History classes are often so compartmentalized, focusing on one culture, place or even a single event, that the average person may find it hard to understand how different historical people related to one another. This concept can be further complicated by the sheer volume of people and places we have to learn about — people and places who have spanned thousands of years.
Each of us, if we are lucky, only gets to live for a single century or so, so our concept of time is pretty darn limited compared to the entire span of human history. Once we learn something has happened hundreds of years before we even existed, we tend to simply relegate it to "a long time ago" in the timeline of our minds. Eventually, that means we have a whole lot of things in our memory that we know happened during that mystical "long time ago," but we might not be able to place those events in order relative to one another.
Want an example? The revered Oxford University in England has been educating students since 1096 ... yes, almost a thousand years. That's more than 200 years before the Aztec society was founded at Tenochtitlan in modern-day Mexico. Sure, they both happened "a long time ago," but were separated by hundreds of years.
Of course, this concept also applies to people who've lived in the past, some of whom you may be shocked were living at the exact same time, or were even born in the same year. Want to see what you know about these historical figures and when they lived? Test your knowledge with this quiz.
Neil Armstrong was in high school when the world lost Orville Wright, who took the first flight in 1903 with brother Wilbur at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina. As Armstrong traveled to the moon in 1969, he carried with him pieces of the propeller and fabric scraps from Orville and Wilbur's Wright Flyer, ensuring remnants of the two brothers would soar as high as their dreams once had.
In 1642 the world lost Galileo Galilei, the father of modern physics who helped to develop the theory of heliocentrism in which the Earth revolves around the sun. That blow to science was softened by the fact that mathematician Isaac Newton was born that same year. Newton's 1687 "Principia Mathematica" helped to establish modern math theory and the basic laws of motion.
Karl Marx not only hated capitalism, he also hated slavery. He made this fact clear while writing a letter to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln in the 1860s on behalf of the International Working Man's Association. Marx, who is best-known for penning "The Communist Manifesto," lived from 1818 to 1883, while Lincoln was born in 1809 and died in an 1865 assassination.
Born in Italy in 1451, Christopher Columbus made four voyages to the "New World" on behalf of Spain between 1492 and 1502. Leonardo DaVinci, who was born in 1452 in Italy, spent the second half of the 15th century creating such masterpieces as "The Mona Lisa" and "The Last Supper," and generally being a true Renaissance man and genius.
Born in 1809, English biologist Charles Darwin published "On the Origin of Species" in 1859 and passed away in 1882. Austrian scientist Gregor Mendel was his contemporary. Born in 1822, Mendel planted peas to learn about heredity in a series of experiments from 1856 to 1863 before passing away just two years after Darwin.
Napoleon was Emperor of France from 1804 to 1814, then briefly in 1815 before he was finally banished. A year before Monsieur Bonaparte died in 1821, Susan B. Anthony was born in the U.S. Anthony went on to become a major figure in the fight for women's freedom and freedom for the slaves, founding the New York State Temperance Society in 1852.
Italian sculptor Donatello lived from 1386 to 1466. The Renaissance artist is perhaps most celebrated today for his bronze sculpture of David, which you can still view at the National Museum in Florence. Meanwhile in France, Joan of Arc lived from 1412 to 1431, helping to liberate France from the Hundred Years War before she was burned at the stake at age 19. Over in what is now Mexico, Montezuma I was busy ruling the Aztec Empire as Donatello created his art.
Elizabeth I was born in 1533 and became Queen of England in 1558. The daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, Elizabeth was nicknamed the Virgin Queen and died in 1603. Meanwhile, future famous playwright William Shakespeare was born in 1564 (coincidentally the same year as Italian scientist Galileo) and created plays like "Romeo and Juliet" and "Macbeth" before passing away in 1616 while King James VI of Scotland was on the throne.
