Can You Name the Historical Figure From a Legendary Fact About Them?



By: Jonnathan Chadwick

7 Min Quiz

Image: William P. Gottlieb via WikiCommons

About This Quiz

They say there's nothing new under the sun, which means there are many people who have done a lot of awesome things on Earth. Planes, trains and automobiles are advancing every year. Polio and the Black Death are things of ancient history due to advancements in medicine. We've climbed Everest. We've crossed the English Channel. We've been to the moon. We invented the wheel. We domesticated crops. We created Democracy. We created the internet. We've done a lot, and although the most significant accomplishments are accomplishments credited to humankind as a whole, there are still some pretty awesome individuals behind them.

Do you know the historical figures behind some of the most legendary facts in the history of the planet? Who invented paper? Who took the first-ever selfie? What athlete earned more than $15 billion during their career, and what world leader was once worth $400 billion? Over 4.5 billion years, there have been zillions of individual accomplishments, and here are just a few of the most important ones.

Somebody had to invent the cellphone. Somebody had to become the first president to talk on TV or the first woman to win a Nobel Prize or the first African American to become a lawyer, but can you identify these people? Put your skills to the test and see if you can name the historical figure based on a legendary fact about them.

Do you know who ran into the street naked and yelled, "Eureka! Eureka!" after he sat in his bathtub and realized water displacement could measure an object's volume?

This probably didn't happen, but it's a great story. Legend says Archimedes was tasked with checking whether a piece of jewelry was pure gold, or a gold and silver mix. When he sat in his tub and saw the water spill out, he realized gold and silver would displace different amounts of water.


Do you know this English mathematician who is considered the first computer programmer in the history of the world?

Ada Lovelace was tasked with translating a paper that introduced one of the earliest computers. When translating it, she added notes to the paper so people would easily understand it. One note was an algorithm explaining how a computer function would work. That note is considered the first-ever published piece of computer code, making her the first-ever computer programmer. Her addendum to the paper took a year to complete.


Can you name this man who invented the World Wide Web?

The Internet was created by the U.S. Department of Defense in the 1960s, and it's important to know that the Internet is just a network of computers. You can't access any information on the Internet without using the World Wide Web, which is the HTML, web browsers and links that allow you to access information. It was invented by Tim Berners Lee in the 1990s.


Can you name this reporter who traveled around the world in 80 days for one of her reports?

Nellie Bly took investigative journalism to a new level in the late 19th century. She's most famous for going undercover for 10 days at an insane asylum and writing an expose that led to significant change. Bly also set out to prove whether one could really travel around the world in 80 days. She did it in 72 days.


He took the first ever selfie. Who is he?

Where would the world be without the selfie? It all started in 1839 when photography enthusiast Robert Cornelius posed still for up to 15 minutes to produce what is considered the world's first known selfie.


His 15th-century invention sits alongside the clock and the alphabet as the most important social technologies in the history of the world. Do you know him?

The invention of the printing press is one of the most important inventions the world has ever seen, and Johannes Gutenberg created it in the mid 15th century. He printed the first Gutenberg Bible in 1455, and the Gutenberg Revolution took off.


This woman went from welfare to the world's first billionaire author in a few years. Do you know her name?

J.K. Rowling spent years working on the "Harry Potter" novels. When she was a single mom without a steady job in her late 20s, she relied on government assistance as she wrote the first novel in the series, "Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone," on a typewriter out of cafes in Edinburgh. The rest, as they say, is history. In 2004, she was named the first billionaire author.


Can you name this ancient Chinese politician who is credited with inventing paper?

Even in the digital age, it's impossible to imagine a world without paper, but before paper was invented, people wrote mostly on papyrus. Cai Lun began using bark and hemp to make paper as we know it today, and he was rewarded greatly for invention.


Can you name the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean?

In 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. In 1928, Earhart followed in his footsteps and became the first woman to accomplish the feat. She became a worldwide celebrity, but in 1937, her airplane disappeared during her attempt to fly around the globe. In January 1939, Earhart was officially declared dead.


Who is this hero who served as conductor of the Underground Railroad for several years?

Harriet Tubman helped more than 70 slaves escape to freedom. She embarked on more than a dozen missions during eight years of conducting the Underground Railroad. Despite massive attempts, she was never caught. Tubman died in Auburn, New York, in 1913. She was in her 90s.


This guy invented dynamite and had a peace prize named after him. Who is he?

Alfred Nobel was a Swedish inventor and chemist who held more than 350 patents. He is the inventor of dynamite. In 1895, when hearing criticism of the wealth he amassed from firearms, Nobel created the Nobel Prize institute to award achievement in five categories. The prize is considered the highest award available in each category. He died in Italy in 1896.


France won one of its biggest military victories ever after this heroine joined the army in battle. What's her name?

