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30 Historical People You Probably Don't Know

You probably don't know these thirty important historical people. Only true geeks will get more than half.
Quiz by Quizmaster
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Last updated: December 31, 2019
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First submittedApril 2, 2014
Times taken51,581
Average score36.7%
Rating4.31
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Clue
Person
British commander at Waterloo
Duke of Wellington
Lakota war leader who defeated Custer
Crazy Horse
Third wife of Henry VIII
Jane Seymour
"Great" empress of Russia
Catherine the Great
Author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin"
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Babylonian ruler known for his written code of "an eye for an eye"
Hammurabi
Egyptian sometimes called the world's first architect and doctor
Imhotep
First European to reach America
Leif Ericson
Most well-known Zulu leader
Shaka
Man who doubled wheat yields in South Asia - saving millions from starvation
Norman Borlaug
Jewish officer wrongly convicted of treason in 1894 France
Alfred Dreyfus
"Great" Byzantine emperor who conquered Italy
Justinian
Spanish King who launched an Armada against England
Philip II
The inventor of the radio (according to most)
Guglielmo Marconi
Revolutionary War general who switched from American to British allegiance
Benedict Arnold
Economist who proposed government stimulus to correct the Great Depression
John Maynard Keynes
"Great" King of Prussia
Frederick the Great
Muslim commander who battled the Crusaders and earned their respect
Saladin
Father of modern Turkey
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
The real-life inspiration for Dracula
Vlad the Impaler
President of North Vietnam until his death in 1969
Ho Chi Minh
Dutchman who "discovered" Tasmania
Abel Tasman
Romantic poet and seducer who died fighting for Greek independence
Lord Byron
Serbian inventor whose AC power defeated Edison's DC power
Nikola Tesla
Chinese leader who made free market reforms after Mao's death
Deng Xiaoping
First man to orbit the Earth
Yuri Gagarin
American actress who married Monaco's Prince Rainier
Grace Kelly
Steel tycoon who started thousands of libraries
Andrew Carnegie
First emperor of China who took mercury pills to seek immortality
Qin Shi Huang
Founder of modern nursing who tended to soldiers in the Crimean War
Florence Nightingale
104 Recent Comments
+2
Level 66
Sep 11, 2014
Barbarossa for Frederick and Chaka for Shaka would be nice.
+10
Level 32
Apr 24, 2016
Frederick the Great and Frederick Barbarossa were different people, one was a king of Prussia in the 18th century, the other was a Holy Roman Emperor who took part in the third crusade, so Barbarossa should absolutely not be accepted
+3
Level 66
Dec 18, 2019
Dang, you're right! Brain fart, no excuses.
+1
Level 74
Dec 31, 2019
Agreed about more type-ins for Shaka though. Tshaka and Chaka are both common-enough alternate transliterations.
+1
Level 84
Sep 20, 2023
*alternative
+1
Level 32
Dec 26, 2014
29/30 :-) was typing in tasman when time ran out :( i'm a true geek
+1
Level 72
Aug 28, 2016
I knew Tasmanian was once called Van Diemen's land and thought that sounded a lot more Dutch than Tasman. Ohh well.

Just looked it up, Van Diemen was Tasman's sponsor. I think that makes it even more frustrating.

