Can You Name This World History Figure From a Single Sentence Description?


By: Allison Lips

6 Min Quiz

Image: Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

When we think about world-historical figures, we usually think about world leaders. However, many people who did not enter politics in their home country had a massive influence on the world. Some of these people are known for their charity work. Others advanced their chosen field of study or became well-known as entertainment figures.

For every Winston Churchill, there is also an Elvis Presley. The two men may have influenced different aspects of world cultu. However, they are both remembered and admired today. For every Clara Barton who saves lives, there is a Marilyn Monroe who makes waves in Hollywood and changes how women are perceived. Then, there are the religious leaders, such as the Pope and Mother Teresa, who have implemented change through helping the poor or inspiring their congregation to improve the world.

While politics has an undeniable influence on the world, this quiz intersperses questions about American presidents, British prime ministers and European dictators with questions about Hollywood stars with an enduring influence, inventors and even CEOs of world-changing companies. If you think you're up for the challenge of guessing this diverse collection of famous figures, test yourself with this quiz! 

A civil rights leader wrote the "I Have a Dream" speech and "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." What was his name?

In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott. His efforts for civil rights led to the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. Martin Luther King Jr. Day became a federal holiday in 1986.


This American aviator was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. What was her name?

On July 24, 1897, Amelia Earhart was born in Atchinson, Kansas. In December 1920, she took her first airplane ride with Frank Hawks, who was a pilot in World War I. The following month, she began flying lessons with Neta Snook, a female flight instructor.


His hits include "Heartbreak Hotel," "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock" and "Blue Christmas." Which singer has those credits?

On March 25, 1957, Elvis bought Graceland for $102,500. The building was 10,255 square feet but has been expanded to 17,522 square feet. Elvis also purchased the 13.8 acres around Graceland.


This biologist visited the Galapagos Islands and is known for his contributions to the theory of evolution. What is this biologist's name?

In the late 1830s, Charles Darwin developed the theory of evolution by natural selection. However, he would not publish his finding until 1859, the year "On the Origin of Species" was published.


She was a nun who worked among the poor in the slums of Calcutta. Which woman dedicated her life to helping the poor?

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in present-day Macedonia. She founded the Order of the Missionaries of Charity, which is a group of women dedicated to helping the poor.


This Indian religious leader practiced non-violent civil disobedience. Who was him?

Mahondas Gandhi was born in India and educated in England. In 1983, he went to South Africa to practice law for a year. While there, he faced discrimination due to laws restricting the rights of Indian laborers, which led to his fight against injustice.


In his first speech as prime minister, this man said, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat." Who was he?

Winston Churchill's mother was born Jennie Jerome in Brooklyn, New York. On April 15, 1874, she married Lord Randolph Churchill, who would father Winston Churchill. After Lord Churchill's death, the future prime minister's mother married George Cornwallis-West.


Despite his reputation for being short, this French leader was approximately 5 1/2 feet tall. Who is he?

The confusion over Napoleon's height comes from the fact that a physician's note says that Napoleon was 5'2" "from the top of the head to the heels," which is true in French measurements. In English measurements, that is 5'6", which was average height for a man at the time.


This scientist studied radioactivity and became the first woman to receive a PhD from a French university. What was this scientist's name?

In 1903, Marie Curie, her husband Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics. Eight years later, Marie Curie would earn the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her work in radioactivity.


Born in Brookline, Massachusetts, this president graduated from Harvard, served in the navy, and became a Democratic Senator from his home state. What was his name?

John F. Kennedy served as the 35th president of the United States. He was in office from 1961 to 1963. Kennedy was the youngest man elected as president of the United States and also the youngest president to die in office.


On Christmas night in 1776, this general crossed the Delaware River. Which future president was it?

George Washington and the Continental Army crossed the Delaware River to attack Hessian troops in the Trenton, New Jersey area. The width of the Delaware River at the point where Washington and his troops crossed is less than 300 yards.


The Iron Lady was the first female elected leader of the United Kingdom. Who is she?

Margaret Thatcher is Britain's longest continuously serving prime minister since 1827. She is also the only British prime minister to win three consecutive terms in the 20th century.


He was a member of the Beatles and Wings and is known as a solo artist. What is the name of this Beatle?

In 1971, the Beatles' "Let it Be" won the Academy Award for Best Original Score. As a member of Wings, McCartney was nominated for Best Original Song for "Live and Let Die." His most recent nomination was for "Vanilla Sky" in the Best Original song category.


This Italian explorer crossed the Atlantic Ocean with the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. What is the explorer's name?

As a teenager, Columbus went on several trading trips in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas. However, French privateers attacked Columbus' first voyage in the Atlantic. Columbus survived by swimming to shore.


A baseball player became the first African-American player in the 20th century to play Major League Baseball. Who is he?

On Apr. 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson joined the Montreal Royals, which was a farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Previously, Robinson played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro Leagues.


A former South African president spent 27 years in jail and fought for democracy. Who is he?

Nelson Mandela served as president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. In 1993, Mandela and F.W. de Klerk, the South African president, were awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace for their role in ending apartheid.


She was married to baseball player Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller. Which blonde bombshell was she?

On June 1, 1926, Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson. In 1946, Monroe signed her first film contract, changed her name and dyed her hair blonde. At 36 years old, she would die from a drug overdose.


