From artists to Silicon Valley tech kings, this list proves that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things in life. While some of these historical figures were handed their fame, others fought every step of the way overcome one obstacle after another, showing how far true grit and determination can take a person.
Would you know the names of these famous people by an image? Would you know the difference between Georgia O'Keeffe or Anne Morrow Lindbergh? Johnnie Cochran is best known for his role in the O.J. Simpson case, but he also represented Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg and Tupac. Could you identify him if you saw him walking down the street? How about two of the most iconic figures in American History? Can you figure out which image is Jesse James and which image is John D. Rockefeller? Doubtless you've heard of iconic tech industry names Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, but would you be able to distinguish one from the other in an image?
Take this quiz to find out what separates the everyday Joe and Jane from some of the most famous people you have ever heard of. You might find out they are a lot more like you than you thought!
Lincoln was an American pioneer and activist who served as the 16th President of The United States of America. Lincoln also issued the Emancipation Proclamation which served as the catalyst for the abolition of slavery in the United States.
Rockefeller was a business tycoon who was recognized as one of the wealthiest men in the world. He began to work as a bookkeeper as a teenager but achieved success when he founded the Standard Oil Company Inc. Rockefeller quickly became a successful businessman, with almost complete domination of all the oil in the United States when he controlled about 90% of it.
This American astronaut became famous in 1969 as the first person to walk on the moon. Armstrong served as the mission commander and travelled with two other astronauts- Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins- for this Apollo 11 mission that has made history. Later on, he became one of the first astronauts to dock or connect a vehicle in space.
This brilliant filmmaker is the mastermind behind the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises as well as the founder of the Lucasfilm production company. Lucas is recognized as one of the most successful filmmakers, producing films that are among the highest earning films in North America.
Graham is regarded as one of the most influential evangelical preachers of the 20th century, due to his ability to connect with the congregation on controversial issues. He also served as a spiritual advisor to US presidents, such as Lyndon B. Johnson. He even bailed Martin Luther King out of jail!
This notorious bad boy was a career criminal who robbed trains, banks and stagecoaches during the 1800s. He and his brother, Frank, were part of the guerrilla warfare group, the Bushwhackers, that rose to prominence in Missouri during the Civil War and were responsible for the deaths of many people.
This television and film producer has many accolades to his name, as the producer of several successful series, such as "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and movies, such as "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl."
This politician and businessman was well known for his company, Barnum & Bailey Circus, that later became the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus after a partnership. He created a traveling circus he called P. T. Barnum's Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan & Hippodrome.
From October 1967 until October 1991, this lawyer served as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and made history as the first African-American to do so. Along with many other accomplishments, Marshall won the Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954, which persuaded the Supreme Court to end racial segregation in schools.
This American artist is best known for her contribution to modernism as an art form and for her compelling depictions of landscapes and nature. O’ Keefee’s paintings made her a famous woman, particularly the Red Canna paintings. Jimson Weed sold for more than $40 million, making it the world’s most expensive painting to be done by a woman.
Born on December 5, 1901, Walt Disney was an American businessman, television producer, voice artist, and film producer. He later started the Disney Brothers studio with his brother, Roy, and with the help of Ubbe Eert "Ub" Iwerk, produced the famous character of “Micky Mouse,” a creation to which he often lent his voice in the beginning. In 1957, the world-famous theme park, Disneyland, was opened and is today regarded as, not only one of the biggest theme parks but one of the most popular and “magical” places on earth.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a Baptist Church Minister and activist, famously known for his contribution, influence and betterment of the Civil Rights Movement, specifically for racism against black people. Some of his numerous accomplishments include, receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1964, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1971 and 1977 respectively. His famous “I Have a Dream” speech is wildly recognized to this day.
Considered one of the greatest generals in world history, he is best known for achieving many victories on the battlefield despite all odds stacked against him. Lee fought many wars and was well recognized for his skilled mind. He remains one of the most outstanding figures in American history.
Malcolm X was an African-American revolutionary, leader and human rights advocate. After being arrested, he joined the Nation of Islam and started on his advocacy journey. Their belief was that in order for black people to be completely free from racism and obtain equality and freedom, a state needed to be established, separate from white people.
Watson is known, along with Francis Crick and Rosalind Franklin, for “discovering” DNA structure in 1953. He won many awards, including the Gairdner Foundation International Award in 2002. He was inducted into the Irish-American Hall of Fame in March 2011, and won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1962.
