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
First submittedApril 2, 2014
Times taken37,487
Rating4.32
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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
+7
Level 88
Apr 3, 2014
That was HARD! Got stuck on the nurse for a long time; turns out her name wasn't spelled Nightengale.
+2
Level 63
Apr 2, 2016
It's the name of a bird. I didn't think anyone would think it could be spelt differently.
+8
Level 68
Jul 28, 2018
It's quite possible that many people would ALSO be unsure about the spelling of the bird, especially in areas the bird is not native to, like the Americas.
+1
Level 45
Jan 17, 2020
Did anyone else have their level temporarily reset?
+3
Level 53
Apr 15, 2014
Didn't have enough time
+1
Level 80
Apr 15, 2014
I guess I'm a true geek. I made it to the end but a little extra time would have been helpful for some that I knew but couldn't recall immediately. Gagarin for instance, I always have trouble remembering the exact spelling of his name.
+5
Level ∞
Apr 15, 2014
Added one minute.
+2
Level 50
Apr 15, 2014
I can never remember his last name either. I always try Yuri. If I ever make a quiz with Gagarin as an answer, Yuri will be an acceptable type in.
+1
Level 72
Sep 4, 2016
I kept wanting to put a u in it somewhere.
+1
Level 67
Oct 17, 2019
same first tried gaugin while I knew that wasnt it ;) then gaugarin and gagurin, gugarin and other similar things, everything but the correct way..
+6
Level 53
Nov 12, 2019
You should accept "Leif Eriksson" which is the correct Scandinavian spelling. Leif Ericson is the anglified version, so both should be accepted.
+2
Level 47
Dec 31, 2019
According to this quiz I'm also a true geek. Altough playing Sid Meier's Civilization V and VI certainly helped
+1
Level 82
Jan 2, 2020
Yeah, I was really surprised 10/30 was the average. This is more of a geography nerd haven than anything I suppose.
+2
Level 65
Apr 15, 2014
It's funny. I know a lot of these names, but I just don't think of them in the way presented. Leif Ericson, for example. I know he is the viking leader and son of Erik the Red; I just never think of him as the first European to reach America (although he is, to my knowledge). Lots of them, like Ataturk, are names I recognize, but would never come up with on my own.
+4
Level 75
Mar 11, 2016
Which part of that is funny?

:-P

+1
Level 58
Jun 8, 2017
He doesn't mean funny as in laughing out loud, but as in strange or unusual.
+2
Level 75
Sep 19, 2018
Sorry, I was being unnecessarily sarcastic
+1
Level 58
Apr 15, 2014
I only got 2, but I've only should have gotten 5, plus I didn't know Crazy Horse, but I have been to the memorial (it was still being made, is it done now?). Benedict Arnold (I knew he was a traitor, but I didn't know he was American), Vlad the Impaler, and Nikola Tesla are the ones I missed that I should have gotten. Ho Chi Minh, Lord Byron, and Florence Nightingale I've heard of but never would have gotten.
+4
Level 70
Jul 28, 2018
Benedict Arnold....... to be a traitor to America you would have to be American.
+1
Level 62
Dec 31, 2019
He was born in and a resident of one of the Thirteen Colonies. So yes, he was an American at the time he switched sides.
+1
Level 82
Jan 2, 2020
Actually, he was a traitor to Britain who repatriated himself.
+4
Level 79
Jan 1, 2020
They haven't finished the Crazy Horse Monument. We saw it two years ago and it had progressed a lot since we were there in the 1980s but they have lengthened the estimated time to finish it and it looks like there's still a lot to do.
+2
Level 72
Apr 15, 2014
I don't think I've heard of Norman Borlaug before. Got everyone else.
+1
Level 79
Jan 1, 2020
Borlaug was on the Iowa quiz I took yesterday on this site.
+1
Level 54
Apr 15, 2014
Got all but two. Never heard of Borlaug.
+1
Level 52
Apr 15, 2014
Excellent quiz, got 24. Almost typed Byron but then questioned whether he fought for Greek independence and ran out of time. You learn something new everyday, especially on Jetpunk.
+1
Level 54
Apr 15, 2014
Got some, know a lot of the names I missed but didn't know what they had done. Really cross about missing the Uncle Toms Cabin one- kept trying to think of the scene in the King and I (the children keep repeating her name), but just couldn't recall it!!
+1
Level 74
Apr 15, 2014
Got 19, should've known Wellington. Heard of some of the rest, but would never have been able to come up with them.
+1
Level 79
Oct 19, 2017
Exact same for me.
+1
Level 74
Dec 31, 2019
Up to 26. Got the six least-guessed, but not Seymour, Marconi, and Arnold.
+1
Level 70
Apr 15, 2014
Should've remembered Carnegie, Seymour, and Crazy Horse at least... 23/30.
+2
Level 72
Apr 15, 2014
Should be allowed to just put Xiaoping.
+4
Level 81
Apr 15, 2014
His family name was Deng...
+1
Level 81
Apr 15, 2014
23/30, without Qin Shi Huang that I knew but couldn't spell. I don't think it is really hard...
+1
Level 81
Apr 15, 2014
Still, the results are bad. How come do only 41% get Gagarin? That's troubling.
+1
Level 67
Oct 17, 2019
that one is tough to remember the spelling, always so close but never just right. I think 40 is a decent score for that. What I dont get how tasman is only 23%! it might not be as common as knowing about colombus, but it is knowledge equal to knowing cook. plus the answer is nearly literally in the question!! so even if it slipped your mind.. it is right there.
+1
Level 81
Dec 17, 2019
My culture probably improved since 2014. I easily got 28/30 today and I still don't understand. Most of these are basic historical culture... Most takers should be ashamed. On the other hand, the Quizmaster was infortunately right about most of these and the quiz is relevant...
+3
Level 65
Apr 15, 2014
You overestimate your quiz, i'm not a geek, just rather interested in history, and get 15/30
+5
Level ∞
Apr 15, 2014
I don't know. 15/30 is 82nd percentile. Given our user base, that's pretty good. I think you might qualify as a "true geek"!
+1
Level 32
Apr 15, 2014
Will it ever be cool to know more than the most?
+1
Level 80
Apr 17, 2014
I got 26. I'm not cool at all. I'm suck a geek that I know the etymology of the word geek paradoxically means "fool." They were employed in circuises to bite the heads off of chickens and do other things of the sort that Johnny Knoxville now gets paid for.
+1
Level 52
Apr 15, 2014
I thought Imhotep was Arnold Vosloo in the Mummy?? Ha
+1
Level 80
Apr 17, 2014
The character is based on the historical figure. The first time I heard of Imhotep was actually in the Tick comic book. He was one of the champions of Earth selected to compete in some intergalactic competition, along with The Tick and George Washington Carver and that baby that fell down a well.
+1
Level 67
Apr 15, 2014
21 and kicking myself for missing Dreyfus, Wellington, and Saladin. Ah well. Still feel secure in my geekitude for today.
+1
Level 55
Apr 15, 2014
Never had a quiz with so many 'tip of the tongue'-misses before. Well done.