+3
Level 83
Jun 11, 2015
Found most of the answers hard but some surprisingly easy - don't all British people, at least, know Florence Nightingale and Jane Seymour? Also Wellington?
+1
Level 71
Jul 9, 2015
ghehehehehe 27/30
+1
Level 63
Nov 2, 2015
I'll give that Borlaug is a hard answer, but the others seem pretty straightforward. Missed the market reforms though - never can spell that.
+1
Level 68
Nov 25, 2015
27.... somehow typed every other name except Jane.
+1
Level 62
Apr 2, 2016
I think the description is a bit of an exaggeration. Some of these people are very famous. Even if you were aiming it at an American audience, presumably Benedict Arnold is famous there (and I'm sure he's unjustly vilified by your biased education system).
+4
Level 66
Jun 25, 2018
Benedict Arnold betrayed his country in wartime and began fighting for the other side because he didn't feel he was appreciated enough. Is it even possible to unjustly villify him? His name is basically synonymous with the concept of treason in the US, and for good reason.
+6
Level 79
Sep 9, 2019
Arnold was born as a British subject. Which act of treason is he to be vilified for - the first or the second?
+1
Level 32
Apr 24, 2016
Could Leif the Lucky be allowed instead of Leif Ericson, as this is a common alternative?
+6
Level 81
Apr 28, 2016
Could you add Felipe for the Spanish king? I never thought of writing Phillip. Thanks.
+1
Level 80
Jan 21, 2024
Yes, I think Felipe should be accepted too
+2
Level 66
Sep 26, 2016
Got 19, but I'm pretty sure I typed in Xiaoping, all clever that I knew a recent Chinese guy, but they didn't take it. Also, what was Van Dieman's Land? I tried for some 45 seconds with variations on Van Dieman for Tasmania, but of course it wasn't him.
+1
Level 66
Jan 19, 2017
Update: up to 24. Yes, I am a history geek. Got Qin every time, which I'm pretty happy about.
+4
Level 76
Dec 31, 2019
Xiaoping isn't his family name, which is why it wasn't accepted
+1
Level 65
Nov 25, 2016
I was a little embarrassed by getting only nine, but then it turned out I beat more than half of the takers :D Tough quiz!
+1
Level 70
Feb 28, 2017
I thought that Sitting Bull was the elder of the two leaders (with Crazy Horse) that defeated Custer at Little Big Horn.
+1
Level 77
Aug 28, 2017
Agreed, I think Sitting Bull should be an acceptable answer too.
+2
Level 66
Jun 25, 2018
Sitting Bull was one of the leaders, but he was not the war leader at the Little Big Horn. That was Crazy Horse.
+1
Level 75
Feb 28, 2017
Prussian ruler is Friedrich the Great, no?
+2
Level ∞
Oct 31, 2019
He is known as Frederick in English. Friedrich will be accepted now.
+1
Level 35
Apr 6, 2017
Shaka... when the walls fell
+2
Level 58
Jun 8, 2017
Spent ages trying different permutations of Cetshwayo, only to learn that they were after Shaka!
+1
Level 68
Jun 8, 2017
Got twelve, should have remembered others
+1
Level 55
Aug 28, 2017
that was surprisingly easy. I had trouble remembering Borlaug and Dreyfus but I came up with them eventually. 30/30
+1
Level 72
Oct 27, 2017
Great quiz but it could do with a bit more leeway on the spelling especially as a fair few of them are blinking hard to spell and this isn't the type of quiz where you have a lot of time at the end to go back and try a dozen different spellings.
+1
Level 51
Jan 5, 2018
18/30

Should have gotten Ericson and Byron. Knew the Crazy Horse one too but the name didn't reach the surface of my mind - I could only think of Sitting Bull.

It appears that 10 is the average score so I guess the introductory sentence is correct.

+1
Level 77
May 20, 2018
There are a lot of answers where you're really liberal on the spelling but others where you're not. A little frustrating.
+6
Level 64
Jun 25, 2018
What are the odds of someone discovering an island and finding out it has his name?
+1
Level 70
Oct 17, 2019
Funny :P but, too bad it wasnt called that untill after his death (200 years after he discovered it actually). Tasman didnt name it tasmania but van diemensland, so the joke doesnt really work.
+4
Level 76
Dec 31, 2019
It's actually pretty common. See: James Cook, Saint Helena, Henry Three Mile and Vanilla Iceland
+1
Level 66
Jun 25, 2018
I think I did alright with 21/30, but there's at least 2 more I should have gotten (Ho Chi Minh and Philip II), and 4 more I could potentially have gotten since I have at least a little familiarity with them (Grace Kelly, Jane Seymour, John Maynard Keynes, and Justinian). I didn't know Alfred Dreyfus or Guglielmo Marconi at all though.
+1
Level 66
Jun 25, 2018
16/30
+1
Level 60
Jun 25, 2018
Maybe allow more leeway in spelling, i.e. Nightingale, Imhotep, and Hummarabi
+1
Level 77
Sep 9, 2019
I kind of remembered Uncle Tom's author, but spelled it Beecher Stove. No joy. I'd add that to the list of names for more leeway.
+1
Level 83
Jun 25, 2018
Never considered myself a true geek, but if Jetpunk says so...
+1
Level 70
Jul 28, 2018
Woohoo! I‘m a geek, got 23, (but only three of them have I never heard of - Stowe, Borlaug and Arnold...)
+1
Level 39
Sep 4, 2018
Well done, the best quizzes teach us new things.
+1
Level 63
Dec 20, 2018
Isn't the first European Erik the Red?
+1
Level 82
Dec 20, 2018
Yeah it should say the North American mainland as Erik the Red made it to Greenland before his son (Erikson) made it as far as Canada.
+1
Level 78
Oct 17, 2022
Since when has Greenland been considered a part of Americas?
+1
Level 68
Sep 9, 2019
Didn't know about Erikson. Interesting.
+2
Level 63
Dec 17, 2019
A lot of these I really don't know but others seem rather famous. Tesla especially surprised me.
+1
Level 61
Dec 17, 2019
Damn, only 8/30.