Born William Henry McCarty Jr., Billy the Kid began stealing after the death of his mother when he was only 10 years old. He had a certain tendency to be charming at one moment and violent the next. He joined several gangs, became associated with criminals, escaped jail and is confirmed to have killed eight men.
Barack Obama made history when he became the first African-American president of the United States. Obama attended Harvard Law School and made a career as a successful civil rights attorney until he entered politics. In 2008, he received the presidential nomination from the Democratic Party and became the 44th president of the United States in 2009, defeating the Republican candidate, John McCain.
After obtaining her law degree from Yale University, she became the First Lady of the United States from 1993 to 2001 after her husband, Bill Clinton, won the presidential election. In 2016, Hillary Clinton ran for president and although she lost, became the first woman in American history to receive the nomination of a major United States political party.
Andrew Warhol is considered to be the “godfather” of the cultural art movement. He was an illustrator by profession and is one of the most famous artists of his generation. He was described as shy and reserved. However, many of his drawings were considered “taboo” because of their openly sexual gay subject matter. But there was no denying his artistic brilliance.
Bill Gates rose to fame when he invented/ developed Microsoft, the giant software enterprise. He officially became a billionaire when his Microsoft stock reached $90.50 a share. In 2014, Gates decided to resign from Microsoft and instead, play a more active role in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a philanthropic foundation that supports numerous charitable causes.
Margaret Sanger was an advocate for birth control, and a nurse by profession. As a nurse, Sanger saw many women who frequently went through miscarriages, abortions, and pregnancy-related complications. She opened a birth control clinic in 1916, was arrested on more than one occasion for “breaking the law,” but never gave up fighting for the rights of women.
Known as one of the richest individuals in the world, Steven Allan Spielberg, started out as an assistant film editor and gradually made a name for himself. He received three Academy Awards for the highly successful film, “Jaws,” and continued producing and directing such hits as "Poltergeist" and "Back to the Future."
Harvey Weinstein was born in 1952, and alongside his brother, Bob, started Miramax Films Corporation and later founded The Weinstein Company in 2005. In 2017, numerous celebrities spoke out against Weinstein, claiming sexual assault and rape charges. As a result, he was fired from his business.
As the son of Congressman Howard Buffett, he developed a keen interest in business dealings and at the tender age of 11, purchased his first stock. As of August 2017, Warren Buffet is the fourth-richest person in world, largely in part to his superb investing skills. He now owns more than 60 companies, including Dairy Queen and Geico.
Dale Earnhardt was a professional race car driver who was known as the “Intimidator" because of his competitive nature. He won a total of seven NASCAR championships and was the first driver to exceed $30 million in winnings. On February 18, 2001, he crashed into a wall while competing in the Daytona 500 and died instantly.
Herman Melville was an American writer and poet who was known for the classic books, “Moby Dick” and “Typee.” He eventually moved on to poetry and produced the legendary “Clarel: A Poem and Pilgrimage in the Holy Land” and gained international recognition.
Babe Ruth is famous for setting several records in baseball as a pitcher, outfielder, and slugger. Born George Herman Ruth Jr., he was introduced to the game of baseball while at a “reformatory” school. He went on to break baseball records and was one of first five players entered into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
When Steve Jobs met Steve Wozniak, the two began to change the computer industry. After making the first “Apple” computer, fame and success followed. After he left Apple, he went on to produce famous movies, such as "Finding Nemo" and "Toy Story" but eventually returned to Apple as CEO.
This former basketball player is one of the greatest basketball stars ever and dominated the sport from the 1980s to the 1990s. His accomplishments include induction into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, two-time Olympic Gold Medal winner, and being Ranked No. 1 by ESPN SportsCentury's FIBA Hall of Fame.
Rosa Parks is an American advocate and civil rights activist. Famously known for the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a huge success for the African-American community against racism and a massive step towards achieving equality. It began when Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white person. After she was arrested, E.D. Nixon formulated a plan to request that African-Americans stop taking public buses.
When Helen was just a baby, she contracted an illness that caused her to lose both her hearing and vision. In 1887, teacher Anne Sullivan began tutoring young Helen on “finger spelling.” Helen Keller eventually began helping persons with disabilities and sharing her story. She wrote a series of articles and received numerous awards for her contributions.