However, I feel a need to correct you on Leif Ericsson:According to the saga of the Greenlanders he was preceded by Bjarni Herjólfsson, zie https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bjarni_Herj%C3%B3lfsson

+2
Level 44
Apr 15, 2014
Bjarni Herjolfsson was the first European to see North America; however, he did not actually land.
+1
Level 71
Apr 15, 2014
How come the numbers are so low? (Especially for Wellington) I missed a few, but it seems like the percentages should be higher on average.
+1
Level 71
Apr 15, 2014
However, considering the picture for this quiz is my desktop background, I didn't do as well as I would have liked.
+1
Level 58
Jun 8, 2017
Is Wellington that well known outside of the UK? Asking out of curiosity
+1
Level 67
Jun 25, 2018
Given his importance in the Napoleonic wars, I would hope he's at least well known in most of Europe.
+1
Level 67
Oct 17, 2019
I know it has to do with beef, boots and a capital city ;)
+1
Level 71
Dec 31, 2019
He played a pretty big role in the early British conquests of India too, so he might be well-known there too. And like Kenpo17 said, he has a huge role in the Napoleonic wars. Anybody who has studied them a bit should be aware of him.
+1
Level 79
Jan 1, 2020
I'm a fan of Regency romances, and his name comes up often in them.
+1
Level 69
Apr 15, 2014
I got 24, but completely missed Stowe, because I thought she was Louisa May Alcott for some reason.
+1
Level 40
Apr 15, 2014
That's how you spell Vespucci! Totally thought it was him for the Leif Errikson one.
+2
Level 80
Apr 16, 2014
Vespucci was far from the first European to the Americas, even discounting the Vikings.
+1
Level 33
Apr 16, 2014
This was pretty challenging - like other commentators, I had heard of most of the answers but hadn't connected them.

Leif Ecrison, Imhotep, Hammurarbi, and Grace Kelly were the more obvious ones that I should have got.

Great quiz!

+1
Level 34
Apr 16, 2014
You should accept Justin for Justinian
+2
Level 80
Apr 17, 2014
Along with Phil, Alfie, Norm and Fred?
+2
Level 58
Jun 8, 2017
The spoonfeeding people demand on this site would be funny, if it weren't so depressing.
+2
Level 80
Jun 9, 2017
Your comment would be depressing, if it weren't so funny.
+3
Level 34
Apr 17, 2014
Brilliant!

Though may I suggest to accept the spelling "Friedrich" for Frederick (considering it was his actual name).