This is hard!

+3
Level 69
Dec 17, 2019
Could you accept Felipe and/or Filipe for Philip, and accept Eriksson for Ericson?
+3
Level 66
Dec 19, 2019
Norman Borlaug my Minnesota booiiiiii
+1
Level 72
Dec 31, 2019
Wasn't he from Iowa?
+1
Level 42
Jun 16, 2021
Sadly, he was from Iowa. Though I wish he was from MN
+1
Level 62
Dec 31, 2019
Anyone else get more than a few answers because you played Civilization?
+1
Level 82
Dec 31, 2019
Could you allow the last name only for Mao's successor - typed it in and managed to spell it right too, ended up having to type the slightly easier to spell first name.
+2
Level 86
Dec 31, 2019
In China, the "first" name is the surname and the second is the given name.
+1
Level 86
Dec 31, 2019
A few type-ins could arguably be added for Grace Kelly: Princess Grace, Grace of Monaco or even Grace alone, precisely because she was a princess of Monaco... (those people have a special status, like it or not). For the moment, it's like strictly asking for Diana Spencer.
+1
Level ∞
Dec 31, 2019
Okay
+1
Level 80
Dec 31, 2019
Kept typing Eriksson - the correct spelling - never thought of trying Ericson. Please at least allow the correct spelling
+1
Level 70
Dec 31, 2019
Eriksson spelling, please
+1
Level ∞
Dec 31, 2019
Okay
+1
Level 56
Dec 31, 2019
that was bloody hard. Struggled manfully to 11, albeit with 4 or 5 that I probably should have got in retrospect
+1
Level 72
Dec 31, 2019
Anyone else only know Borlaug because of that West Wing episode? Or is that too many layers of nerdy?
+1
Level 86
Dec 31, 2019
Yup. Deep nerd here. Got all of them.
+1
Level 49
Dec 31, 2019
There are some specific answers dependent on where you are from- for the British, the most famous Zulu is Cethswayo (Isandlwana and Rorke's Drift etc) not Shaka.
+1
Level 78
Dec 31, 2019
Is 9/30 good for a 14-year-old??
+1
Level 65
Dec 31, 2019
Yes, so is being level 40.

EDIT:

Honestly, being active on this site immediately puts you far above the curve at your age.

+1
Level 51
Dec 31, 2019
Jokes on you, I know the Epic Rap Battle "Alexander the great vs Ivan the terrible" from memory B)
+1
Level 65
Dec 31, 2019
That moment when you got Qin Shi-Huang, Imhotep, and Borlaug but forgot Seymour, Ho Chi Minh, and Wellington
+3
Level 61
Dec 31, 2019
I got Catherine the Great because I tried Catherine Howard for Henry's third wife. Not only that, as I continued to type Howard I got Ho Chi Minh to boot!
+2
Level 86
Dec 31, 2019
Well, that may explain why Catherine the great is so much more guessed than the others here... she is well-known and you can add a bunch of Henry VIII related guesses.
+2
Level 75
Jan 1, 2020
I'll never forget Stowe because of a contest run by Organic Gardening magazine in the 1970s or '80s. They asked people to change the names of authors and their books or singers and their songs to give them a gardening slant. The winning entry was Harriet Beecher Slaw for her book, "Uncle Tom's Cabbage". (Another one mentioned was Elvis Parsley for his song, "Hothouse Rock".)
+1
Level 67
Jan 2, 2020
please don't start with the clickbait titles.
+3
Level ∞
Jan 2, 2020
This quiz was created on April 2, 2014.
+1
Level 73
Jan 2, 2020
I got 13/30, then read the instructions. Not wanting to lose the "True Geek" status, I managed to pull 3 more from somewhere, and got just over half
+1
Level 54
Jan 3, 2020
I was taught in school that the first emperor of China was Shi Huangdi. Is there a way this could be accepted, too?
+1
Level 45
Jan 5, 2020
Got 12 but should have gotten like 15-20. For some, never heard of or would never have remembered their name, but I don't find these very hard.
+1
Level 75
Jan 14, 2020
I'm quite surprised that the average score is 11, most of these people are still fairly well known.
+2
Level 81
Jan 27, 2020
So sad more people don't know about Norman Borlaug. We know the names of those responsible for countless deaths but not those who saved countless lives.
+1
Level 69
Mar 6, 2020
I guessed Cumberbatch. Right first name, wrong last name.
+1
Level 49
Jun 11, 2020
Doesn't accept Yuri.
+1
Level 81
Jun 11, 2020
I don't consider myself a geek, but got a score of 18/30. Played only once and did no looking up. Tough quiz, well done again.
+1
Level 81
Jun 11, 2020
Got exactly half. Do I pass?
+1
Level 83
Jun 11, 2020
defiantly not a geek but got 26 .any fan of history should get over 20 on this quiz .I missed four of the five least guessed , got imhotep because somehow something from the mummy movie (the 90s series) came into my head.
+1
Level 64
Aug 26, 2020
Hate how I knew like half of the ones I got wrong, just couldn't remember them or didn't know that they were famous for that specific thing.