This Cuban leader was celebrated in the United States for overthrowing an authoritarian regime but would become reviled when he declared himself a Marxist. Who is he?

In 1959, Fidel Castro overthrew Fulgencio Batista's military dictatorship of Cuba. For the next 49 years, Castro would rule Cuba. When he stepped down, Castro's successor was his younger brother Raul.


During his lifetime, this man founded a production company with his brother and won 22 Academy Awards. Which animator is he?

Before "Steamboat Willie," there were two animated shorts featuring Mickey Mouse. They were called "Olane Crazy" and "The Gallopin' Gaucho." Neither film was able to find distribution.


This notable Nazi leader served five years in prison, where he wrote "Mein Kampf." Who was it?

In January 1933, Paul von Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor of Germany. Initially, Hindenburg did not want to appoint Hitler because he did not want to give legitimacy to the Nazi ideology.


Her best-known books feature a boy wizard, but she has also written crime fiction novels under the name Robert Galbraith. What is this author's name?

J.K. Rowling wrote "Harry Potter and the Philosophers' Stone" in 1994. Three years later, the book was published in the United Kingdom. In 1998, the book was released in the United States as "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."


This naturalized American citizen served as Secretary of State under President Richard Nixon. What was his name?

Henry Kissinger served as the United States' 56th Secretary of State. He held the position from 1973 to 1977. Before serving as Secretary of State, Kissinger worked at Harvard in the Department of Government and at the Center for International Affairs.


His name means "universal rule" and he is known for ruling the Mongol Empire. Who is he?

Genghis Khan was born around 1152 and was named Temujin. While historians have a general idea of what his life was like, there is no conclusive record of what Genghis Khan looked like because there are no portraits or sculptures of him from that period.


An American inventor held over 1,000 patents for inventions that included the telegraph, the incandescent light bulb and the Kinetograph. Which inventor is he?

Thomas Edison's first invention was the Universal Stock Pinter, which improved upon the stock ticker. He received $40,000 from The Gold and Stock Telegraph Company for it. The invention provided him with enough money to quit his job and devote his time to inventing.


She married Prince Rainier of Monaco in April 1956. Which American actress is she?

Before she met Prince Rainier III, Grace Kelly was one of the highest paid actresses in the world. In 1955, she met Prince Rainier as she was filming Alfred Hitchcock's "To Catch a Thief."


El Caudillo rose to power during the Spanish Civil War with the help of Nazi Germany and ruled Spain from 1939 to his death. Who is El Caudillo?

In 1969, Francisco Franco appointed Prince Juan Carlos as his successor. The prince would become the leader of Spain after Franco's death in 1975. Once he became king, Juan Carlos began Spain's transition to democracy.


A Russian leader became prominent during the Russian Revolution of 1917 and was head of the Bolshevik Party. Who was he?

Vladimir Lenin was born Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. Before settling on "Lenin" as his pseudonym, Lenin tried "K. Tulin" and "Petrov" among others. He settled on the name he would be known for by 1902.


Cassius and Brutus assassinated this Roman dictator. What is his name?

Cleopatra had a son with Julius Caesar. The child, Ptolemy Caesar, was known as Caesarion, which means little Caesar. He co-ruled Egypt with his mother. After Cleopatra's her death, he was killed by emperor Augustus.


This rich man left his software business to focus on his charitable work. Which software pioneer is he?

In 1999, Bill Gates' net worth was over $101 billion due to Microsoft's stock price. Fifteen years later, Gates would step down as Microsoft chairman to work with his wife at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


El Libertador was born in Venezuela, but would go on to rule Gran Colombia and Peru. What is the real name of El Liberatador?

After his parents' deaths, Simon Bolivar moved to Spain, where he continued his education. Bolivar would not return to his home country of Venezuela until 1807. Once Joseph Bonaparte became King of Spain and its colonies, Bolivar joined the resistance.


This medical researcher invented the polio vaccine. What was his name?

In 1954, Jonas Salk's vaccine was tested on 1 million children. These children were between 6 and 9 years old and were known as the Polio Pioneers. On April 12, 1955, the vaccine was determined to be safe and effective.


In 1978, this man became the first non-Italian leader of the Catholic church in over 400 years. What is his name?

Pope John Paul II was born in Wadowice, Poland on May 18, 1920. His birth name was Karol Józef Wojtyla. When he was 26 years old, the future Pope was ordained. In 1958, he became the bishop of Ombi.


In 1990, this Soviet leader won the Nobel Peace prize. Who is he?

In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev was elected as leader of the Soviet Union and immediately starting reforming communism. Gorbachev introduced "glasnost" and "perestroika," which mean openness and change, respectively.


This astronomer is famous because he was the first person to look at the moon through a telescope. Who was he?

When Galileo Galilei wrote about his belief in a heliocentric universe, the Catholic Church brought him to Rome to face charges from the Inquisition because, at that time, the Catholic Church believed Earth was at the center of the universe.


After her father was executed, she became the leader of the Pakistan People's Party and eventually Prime Minister of Pakistan. Who is this Pakistani leader?

Benazir Bhutto studied at Harvard University and the University of Oxford. From 1979 to 1984, Bhutto was frequently under house arrest. From 1984 to 1986, she was exiled from her home country.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!