8 famous figures who changed the course of history

8 famous figures who changed the course of history

Bonnie Prince Charlie

Bonnie Prince Charlie Illustration

Full name: Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart

Occupation: Aristocrat

Also known as: The Young Pretender, The Young Chevalier

Time period: 1720 – 1788

Famous for: trying to reclaim the British throne for his exiled family (the Stuarts) by leading an uprising in 1745, failing and running away to France

Quick fire facts:

  • Born in Rome
  • Catholic
  • Firm believer in the divine right of kings

Discover more about Bonnie Prince Charlie with the course Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites

Humphry Davy

Humphry Davy Illustration

Full name: Sir Humphry Davy, 1st Baronet

Occupation: Chemist, Inventor, Poet

Time period: 1778 – 1850

Famous for: All sorts. He invented the Davy lamp and an early form of incandescent light bulb, isolated many chemical elements and invented the field of electrochemistry

Quick fire facts:

  • First ever scientist to be awarded a baronetcy
  • His lab assistant was Michael Faraday
  • Born and raised in Cornwall

Learn more about Humphry Davy’s fascinating life with the course Humphry Davy: Laughing Gas, Literature, and the Lamp


Hadrian Illustration

Full name: Publius Aelius Hadrianus Augustus (Latin)

Also known as: third of the five good emperors

Occupation: Emperor of Rome

Time period: AD 117 – AD 138

Famous for: Building a pretty big wall which partitioned the northern part of Roman Britain

Quick fire facts:

  • Helped beards become fashionable again (the only emperor, other than Nero, to not be clean-shaven)
  • Travelled all over the Roman empire during his reign
  • A ‘philhellene’ also known as a big fan of the Greeks

Visit Hadrian’s namesake with the course Hadrian’s Wall: Life on the Roman Frontier

W.T. Cosgrave

Full name: William Thomas Cosgrave

Also known as: Liam Tomás Mac Cosgair (Irish)

Occupation: Irish politician

Time period: 1880-1965

Famous for: Being the Chairman of the first provisional government of Ireland

Quick fire facts:

  • Become politically active when he attended a Sinn Féin conference aged 25
  • Originally sentenced to death for his part in the Easter Rising
  • Has a controversial legacy due to him turning on former republican allies

Explore more Irish history with the course Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland’s History 1912-1923

Agrippina the Younger

Full name: Julia Agrippina

Also known as: Agrippina Minor, Julia Augusta Agrippina

Occupation: Roman Empress

Time period: AD 49 – AD 54

Famous for: Being part of the Ancient Roman Julio-Claudian dynasty (she was related to five different emperors, and might have poisoned one of them)

Quick fire facts:

  • Exiled at a young age for her involvement in a murder plot
  • Feuded with Emperor Nero, her son, who may have executed her
  • Suspected to have been involved in multiple murders to ensure her powerful position as Empress of Rome

Travel back to Ancient Rome with the course Rome: a Virtual Tour of the Ancient City


Shakespeare illustration

Full name: William Shakespeare

Also known as: The Bard of Avon

Occupation: Playwright, poet, actor

Time period: 1564 – 1616

Famous for: writing some of the best known plays ever written. Many even consider him the greatest writer in the English language

Quick fire facts:

  • Wrote 38 plays
  • Estimated to have contributed thousands of new words to the English language including ‘scuffle’, ‘addiction’ and ‘puking’
  • Left Anne, his wife, his ‘second best bed’ in his will

Examine Shakespeare’s enduring influence with the course Shakespeare: Print and Performance

Adelina Patti

Adelina-Patti Illustration

Full name: Adelina Patti

Occupation: Coloratura soprano (opera singer)

Time period: 1848 – 1919

Famous for: having one of the most beautiful voices in history, as endorsed by composer Verdi

Quick fire facts:

  • Began her opera career aged 16 in New York
  • Commanded huge fees
  • Her great-grand niece is another musical legend: Patti LuPone

Delve further into the world of opera with the course Inside Opera: Why Does It Matter?

Van Meegeren

Full name: Han van Meegeren

Occupation: Forger, artist

Time period: 1889 – 1947

Famous for: producing impeccable forgeries of famous artists including Vermeer

Quick fire facts:

  • His forgeries earned him around $30million
  • He once sold a forgery to Hermann Göring
  • Used Bakelite, an early plastic, to ‘age’ his forgeries

Uncover more of the art world’s dark underbelly with the course Antiquities Trafficking and Art Crime