+2
Level 57
Apr 18, 2014
Needs to accept Nightangale as a response.
+3
Level 58
Jun 8, 2017
That wasn't her name.
+1
Level 67
Oct 17, 2019
you think to much about tangas.
+1
Level 22
Apr 21, 2014
3/30. Beat that
+1
Level 55
May 13, 2014
Ha! 16!
+1
Level 34
Aug 18, 2014
i have 19... so that means i am a geek too :)
+1
Level 69
Sep 11, 2014
Barbarossa for Frederick and Chaka for Shaka would be nice.
+5
Level 35
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
+1
Level 69
Dec 18, 2019
Dang, you're right! Brain fart, no excuses.
+1
Level 75
Dec 31, 2019
Agreed about more type-ins for Shaka though. Tshaka and Chaka are both common-enough alternate transliterations.
+1
Level 36
Dec 26, 2014
29/30 :-) was typing in tasman when time ran out :( i'm a true geek
+1
Level 69
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.

+2
Level 77
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 64
Jul 9, 2015
ghehehehehe 27/30
+1
Level 66
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 69
Nov 25, 2015
27.... somehow typed every other name except Jane.
+1
Level 63
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).
+3
Level 67
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.
+3
Level 73
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 35
Apr 24, 2016
Could Leif the Lucky be allowed instead of Leif Ericson, as this is a common alternative?
+3
Level 73
Apr 28, 2016
Could you add Felipe for the Spanish king? I never thought of writing Phillip. Thanks.
+1
Level 65
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 65
Jan 19, 2017
Update: up to 24. Yes, I am a history geek. Got Qin every time, which I'm pretty happy about.
+2
Level 71
Dec 31, 2019
Xiaoping isn't his family name, which is why it wasn't accepted
+1
Level 60
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 71
Aug 28, 2017
Agreed, I think Sitting Bull should be an acceptable answer too.
+1
Level 67
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 67
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 43
Apr 6, 2017
Shaka... when the walls fell
+1
Level 58
Jun 8, 2017
Spent ages trying different permutations of Cetshwayo, only to learn that they were after Shaka!
+1
Level 57
Jun 8, 2017
Got twelve, should have remembered others
+1
Level 59
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 69
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 56
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 71
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.
+2
Level 54
Jun 25, 2018
What are the odds of someone discovering an island and finding out it has his name?
+1
Level 67
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.
+1
Level 71
Dec 31, 2019
It's actually pretty common. See: James Cook, Saint Helena, Henry Three Mile and Vanilla Iceland
+1
Level 67
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 58
Jun 25, 2018
16/30
+1
Level 51
Jun 25, 2018
Maybe allow more leeway in spelling, i.e. Nightingale, Imhotep, and Hummarabi
+1
Level 71
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 68
Jun 25, 2018
Never considered myself a true geek, but if Jetpunk says so...
+1
Level 72
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 44
Sep 4, 2018
Well done, the best quizzes teach us new things.
+1
Level 59
Dec 20, 2018
Isn't the first European Erik the Red?
+1
Level 80
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 45
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 56
Dec 17, 2019
Damn, only 8/30.

This is hard!

+1
Level 55
Dec 17, 2019
Could you accept Felipe and/or Filipe for Philip, and accept Eriksson for Ericson?
+1
Level 51
Dec 19, 2019
Norman Borlaug my Minnesota booiiiiii
+1
Level 63
Dec 31, 2019
Wasn't he from Iowa?
+1
Level 53
Dec 31, 2019
Anyone else get more than a few answers because you played Civilization?
+1
Level 70
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 81
Dec 31, 2019
In China, the "first" name is the surname and the second is the given name.
+1
Level 81
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 72
Dec 31, 2019
Kept typing Eriksson - the correct spelling - never thought of trying Ericson. Please at least allow the correct spelling
+1
Level 65
Dec 31, 2019
Eriksson spelling, please
+1
Level ∞
Dec 31, 2019
Okay
+1
Level 54
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 63
Dec 31, 2019
Anyone else only know Borlaug because of that West Wing episode? Or is that too many layers of nerdy?
+1
Level 81
Dec 31, 2019
Yup. Deep nerd here. Got all of them.
+1
Level 40
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 68
Dec 31, 2019
Is 9/30 good for a 14-year-old??
+1
Level 51
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 48
Dec 31, 2019
Jokes on you, I know the Epic Rap Battle "Alexander the great vs Ivan the terrible" from memory B)
+1
Level 51
Dec 31, 2019
That moment when you got Qin Shi-Huang, Imhotep, and Borlaug but forgot Seymour, Ho Chi Minh, and Wellington
+1
Level 59
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!
+1
Level 81
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 79
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 56
Jan 2, 2020
please don't start with the clickbait titles.
+2
Level ∞
Jan 2, 2020
This quiz was created on April 2, 2014.
+1
Level 70
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 50
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 46
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 67
Jan 14, 2020
I'm quite surprised that the average score is 11, most of these people are still fairly well known.
+1
Level 74
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 59
Mar 6, 2020
I guessed Cumberbatch. Right first name, wrong last name.
+1
Level 50
Jun 11, 2020
Doesn't accept Yuri.
+1
Level 64
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 75
Jun 11, 2020
Got exactly half. Do I pass?
+1
Level 72
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 53
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 41
Aug 30, 2020
You should also accept Leiv Eiriksson, as that is a common writing of his name
+1
Level 73
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.