Cleopatra of Egypt lived from 69 to 30 BC, ruling Egypt between 51 BC and her death. Caesar lived during the same time, from 100 to 44 BC, leading the Roman Republic from 29 to 44 BC. Rumor has it the pair were lovers, and may have even had a child together, though Caesar never officially acknowledged his role as the father.
One of the most famous painters to use a surrealist technique, and best-known for his 1931 work "The Persistence of Memory," Spanish artist Salvador Dali died in 1989. That same year, country-turned-pop singer Taylor Swift was born. Swift went on to name her 5th album "1989" to commemorate the year of her birth.
Harriet Tubman was born a slave in Maryland in 1822. She escaped to Pennsylvania in 1849 and began returning south to rescue other slaves. Before her death in 1913, she had become a leader in both the civil and women's rights movements. The year that the world lost Tubman, it gained another hero in the form of Rosa Parks. A pivotal figure in the fight for equal rights, Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in 1955, becoming a symbol for people of all races.
Born in 1926, Elizabeth II became Queen of England in 1952. On Oct. 29, she met Marilyn Monroe at the premiere for "The Battle of the River Plate. Both Monroe and Elizabeth were 30 years old at the time. Sadly, Monroe died a few short years later at age 36, while Elizabeth would go on to become the longest-reigning monarch in history.
Both born in 1809, Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin went on to share similar beliefs and most important contributions to society. Lincoln became president, led the nation through the Civil War, and freed the slaves via the Emancipation Proclamation. While Darwin is best-known for his work on evolution, he also noted in a 1833 letter that, "I have seen enough of slavery ... to be thoroughly disgusted."
A Massachusetts silversmith who rode through Lexington and Concord to warn that the British were coming, Paul Revere is a key figure in the Revolutionary War. The year he took his famous ride, Jane Austen was born in England. After penning classics like "Pride and Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensibility," Austen died in 1817, a year before Revere.
Beloved for his 1937 "Guernica" and other works, Pablo Picasso died in 1973, just two years before Spielberg unleashed "Jaws" on movie goers. Born in 1946, Spielberg's life overlapped the iconic surrealist by nearly three decades. Since "Jaws," Spielberg has kept busy creating blockbusters like "E.T.," "Schindler's List," and "Saving Private Ryan."
Founding Father and kite-flying aficionado Ben Franklin spent the two decades before his 1790 death doing important things like creating a new country and helping to draft the Constitution. At the same time, a young Beethoven was already composing classical works that would live on for centuries. The German composer lived from 1770 to 1829, and many are surprised to learn he was almost entirely deaf by his 20s.
Barbara Walters retired from journalism in 2014 after half a century as a respected broadcaster. Baptist minister and Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, who died in 1968, and Holocaust victim Anne Frank, who died in 1945, were born the same year as Walters.
Tolstoy was born in 1828, just 9 years after the birth of Queen Victoria and 9 years before she became Queen of England. Known for her modesty, which helped to characterize the Victorian period, the queen lived until 1901. In the 9 years between Victoria's death and his own, Leo Tolstoy was nominated multiple times for both the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Nobel Peace Prize.
In December 2018, Kirk Douglas celebrated his 102nd birthday. In 1918, he was two years old when Tsar Nicholas II and his family — yes, Anastasia as well — were killed as part of the Russian Revolution. Douglas went on to become a huge film star, playing a slave in "Spartacus" and pairing up with Burt Lancaster in a number of movies.
The daughter of Native American Chief Powhatan, Pocahontas was born in 1596. She was kidnapped and eventually taken to England, where she died in March 1617. A year earlier, in April 1616, playwright William Shakespeare had also passed away in Stratford-upon-Avon.
While Charlie Chaplin was born in 1889 and enjoyed stardom as a silent film star in the '20s and '30s, he lived all the way until 1977 — the same year that Grammy-winning hip-hop artist Kanye West was born in Atlanta, Georgia.
Greek philosopher Aristotle lived from 384 to 322 BC. In addition to being remembered as one of the most brilliant men to ever live, Aristotle served as a tutor to Alexander the Great until the latter was 16 years old. Alexander went on to rule an empire, and founded well over a dozen cities that were named in his honor.
