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Important People

The twentieth century was shaped by scientists, leaders, civil rights workers, entertainers, and so many more. Learn more about some of the influential people who molded the century, including both the heroes and the villains.
  1. Air & Space (6)
  2. Artists & Writers (5)
  3. Civil Rights in World (4)
  4. Criminals (7)
  5. Entertainers (12)
  6. Scientists & Inventors (10)
  7. U.S. Presidents (45)
  8. World Leaders & Revoluton (61)

Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud is best known as the father of psychoanalysis. Freud believed that patients could talk via free association to reveal the innermost thoughts of their unconscious mind. Learn more about Freud and his work through this biography.

A to Z List of Famous People of the 20th Century
Looking for someone in particular? Browse through this alphabetical listing of people who shaped the twentieth century.

100 Famous Women of the 20th Century
The women on this list have written books, discovered elements, explored the unknown, ruled countries, saved lives, plus so much more. Browse through this list of 100 famous women from the 20th century and be amazed at their stories.

100 Famous African-American Men and Women of the 20th Century
African-American men and women have made great contributions to American society throughout the 20th century. In this article, you will find a listing of 100 African Americans who truly achieved greatness by either advancing civil rights or making major impacts in science, government, sports, or entertainment.

Muhammad Ali
Muhammad Ali is one of the most famous boxers of all time. His conversion to Islam and draft evasion conviction surrounded him with controversy and even exile from boxing for three years. Despite the hiatus, his quick reflexes and strong punches helped Muhammad Ali become the first person in history to win the heavyweight champion title three...

Booker T. Washington
Booker T. Washington was born a slave and yet managed, through education and hard work, to become one of the most well-known African Americans of his time. After founding the Tuskegee Institute in 1881, Washington became really famous after his Atlanta Compromise Speech in 1895, in which he proposed that education, and not legislation, would bring equality between whites and blacks.

Jimmy Carter
Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer from Georgia, then governor, and then the 39th president of the United States. Unfortunately, my most counts, he failed as a president. However, since then, Carter has worked diligently on humanitarian efforts around the world. Learn more about President Jimmy Carter in this short biography.

Eva Peron
Eva Peron, the young wife of Argentine president Juan Peron, was known around the world for her work with the poor and her support of women's suffrage. Although the masses adored her, there were others who thought her motives were not so noble. Learn more about the short but fascinating life of Eva Peron.

Martin Luther King Jr.
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., the leader of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, introduced the concept of nonviolence into the fight for equal rights for African Americans. He led the Montgomery Bus Boycott and then brought the struggle into the national arena.

Babe Ruth
Babe Ruth is often referred to as the greatest baseball player who ever lived. In 22 seasons, Babe Ruth hit a record 714 home runs. Many of Babe Ruth's numerous records for both pitching and hitting lasted for decades. Learn more about one of the most famous athletes of all time.

Ernest Hemingway
He went to war, fished, drank, and womanized; oh, and he wrote books. Known for his simple prose, which differed greatly from 19th century writings, Ernest Hemingway lived a life worth writing about. Find out about the life and sudden death of Hemingway.

History Quotes
A collection of history quotes made by famous or influential people of the 20th century.

Madam C.J. Walker
Madam C.J. Walker was truly a remarkable woman. She started out life as a child of slaves, was orphaned at age 7, married at age 14, a mother by age 17, and then a widow by age 20. She then spent 18 years as a laundress before starting her own hair-care business that grew exponentially, ultimately making her the first female, self-made millionaire.

John D. Rockefeller
Although he started with humble beginnings, John D. Rockefeller used his keen business sense to found Standard Oil Company, in turn making him one of the wealthiest men in the world. Later in life, Rockefeller gave away much of his wealth by creating foundations and funding charities. Learn more about the life of oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller.

Emmeline Pankhurst
Emmeline Pankhurst was a leader in the women's suffrage movement in Great Britain. Using methods such as rock throwing and arson, Pankhurst and other "suffragettes" drew attention to their cause.

Malcolm X
Malcolm X was a controversial figure during the Civil Rights era. While he advocated for black pride, he also believed in the inherent evil of the white man. Malcolm X didn't believe in integration, which was the goal of the mainstream Civil Rights Movement; instead, he advocated for a separate black community. Find out more about the life of...

F. Scott Fitzgerald
During his lifetime, F. Scott Fitzgerald was nearly as famous for his wild, partying social life as we was for his great novels (such as The Great Gatsby). However, since his death at the early age of 44, F. Scott Fitzgerald's reputation has grown significantly, placing him among some of the greatest American writers in history.

Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) was a Mexican painter well known for her self-portraits. Kahlo's near-death accident, bisexual relationships, and stormy marriage to famous muralist Diego Rivera make Frida Kahlo's biography absolutely fascinating.

Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi, the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, became India's third prime minister in 1966, ultimately serving four terms. Learn more about Indira Gandhi, only the second women in the world to become a prime minister.

