Can You Name All These Famous Historic Figures from a Single Sentence Description?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: Underwood & Underwood (active 1880 – c. 1950)

About This Quiz

Some people are born to follow — others boldly lead their countrymen, or even all of humanity, into bold new frontiers. We’re not talking about fictional heroes like Captain Kirk. We mean people like Thomas Jefferson, Emily Dickinson and Patrick Swayze, although we’re probably kidding about that last one. If we offer up a one-sentence clue, can you name these amazing historical figures?

For years, this Apache warrior dogged United States Army forces in the American Southwest. But his guerrilla warfare tactics eventually failed him and he died knowing his Native American ways were fading due to white settlements. Who was it? Did you guess Geronimo, the famous Indian leader of the late 1800s?

She studied radioactive elements and pushed our understanding of nuclear sciences and physics in brand-new directions. Then, she died of exposure to radiation. Who was it? If you guessed Marie Curie, you’re right.

Dust off your history knowledge and jump into this fun historical figures quiz now! Be careful, because you’ll only get a single clue!

Who was the cigar-chomping prime minister of England during World War II?

“We shall never surrender." So said Winston Churchill, the portly boozehound who defied the Nazis at every turn. Hitler’s men never captured Britain partly due to Churchill’s stout demeanor.


Which political titan was shot and killed just before the end of the American Civil War?

On April 14, 1865, as the Civil War drew to a conclusion, an assassin murdered President Lincoln at a theater. It was a form of Confederate revenge.


Who was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic ... but later disappeared on another adventure?

Amelia Earhart was a bold woman who bravely took on one aviation thrill after another. In 1939, she tried to fly around the world but her plane disappeared, and her fate is still a mystery.


Who was a Roman Catholic saint who spent much of her life lifting up the world’s poor?

Mother Teresa spent most of her life in India, helping the world’s most impoverished people live better lives. She died in 1997, hailed as a hero for the ages.


Who was a British film maker, with hits like "Rear Window" and "Vertigo"?

With his dry sense of humor and round belly, Alfred Hitchcock was a master of suspense movies. He directed more than 50 movies in his life.


Who was a "blonde bombshell" who died of substance abuse issues as the age of 37?

Norma Jean Baker — Marilyn Monroe — was the number one sex symbol of the 20th century. But her troubled life ended tragically at the tender age of 37.


Who was an Austrian neurologist who founded the practice of psychoanalysis?

Thanks to him, we have the "Freudian slip." Sigmund Freud was a rather weird guy who made some keen insights into human behavior in the late 19th and early 20th century.


Which man founded Microsoft and is one of the richest people in world history?

In 1975, Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft with Paul Allen. Their tiny software company eventually came to control much of the computer industry.


She didn’t really like children, but which monarch is often called the "grandmother of Europe"?

In the late 1800s, Queen Victoria dominated much of Europe’s politics. Her children later married into powerful families, making the queen an influential person, indeed.


With "one small step for mankind," who became the first person ever to walk on the moon?

He was the commander of the Apollo 11 mission, a humble hero for all of the world. In 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to touch the moon.


Who had a vision of a Native American triumph prior to the Battle of the Little Bighorn?

Sitting Bull was a Lakota holy man who had a premonition that Indian warriors would soon see a major victory. He was right — they won their greatest fight against the U.S. at the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn, in which Custer made his last stand.


Who was arrested for refusing to move to the back of an Alabama bus ... and sparked the Civil Rights movement?

It was a calculated move, and it worked. In 1955, Rosa Parks, a black woman, refused to move for a white rider on a local bus. The resulting kerfuffle ignited the Civil Rights movement.


Who explored the world as a young man and then came up with the theory of evolution?

In the 1800s, Charles Darwin set off around the world and made many observations about animal life. His ideas on natural selection and evolution opened new doors in the sciences.


Which person was South African president and also a leader of the anti-apartheid movement?

Nelson Mandela, he of the beaming smile, is an icon of South Africa. Imprisoned for many years, he fought on, and became an anti-apartheid hero.


Who wrote a famous novel called "To the Lighthouse" and then drowned in a river in 1941?

Virginia Woolf is still regarded as one Britain’s best-ever writers. But she was emotionally anguished and drowned herself at the age of 59.


Which president was assassinated in Dallas in 1963?

It marked a dark shift in American culture. In November 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald killed JFK and upturned much of the country’s political scene.


Who was Britain’s prime minister from 1979 to 1990, and known for having an iron will?

Starting in the late ‘70s, Margaret Thatcher was a stalwart figure in British politics. She was the "Iron Lady" because she never backed down from a fight.


Who became legendary for the theory of relativity?

Albert Einstein is perhaps the most famous scientist ever to walk the Earth. His theory of relativity transformed physics in countless ways.


Who was not only a champion boxer but also a campaigner for civil rights?

Cassius Clay — Muhammad Ali — was savage in the ring, becoming a heavyweight boxing champ. But his influence in politics made him an even more powerful icon.


Who is often called the greatest soccer player of all time?

A Brazilian hero, Pele is often regarded as perhaps the best soccer player ever. And he transcended sports, becoming a major supporter of humanitarian causes.


Who had a ferocious mustache and led the USSR during World War II?

He was the lord of the Red Army and one-time BFF of Hitler. Then, Germany invaded his homeland and Joseph Stalin used millions of soldiers (and civilians) to stop the Nazis.


Which woman was a famous leader of Egypt?

Until 30 BC, Cleopatra was one of the most powerful women in Egypt’s history. But she made the wrong alliances and found her empire crumbling.


Which man was a real war hero who became a legendary actor?

In WWII, Audie Murphy unleashed his pent-up aggression against the Nazis and won the Medal of Honor. Then he became a Westerns star ... and died young in a plane crash.


Which woman became prime minister of India but was murdered by her own people?

With her "Addams Family" hair and big personality, Indira Gandhi became the first female leader of India. But her own bodyguards killed her in 1984.


Who created the first car that most Americans could afford?

In the early 20th century, Henry Ford introduced the Model T. He also perfected assembly line production, which made the car the first to be within reach of average Americans.


Which actress skyrocketed to fame starting with a film called "Roman Holiday"?

She started her life in ballet but graduated to acting. Audrey Hepburn is still a Hollywood icon, and it all started with "Roman Holiday."


Who had a "secret recipe" and founded the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant franchise?

In 1952, Colonel Harlan David Sanders started the first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant. His famous secret recipe came to epitomize fast food chicken in America.


Which famous leader had almost no teeth but still ate British soldiers for breakfast?

George Washington lost almost all of his teeth by the time he became president. But he was still the guiding force for the rebels in the American Revolution.


Which track and field hero set three world records in less than 60 minutes during the 1935 Big Ten track meet?

In 1935, Jesse Owens set three world records in an hour. He went on to mock Hitler at the 1936 Summer Olympics, making Owens one of the century’s most amazing athletes.


Which showman is often credited with saying, "There’s a sucker born every minute"?

In the late 19th century, P.T. Barnum became famous for all sorts of hoaxes (and his circus). Although there’s no proof that he coined the phrase, "there’s a sucker born every minute," he definitely took advantage of the concept.


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