Also managed to not even notice two of the questions.

+1
Level 49
Aug 30, 2020
You should also accept Leiv Eiriksson, as that is a common writing of his name
+2
Level 82
Oct 22, 2020
It's interesting to see how the percentage correctly getting a particular person seems to have little to do with how significant that person was. Grace Kelly is really not an individual of any grand historical importance, yet is near the top. By contrast the likes of the founder of the Chinese Empire (Qin Shi Huang), the man who almost restored the Roman Empire and is responsible for much of the world's legal systems (Justinian), and the man who launched China on its road back to superpower status (Deng Xiaoping) are near the bottom. And Norman Borlaug, often credited with saving a billion people from starvation (possibly an exaggeration, but not an utterly absurd one) is almost completely unknown.
+2
Level 72
Jan 4, 2021
For Justinian it should be "reconquererd" as he was emperor of Rome and Italy used to be Roman.
+1
Level 51
Jan 8, 2021
Kicking myself for forgetting saladin! I tried saracin, sacarin, etc, so at least I was going in the right direction.

Does getting exactly half make me a borderline geek? lol.

+4
Level 71
Mar 5, 2021
I would like Felipe II or Felipe to be an accepted answer for the king of Spain, since that is his name.
+1
Level 62
Apr 19, 2021
Nice one. John Maynard Keynes's name is strangely similar to the name of the lead singer from Tool.
+2
Level 42
Jun 16, 2021
7/30. Waaaaaay more people should've got Bourlag. He's so important.
+1
Level 59
Nov 10, 2021
Only got Yuri Gagarin, but I knew Harriet Stowe just couldn't remember the exact name
+2
Level 82
Jan 11, 2022
Most of these I found pretty easy, and a few I was surprised to see classed as obscure - I'm surprised how few know the Duke of Wellington. I was also surprised by Catherine the Great's inclusion, though judging by the percentages she is in fact pretty well known. On the other hand, while I knew Deng Xiaoping and Qin Shihuangdi would not be well-known, I was still kinda horrified by how low they were, given they are such titanic figures in history. I continually find it wild how even amongst a pretty knowledgeable group of people like those that frequent this site, there's so much ignorance of Chinese history and geography.
+1
Level 60
Oct 6, 2023
I think most people are getting Catherine through the King Henry VIII's third wife question.
+1
Level 56
Mar 4, 2022
It’s good to know I’m not the only one who knew several names but just couldn’t recall them quickly
+2
Level 82
Apr 26, 2022
Ohhhh, the question was about *Prussia.* I read Persia and kept trying different spellings of Xerxes and Cyrus
+1
Level 61
May 5, 2022
I remember reading about Norman Borlaug at school and immediately forgetting him.
+1
Level 45
Jun 6, 2022
Lowest top answer percentage I've ever seen on a quiz here
+2
Level 43
Jan 19, 2023
Norman Borlaug, guy saved millions and no one remembers him. Tells you how shit and useless school is.
+2
Level 82
Mar 3, 2023
Salahaddin? Nope.

Salahuddin? Nope.

Uhhh... Salah al Din? Nope.

Salah ad-din? Nope.

Hmm.

Oh, right! In English his name is contracted a bit! So...

Saluddin? Nope.

Saladdin? Nope.

Huh. Must have the wrong guy. 🤷‍♂️ Guess I don't know it.

A few type-ins for that one would be nice! 😁

+1
Level 68
Jun 21, 2023
22/30
+1
Level 43
May 10, 2024
could Catharina please be accepted instead of just Catherine?
+1
Level 69
Jul 18, 2024
I absolutely never would've guessed John Maynard Keynes to have a higher guessed percentage than Lord Byron