Businessman, producer, and writer, Hugh Hefner completely transformed the entertainment industry with the publication of his “Playboy” magazine which was first released in 1953, featuring a nude photo of actress Marilyn Monroe. In the years that followed, the highly successful and popular magazine became famous for the portrayal of naked photos of various women.
Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the wife of aviator Charles Lindbergh, wrote her first publication, “North to the Orient,” which became a best seller. She continued to publish many popular poems and books through the years. She received several awards including, being entered in the “National Aviation Hall of Fame” and the “ National Women's Hall of Fame” in 1979 and 1966 respectively.
American businessman Mark Cuban is well known for investing in various businesses, and for starring on television series, “Shark Tank." He made millions through the sale of his first companies, Micro Solutions and Broadcast.com, and is also the owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks.
Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. was a professional boxing champion, who is perhaps the most popular athlete of all time. Ali won several awards, such as the Golden Gloves tournament for novices, and was named Heavyweight Champion of the World. In 1984, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and spent many hours promoting human welfare, as well as doing charity work.
Lance Armstrong is a professional cyclist who made headlines when he won the Tour de France an astonishing seven consecutive times. In 2012 however, he was not only banned from competing in any Olympic sport, he was also stripped of all of his seven titles because of his long-term doping (an activity which is illegal).
Elizabeth “Betsy” Griscom Ross was born on January 1, 1752, and was credited with making the very first American flag. She was also responsible for making the Pennsylvania Navy flag for the American Revolution and because she was such an important figure in America’s history, numerous books and stamps were made in her honor.
Best known for works such as "Beetlejuice," "Edward Scissorhands," "The Nightmare Before Christmas," "Corpse Bride," and "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," Tim Burton has certainly made a name for himself as a film director and producer. He is known for his very gothic and whimsical style that is easily recognizable.
Johnnie Cochran was an American lawyer best known for the role he played in O.J. Simpson’s defense and criminal acquittal. He also represented other celebrities like Michael Jackson, Sean “P.Diddy” Combs, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac Shakur, winning most of their cases.
Mark Zuckerberg made a name for himself when he and a group of friends co-founded the social media platform, Facebook in 2004. Today, he has a net worth of $74.2 billion and was ranked as the fifth richest person in the world by Forbes.
Thomas Edison was a businessman and inventor whose most famous invention was the first commercially viable electric light bulb. With over 1,000 US patents in his name, in addition to others from around the world, he played a major role in mass communication.
When you think about the iPhone or the MacBook, the first person that comes to mind is Steve Jobs. But since his death, the next person that you think of is Tim Cook, the company's current Chief Executive Officer. As of 2015, he had a net worth of $665 million.
Before he even ran for president in the primaries in 2016, Ben Carson was known for being a very successful neurosurgeon and author. He has six bestselling books, the most famous of which is his autobiography, ‘Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story.'
Charles Milles Manson is a convicted mass murderer who was responsible for the deaths of seven people despite not killing any of them himself. He was the leader of a cult, and ordered his followers to commit the crimes (which is murder by proxy). Because the state of California invalidated the death penalty, he has been serving a life sentence since 1972.
Not only is Sanjay Gupta the associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital, he is also a professor at Emory University School of Medicine, and Emmy Award-winning medical correspondent of the program, "Sanjay Gupta M.D." on CNN. He is known for performing emergency surgeries on US soldiers, Iraqi civilians and a 12-year old girl on board the USS Carl Vinson.
Benjamin Franklin was a politician, author, scientist and is known as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He is most famous for the role he played in attaining the Declaration of Independence and his role in the American Revolution.
Edgar Allen Poe is a best known for the style of his poetry and short stories, the most famous of which are: 'The Tell-Tale Heart,' 'The Raven' and 'The Fall of the House of Usher.' Poe died at the young age of 40, and to this day, the cause of his death is still unknown.
Bob Dylan is often called one of the greatest musicians. His career has spanned over five decades, has sold more than 100 million records, won 18 Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award. Some of the singer’s greatest hits include “Like a Rolling Stone,” “It Ain’t Me, Babe,” and “The Times They Are a-Changin'."
Maya Angelou was a poet, author, and civil rights activist who published seven autobiographies, several poetry books as well as being credited with a number of movies, television shows and plays. Throughout her life, she received numerous awards and honorary degrees.
If there is anyone on this list who should serve as inspiration, it is Misty Copeland. She started ballet at the age of 13, unlike many people who begin when they were toddlers, and is now the first African-American woman to become a principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre’s history.