Joan of Arc first appeared with the French army at the Siege of Orleans during the Hundred Years' War. The siege ended shortly after her arrival, and her legacy was born. She didn't actually fight in battle but functioned more like an inspirational and motivational member of the army.


Do you know who was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and the only woman to win two Nobel Prizes?

Marie Curie is one of the most famous scientists of all time and one of only four people to win multiple Nobel Prizes. She won on separate occasions in the fields of chemistry and physics, and she is the only woman to have done so.


He invented the helicopter, parachute, the armored car, diving suit, machine gun, self-propelled cart and painted the Mona Lisa. Can you name him?

Aside from all the science and inventions for which da Vinci is responsible, one of the most surprising facts about him is that he wrote backward. He was a lefty, and when he wrote from left to right, his sleeve would smudge the ink, so he wrote from right to left to prevent the issue.


Can you name the first African American to win an Academy Award?

At the 1940 Academy Awards, Hattie McDaniel accepted the award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of "Mammy" in "Gone With the Wind." The ceremonies were held at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, which, at the time, didn't admit black people. McDaniel was the first African American to win an Oscar.


Do you know this newspaper publisher who perfected "fake news" in the 1800s?

Hearst and Joseph Pultizer were bitter rivals during the late 19th century, and it birthed America's love for "fake news." Hearst's newspapers were full of sensationalist copy and unchecked facts that stoked the feelings and emotions of the American public.


Can you name the first female African American lawyer in the United States?

It is said that Charlotte E. Ray was only admitted to Howard Law School because she used her initials instead of her name, but that hasn't been proven. Nevertheless, she was the first woman to graduate from Howard Law, the first woman to be admitted to the Washington, D.C. bar association, the first woman to argue a case in the Supreme Court and the first black female lawyer in the U.S.


In 1517, he posted one of the most viral pieces of content the world has ever seen. Do you know who he is?

Martin Luther had a few issues with the Roman Catholic Church, prompting him to publish his now-famous "95 theses" which he posted it on the door of a church in Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517. The document was quickly picked up, reprinted, translated and distributed throughout all of Europe.


Can you identify this woman who is widely known as the founder of modern nursing?

Nightingale was born into a wealthy family and dedicated her life to serving others. The modern nursing industry, wherein patient care and compassion is of utmost importance, was created by Nightingale. Nurses now recite the Nightingale Pledge (created in Detroit, Michigan, in 1893) before embarking on their career. The pledge is similar to the Hippocratic Oath that doctors take.


This master general is remembered for being short, but he was taller than the average height for that period. What's his name?

Napoleon stood 5 feet, 6 inches tall. The average adult male in France during that time was 5 feet, 5 inches tall, so Napoleon was above average height. Some even say he was 5 feet, 7 inches tall, but he is remembered for being short because an enemy propaganda campaign against him worked well.


Who is this woman who skipped college to study primates and is now the world's leading expert on chimpanzees?

Jane Goodall worked a host of odd jobs after high school graduation because she couldn't afford college. She was eventually hired as an assistant to an anthropologist, and the rest is history. Although she didn't have a college degree, she was accepted into a Ph.D. program at Cambridge University in 1962. She graduated in 1966.


Can you name this leader who became the first black president of South Africa after spending 27 years in prison?

Nelson Mandela was arrested in the 1960s for inciting strikes in South Africa. His release from prison in 1990 was one of the country's most significant moments. He became South Africa's president in 1994 and served for five years, helping to end apartheid.


Do you recognize this Mexican artist who began painting after a train crash broke her spine, collarbone, ribs, pelvis, leg and shoulder?

Being bedridden for three months allowed Kahlo to perfect her craft and focus full time on painting. She was diagnosed with polio as a child. She battled disease and pain her entire life to become a world-famous, self-taught portrait painter, making her an iconic figure around the world.


With a peak net worth of $400 billion, this is the richest person in the history of the world. What's his name?

Mansa Musa ruled as 10th emperor of Mali from 1312 to 1337. It is believed that Mali was the leading producer of gold at the time, so he controlled the price of gold in the entire region. Legend says he once walked to Mecca with 60,000 men and 100,000 pounds of gold, giving it away to poor people on his route, and building a mosque every Friday.


This woman was named "Woman of the Millennium" in 1999 and is considered India's greatest prime minister. Who is she?

Indira Gandhi was the second longest-serving prime minister of India and would have served longer if her bodyguards hadn't assassinated her in 1984. The assassination led to the anti-Sikh riots of 1984.


This Roman chariot racer is the highest-earning athlete of all time, earning more than $15 billion in his career. Who is he?

As impossible as this is to believe, Dicocles' racing record was pretty well recorded. He raced in 4,257 races, won 1,462, and placed in 1,438 of them, earning him more than 35 million sesterces, which were Roman coins. His wealth equaled close to 60,000 pounds of gold, equivalent to $15 billion today.