John Glenn
Astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962. But John Glenn was an amazing, accomplished man both before and after that flight as well. Learn more about John Glenn in this short biography.

Jackie Robinson
On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson made history by becoming the very first African American to play in a Major League Baseball team. Find out more about Jackie Robinson, the man who broke the color barrier.

TIME's Man of the Year List
Since 1927, TIME Magazine has chosen a man, woman, or idea that for better or worse, has most influenced events in the preceding year. View the listing of TIME's picks over the decades.

Truman Capote
Short, with a soft voice, and homosexual, Truman Capote was not easy to forget. In the limelight as much for being the author of Breakfast at Tiffany's and In Cold Blood as his lively personality, Truman Capote was a very popular celebrity in his lifetime.

Who Is Your Favorite Historical Figure to Dress Up as for a Halloween Costume?
Some people dress up as current political figures, others as movie stars or mass murderers. Who is your favorite historical figure to dress up for as a Halloween costume?

Eleanor Roosevelt
Eleanor Roosevelt was a beloved figure of the 20th century. She fought tirelessly for the rights of the underprivileged throughout her lifetime, especially during her tenure as First Lady of the United States and while serving as a delegate to the United Nations.

Neil Armstrong
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first man to ever set foot on the moon. But what did he do before that historic trip? What did he do after it? Learn more about the life of astronaut Neil Armstrong.

Joseph Stalin

Helen Keller
Helen Keller was just like any other young child until she came down with a nearly fatal disease at the age of 19 months. Although she survived the illness, it left her both deaf and blind. She was able to escape a life of loneliness and despair only because her teacher, Annie Sullivan, taught her how to communicate. Learn more about the life of...

Frank Lloyd Wright
Frank Lloyd Wright was the most famous architect of the 20th century. He believed in organic architecture, creating its ultimate example by designing a house that hovered over a waterfall (Fallingwater). His life, however, was full of turmoil, including affairs and murder. Learn more about Frank Lloyd Wright's very interesting life.

Golda Meir
Golda Meir was a devoted Zionist from an early age, who went on to become one of the signers of Israel's declaration of independence and later the first female prime minister of Israel (1969 to 1974). Learn more about Gold Meir, the Iron Lady of Israel.

Sally Ride
On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride made history when she became the first American woman in space. She helped investigate two space shuttle disasters and then, after retiring from NASA, dedicated herself to making science interesting to kids.

Pol Pot
From 1975 to 1979, Pol Pot, as the leader of the Khmer Rouge, was the dictator of Cambodia. During these five years, Pol Pot attempted to transform Cambodia into an agrarian utopia; however, in attempting to do this, Pol Pot was responsible for creating the Cambodian Genocide, which saw the deaths of an estimated 1.5 million people.

Jane Addams
Jane Addams founded the settlement house called Hull House in 1889 in order to help the underprivileged in Chicago. Addams went on to became a model social reformer, advocating for peace, civil rights, and women's suffrage. Learn more about her life in this biography of Jane Addams.

Audrey Hepburn
Audrey Hepburn is considered one of the most exquisite and elegant women of the 20th century. Not only was Hepburn an Academy-Award winning actress, she also became a fashion icon. Hepburn is perhaps best remembered for her roles in the movies My Fair Lady and Breakfast at Tiffany's, but she made many great films.

Nicholas II
Nicholas II was the last czar of Russia. Thrust into the position of czar with no real training, Nicholas made mistake after mistake. Nicholas' inflexibility and seeming disinterest in his own people, pushed Russia into both a revolution and a civil war. In the end, Nicholas was forced to abdicate, ending the monarchy in Russia.

Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong is one of the most loved jazz musicians of all time. Born to a poor, teenage mother, Armstrong overcame his beginnings to become a masterful trumpeter, who played a key role in the development of jazz music.

Thomas Edison
Thomas Alva Edison, one of the most famous inventors in history, is best known as the inventor of the light bulb, the phonograph, and motion pictures. Learn more about Thomas Edison's life as well as a few of his 1,093 patents.

Jackie Kennedy
Jackie Kennedy, as wife of John F. Kennedy, was the First Lady of the United States from 1961 to 1963. She is remembered for her style, grace, and efforts to restore the White House.

Cary Grant
The suave and debonaire Cary Grant was one of the most famous actors of the 20th century. However, despite his charmed on-screen appearance, his home life was troubled after his mom went missing, LSD therapy sessions, and five marriages. Learn more about famous actor Cary Grant in this short biography.

Grace Kelly
Young, blonde, beautiful Grace Kelly mesmerized audiences with her performances in eleven films in five years. However, she left all that behind when she married Prince Rainier III of Monaco and became a princess.