Just a child when fantasy writer Tolkien passed in 1973, J.K. Rowling would grow up to fill his shoes nicely. In 1997 she published the first book in the Harry Potter series, and went on to sell more than half a million of her books to young wanna-be witches and wizards over the next decade.
We might not know the identity of Jack the Ripper, but we do know someone killed at least five women in Whitechapel in 1888. Just four years later in Massachusetts, someone killed Lizzie Borden's father and stepmother with an ax. While Lizzie was put on trial, she was never convicted of the heinous 1892 crime.
As a 6-year-old in New York City, Teddy Roosevelt watched Abraham Lincoln's 1865 funeral procession. Roosevelt himself would serve as president from 1901 til 1909, and both men can be seen today carved in stone on Mount Rushmore.
Both born in 1899, Al Capone and Alfred Hitchcock would go on to strike fear in people in very different ways. Capone was a leader in the Chicago gangs ordering hits during Prohibition. Hitchcock, a master filmmaker, created such works as "Rear Window," "Psycho," "Vertigo" and "North by Northwest."
Arthur Conan Doyle is best-known for his books and stories about the great detective Sherlock Holmes, beginning with the publication of "A Study in Scarlet" in 1887. As Doyle was penning his mysteries, Harry Houdini was impressing crowds by escaping impossible combinations of locks, chains, milk cans and straitjackets. The two met in 1920, but their friendship fell apart after Doyle's wife pretended to channel Houdini's dead mother at a seance.
Born in Italy in 1254, Marco Polo traveled the Silk Road through China and wrote about his adventures from 1271 to 1295. Around the same time, Kublai Khan, a grandson of Genghis Khan, served as ruler of the Mongols and later, as Emperor of China.
Blind and deaf, but taught to communicate by tutor Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller met 13 different presidents. After shaking Grover Cleveland's hand at the age of 7, she later sat with JFK in the Oval Office for a 1961 meeting. Sadly, Kennedy's term as president was cut short by an assassin in 1963, while Keller lived until 1968.
Daniel Radcliffe was just 11 when he was picked to play Harry Potter in what would become one of the biggest movie franchises of all time. Radcliffe was born in 1989, the same year Lucille Ball of "I Love Lucy" fan succumbed to a ruptured artery in her heart.
It's hard to picture famous figures of the Wild West anywhere but in dusty old, one-horse towns, but Tombstone deputy Wyatt Earp actually lived well into the 20th century. When Earp, who was present at the 1881 shootout at the O.K. Corral, passed away in 1929, future comic book creator Stan Lee was already 7 years old. Lee would live to the ripe old age of 95, passing away in 2018.
Born in 1732, Founding Father George Washington served as the first U.S. president from 1789 to 1797, leaving office two years before he died in 1799. During Washington's time as president, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died in Austria at age 35 of an unknown illness. Mozart remains a legend in the music world for composing more than 600 works, starting when he was just 6 years old.
Born in Germany in 1879, Albert Einstein is remembered for his theory of relativity and his exploration of mass-energy equilibrium, represented as E=MC2. When Einstein died in 1955, future scientific leader Stephen Hawking was just a young teen. Hawking would later go on to make important contributions to quantum mechanics and gravity. Despite living with ALS disease, hawking was 76 when he died in 2018.
Copernicus made important strides in physics and astronomy, leaving a base for future scientists to build on after his 1543 death. Born just 10 years after Copernicus, German monk Martin Luther took on the pope and the Catholic Church, arguing that the Bible, not man was the key to salvation. Luther died in 1546, 39 years after publishing his Ninety-Five Theses, and just three years after the death of Copernicus.
There was a period in 1913 when Vienna was one of the hottest cities in Europe. That year, Sigmund Freud, future German leader Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Leon Trotsky and Joseph Tito all called the city home, according to BBC News.