Can you name this woman who was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white bus rider nine months before the Rosa Parks incident?

Claudette Colvin was 15 years old, pregnant and unmarried when she was arrested. Her image didn't work as the face of a movement, so she was greatly overshadowed by Rosa Parks, who was arrested in a similar incident nine months later.


Can you name the person who invented the mobile phone?

Engineer Martin Cooper worked at Motorola when he thought of a concept for the mobile phone. In 1973, he demonstrated the mobile phone to reporters by standing in midtown Manhattan and calling his rival at AT&T. It was the first mobile phone call made in public.


This last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt seduced Julius Caesar by wrapping herself in a rug and sneaking past his guards. Who is she?

Cleopatra was at the center of some toxic relationships, including her involvement with Mark Antony and Julius Caesar, and her plots to murder siblings who rivaled her for the throne. Aside from her charm and looks, she was said to be extremely smart. She spoke 12 languages and was well versed in philosophy, math and astronomy.


This Jamaican reggae artist was named the greatest lyricist of all time and his song, "One Love," was crowned the "Song of the Millennium." Do you know who he is?

Not only did the BBC crown Bob Marley as the greatest lyricist of all time, but it also crowned his song, "One Love," the best song of the millennium. The Jamaican reggae artist is one of the best selling and highest-earning musical artists of all time.


Do you recognize this celebrity chef who was a spy during WWII?

Julia Child wanted to join the Army or Navy, but at 6 feet, 2 inches, she was too tall, so she joined the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). She worked on secret research directly for Colonel William J. Donovan, who was the head of the agency at the time.


He was given up for adoption at birth, dropped out of college, and went on to create some of the greatest inventions of the Digital Revolution. Do you know his name?

Steve Jobs famously delivered his "stay hungry, stay foolish" speech at Stanford University's graduation in 2005, and nobody embodied the mantra more than he did. No matter the setback, and there were many, he kept on dreaming and believing and creating awesome products.


Can you name the lawyer who in 1981 became the first female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court?

The U.S. Supreme Court, which was established in 1789, went almost 200 years without a female justice. O'Connor became the first female justice when President Ronald Reagan appointed her in 1981. Although justices usually serve until death or ill health prohibits them from doing so, O'Connor retired in good health in 2006 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.


Can you name the first African American justice of the U.S. Supreme Court?

The U.S. Supreme Court was established by the U.S. Constitution in 1789 but didn't have a black justice until 1967 when President Lyndon Johnson appointed Thurgood Marshall to the position. In 1991, Clarence Thomas became the second black justice, and in 2009, Sonia Sotomayor, who was born in New York to Puerto Rican parents, became the first Hispanic justice.


Do you recognize this "Iron Lady" who is the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century?

Margaret Thatcher served as the U.K.'s prime minister for a little more than 11 years. Two prime ministers served longer than she did, but that was in the 1800s, and the position didn't have the same significance as it does today. In 1976, Thatcher was dubbed the "Iron Lady," because of her strong political views and leadership style.


He is credited with creating the marathon when he ran from Marathon to Athens in Greece to announce the news of the Greek's victory in their battle against the Persians. Who was he?

In 490 BC, the Greeks defeated the Persians in the Battle of Marathon. Legend has it that Greek's best runner, Pheidippides, was sent to Athens (about 25 miles away) to announce victory. The exact details of the situation are impossible to confirm, but ever since the story spread, cities began holding race events called "marathons" and they were similar in distance from Marathon to Athens. The current official marathon distance is 26.2 miles.


Can you identify this person who was the first female leader of a Muslim country?

Benazir Bhutto was the first female leader of a Muslim country. In 2007, she was assassinated when she stood up and stuck herself out the escape hatch of her bulletproof car to wave to crowds. After her death, her son assumed the position to carry out Bhutto's political goals.


The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees women the right to vote and is named after this woman. Who is she?

Susan B. Anthony is one of the most famous women in American history and was a crucial figure in the anti-slavery and women's rights movements in America. She was arrested and found guilty of voting in 1872 but refused to pay the penalty. American women secured the right to vote in 1920.


Can you name this woman who served as a surgeon in the American Civil War and is the only woman to ever receive the Medal of Honor?

There have been 3,524 Medals of Honor awarded, and only one of them was awarded to a woman. Mary Edwards Walker worked as a surgeon for the Union Army, although women weren't permitted to work in that capacity. She was captured by the Confederate Army and held as a prisoner of war until she was released in an exchange. She then became a leading figure in the women's rights movement.


Who was the first U.S. president to speak on television?

In 1939, FDR became the first president to speak on television when he spoke at the opening of the 1939 World's Fair in New York. Harry Truman was the first president to deliver a televised speech from the White House when he did so in 1947.


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