Jim Thorpe
Jim Thorpe was one of the greatest athletes of all time. He could pretty much pick up any sport and master it, but is best known for receiving Olympic gold medals in the pentathlon and the decathlon as well as playing both professional baseball and football.

Al Capone

Walt Disney
Walt Disney was a cartoonist, innovator, and an entrepreneur who created some of the most beloved characters of the 20th century, the world's first theme park, and one of the largest entertainment companies in the world.

Agatha Christie
Author Agatha Christie, known as the Queen of Crime, wrote 82 detective novels, a series of six romance novels, 19 plays, and an autobiography. Read more about the life of this amazing author and her mysterious disappearance.

Jimmy Stewart
Every year, people watch Jimmy Stewart in the movie, It's a Wonderful Life when it appears on TV near the holidays. He still makes people smile and feel good. In his many films, Jimmy Stewart often fought for justice. Off the screen, Jimmy Stewart proved he truly was a hero. Stewart was not only the first famous film actor to serve in World...

Joe DiMaggio
Joe DiMaggio is one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He played in the major leagues for the Yankees and in 1941 set an all time, yet-to-be-beat, hitting streak that lasted 56 games. Learn more about the life of baseball player Joe DiMaggio, including his marriage to actress Marilyn Monroe.

Dorothy Dandridge
Dorothy Dandridge was incredibly beautiful and talented and yet was stunted by the racism of the age she lived in. She became famous after starring in the movie Carmen Jones (1954), earning her the first nomination of an African-American woman for the Best Actress Oscar at the Academy Awards . She appeared in other films but both her personal and professional life went downhill after this and she ultimately died of an overdose at age 42.

Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra was an extremely famous singer and movie star. He began singing with the big bands of the 1940s but soon started on an amazing solo career. Learn more about the man, his songs, and his personal life thorugh this Frank Sinatra biography.

President Warren Harding
Warren G. Harding is considered one of the worst U.S. Presidents in history. Harding tried to be the good guy, loved playing poker, and avoided confrontation, yet his extramarital affairs and the political scandals that were discovered after Harding's death have severely tarnished Harding's presidency. Find out more about the life of President...

John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (a Great Depression-era tale about the Joad family, who moved from Oklahoma to California) has become his most famous book. Yet besides The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck wrote a number of other valuable novels, including The Pearl, Tortilla Flat, and Travels With Charley. Learn more about Steinbeck (and his three wives) in this biography about author John Steinbeck.

Charlie Chaplin

Mussolini
Benito Mussolini was the fascist dictator of Italy from his March on Rome in 1922 until his own demise at the end of World War II. Find out how the son of a blacksmith turned into the leader of Italy.

Che Guevara
As a young adult, Che Guevara went on a motorcycle journey through South America, awakening a passion for the lower classes. Determined to make a difference, Guevara turned into a revolutionary and played a central role in the Cuban Revolution. Guevara then dedicated the rest of his life to instigating revolutions. Che Guevara, the iconic...

Thurgood Marshall
Thurgood Marshall was an impressive civil rights lawyer who won 29 out of 32 cases he brought to the U.S. Supreme Court while working for the NAACP. Then, in 1967, Thurgood Marshall was appointed a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, becoming the first African American to do so. Find out more about Thurgood Marshall, a man who escaped a lynching but kept his sense of humor.

Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford became the 38th President of the United States when Richard Nixon resigned in 1974. Since Ford had been appointed (not elected) vice president after the resignation of Spiro Agnew, Ford became the only U.S. president to not have been elected. Find out more about Gerald Ford's life, presidency, pardon of Nixon, and later years in this short biography of President Gerald Ford.

Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall has spent over five decades studying chimpanzees at the Gombe Stream Reserve in what is now Tanzania. She has made several important discoveries about chimpanzees and has become famous world-wide for her research and her activism. Learn more about the life of Jane Goodall.

The Nazis
The Nazi Party began as one of thousands of innocuous political groups that formed after Germany's defeat in World War I; however, it soon grew increasingly powerful, eventually taking over all of Germany. Let by Hitler, the Nazis started World War II and were responsible for the horrors of the Holocaust. Find out how the Nazi Party formed and how it grew so powerful.

Woodrow Wilson
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson detested war and yet was forced to bring the United States into World War I. After the war, Wilson tried to create the League of Nations, whose job was to try to keep the world out of another war. Find out more about Woodrow Wilson, considered by many to be one of American's top ten best presidents.

Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie made his money by being a steel magnate, ultimately becoming the richest man in the world. However, he soon retired from business and gave nearly all his money away to charity. Find out more about Andrew Carnegie.

Virginia Woolf
British author Virginia Woolf wrote ten novels and a number of essays despite struggling with mental illness nearly her whole life. Sadly, however, her illness ultimately killed her. Learn more about this talented, troubled woman.

Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov, best known for his science-fiction novels, wrote a total of 471 books on a huge number of subjects. Find out more about Asimov and how he was so prolific.

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