – 1890). Dutch post-impressionist painter, who spent many years in France. Despite turbulent mental state, Van Gogh produced some of the greatest works of all time – Starry Night, Sunflowers, Bedroom in Arles, Van Gogh’s chair and The Cafe Terrace.

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 The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, the Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore and the “Grand March” from Aida. He also composed other works outside opera, such as Messa da Requiem (1874).


Social activists / Religious figures

William Wilberforce (1759 – 1833) – Campaigner to end slavery. He was an MP for Yorkshire and a strong advocate of religious morality. He successfully led the campaign to abolish the slave trade, playing a key role.

Sojourner_truth Sojourner Truth (1797 – 1883) African-American abolitionist and women’s rights campaigner. In 1851, gave a famous extemporaneous speech “Ain’t I a woman?” which explained in plain language how women were equal to men.

Margaret Fuller (1810 – 1850) was a leading proponent of women’s rights. She was the first woman to be editor of New York Tribune and wrote influential articles on books on women’s rights and progressive social policies.

Susan B Anthony (1820 – 1906) was a campaigner for civil rights and women’s suffrage. One of most influential women who helped secure women the right to vote.


Harriet_Tubman Harriet Tubman (1822 – 1913) Tubman escaped from slavery but returned on many dangerous missions to Maryland where she helped lead slaves to freedom. She also served as agent and leader during the Civil War. She became a symbol of the abolition movement.

Emily Pankhurst (1858-1928) – British Suffragette who was willing to take direct action in protesting for women to gain the right to vote.

Raja_Ram_Mohan_Roy Raja Rammohun Roy (1772 – 1833) Influential political and cultural activist who helped found the Brahmo Samaj. Considered the father of the Indian Renaissance for his attempts to promote reform and also protect Indian rights.

vivekanandaSwami Vivekananda (1863 – 1902 ) – Indian monk. Vivekananda travelled to the United States and spoke on the ideal of religious tolerance at the World Parliament of Religions 1893. He taught a spiritual path which combined Eastern mysticism and Western dynamism and is a key figure in the Indian Renaissance.

Scientists / Innovators / businessmen

Charles Babbage ( 1791 – 1871) Babbage was the inventor of first mechanical computers. Considered the ‘father of computers’ although he rarely completed his early inventions.

Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) Developed the theory of evolution against a backdrop of disbelief and scepticism. Collected evidence over 20 years, and published conclusions in his groundbreaking work On the Origin of Species (1859).

Louis Pasteur (1822 – 1895) Contributed greatly towards the advancement of medical sciences developing cures for rabies, anthrax and other infectious diseases. Also enabled the process of pasteurisation – to make milk safer to drink.

James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) – Made great strides in understanding electro-magnetism. His research in electricity and kinetics laid the foundation for quantum physics.

John D. Rockefeller (1839 – 1937) Rockefeller was a successful businessman who controlled much of the US oil and railroad industries. His name became synonymous with wealth and economic power.

CarnegieAndrew Carnegie (1835 – 1919) Carnegie became very rich, through his control of the US steel industry and other investments. With his wealth, he became a philanthropist. Many public libraries are named after him.

Michael Faraday (1791 – 1867) – English scientist who contributed to fields of electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism and electrolysis.

Edward Jenner (1749 – 1823) Pioneer of smallpox vaccine, which led on to many other vaccinations.

George Stephenson (1781 – 1848) Mechanical engineer, developed steam engine. Stephenson also helped build some of the early railways and was a key figure in the ‘railway age’ which transformed the Nineteenth Century.

Thomas Edison (1847 – 1931) Edison filed over 1,000 patents during his life. He also combined a rare inventor’s capacity to make them commercially viable. He made a fortune through the electric light bulb and other inventions such as the phonograph.

Citation: Pettinger, Tejvan. “Famous People of the Nineteenth Century”, Oxford, www.biographyonline.net, 23rd February 2017. Last updated 5 March 2018.


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Related Eras

Queen_Victoria Victorian age (1837 to 1901) The principal figures of the Victorian age and the second half of the industrial revolution.

Peter-the-great People of the Eighteenth-Century (1800-1899) Famous leaders, statesmen, scientists, philosophers and authors. Including; Louis XIV, Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

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britishIndustrial Revolution (1750s to 1900) The great inventors, entrepreneurs and businessmen of the industrial revolution. Also includes the social activists of the era, such as Charles Dickens.

Harriet_Tubman People in the anti-slavery movement – Men and women who campaigned for the end of slavery. This includes former slaves such as Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, and political campaigners, such as William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln.

lincoln-abraham People of The American Civil War (1861-65) A list of over 20 famous and influential figures in the American Civil War (1861 – 1865) Includes politicians, generals, soldiers, spies and social activists. Including; Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant.

The Gilded Age (1870 to 1900) A period of rapid expansion in the economy, with growing inequality. Includes the great industrialists, such as J.D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie.

Winston_S_Churchill People of the Twentieth Century (1901 to 2000) Famous people of the turbulent century. Includes Winston Churchill, F.D. Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler and Stalin.

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