Can You Identify These Famous Historical European Figures?

By: Khadija Leon
Image: Youtube / Wikimedia Commons

About This Quiz

If you're a history buff, you know that Europe's history is filled with famous figures that influenced not only Europe but the entire world.

And even if you only remember European history and its characters from what you learned in school, the names and photos of the people in this quiz are sure to ring a bell.

Here you'll find everyone from navigators whose voyages changed the world as we know it, to those who made those voyages possible. You'll also find artists whose works touched our hearts and authors whose writings changed our views of life and the role we play in it. Politicians and royalty also played a huge part in the history of Europe. And there's no shortage of those in this quiz!

Now, some of these figures were famous for the good things they did. Others will be remembered for the pain and suffering they caused. But no matter what they did, they will be remembered for the impact they had, and continue to have, in the world.

So, can you identify these famous European figures from just one picture? Let's find out!

Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a German priest and professor who played an imperative role in the Protestant Reformation. He was known for rejecting many of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. His work, particularly the Ninety-Five Theses (1517), would lead him to be excommunicated by the pope.

Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) was an Italian navigator and colonizer best known for making four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean which began the European colonization of the “New World." He visited parts of Central America, the Greater and Lesser Antilles and Hispaniola.

King Henry VIII (1491-1547) was the second Tudor monarch and is known as the king who had six wives, two of which were executed, and another two marriages which he annulled. He was also known for initiating the English Reformation, which separated the Church of England from the pope and the Roman Catholic Church.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English playwright, actor and poet who has been called the greatest writer of our time. His body of work includes more than 150 sonnets, almost 40 plays and a few poems. Some of his most popular works include Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet.

Karl Marx (1818-1883) is a German philosopher, historian and revolutionary socialist best known for his 1848 pamphlet, The Communist Manifest, and Das Kapital (1867). His theories and work subsequently led to the concept and creation of Marxism.

Louis Pasteur (1822-1855) is a French chemist and microbiologist whose work led to major breakthroughs in the medical field. Some of these include vaccination, microbial fermentation, and pasteurization – a process used to kill off microorganisms in canned foods, milk and drinks.

Hernan Cortes (1485-1547) was a Spanish Conquistador (conqueror) best known for leading an expedition that led to the fall of the Aztec Empire. This subsequently led to bringing large parts of Mexico under the leadership of the King of Castile. This paved the way for the Spanish colonization of central and south America.

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was an Irish playwright and poet who is best known for his epigram and his novels, The Picture of Dorian Grey and The Ballad of Reading Gaol. Later in his life, he was arrested for gross indecency and homosexuality, an event which had a major role in his death.

Elizabeth I (1533-1603) was the Daughter of Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII of England and was the last monarch of the House of Tudor. After being deemed illegitimate and being imprisoned, she became queen in 1558 where she was responsible for establishing the English Protestant church.

Catherine II, also called Catherine the Great (1729-1796), was the Empress of Russia and also its longest ruling leader. She was known for revitalizing the country, making it stronger and larger, recognizing her as one of the great powers of England.

Adolf Hitler (1889 – 1945) was the chancellor of Germany and served as the leader of the Nazi party. He was responsible for initiating World War II and played an imperative role in the Holocaust, an event where approximately six million European Jews were killed.

Ludvig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was a German pianist and composer who is widely regarded as one of best, if not the best, of his kind. His most famous works include Emperor Piano Concerto (the Fifth Symphony), Choral Symphony (the Ninth Symphony) and Fidelo.

Johannes Gutenberg (1400-1468) was a German blacksmith and publisher and was known as the man who brought the printing press to Europe. His mechanical movable typewriter started the printing revolution and paved the way for modern printing presses.

Benito Mussolini (1883-1945) was an Italian journalist and politician who was best known for being the leader of the National Fascist Party. He was also one of the youngest Prime Ministers of Italy, ruling the country from 1922-1943.

Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965) was a British army officer, statesman and writer who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 -1945 and from 1951-1955. He also won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953 and was voted as one of the greatest Britons of all time.

Anne Frank (1929-1945) is a German diarist who was one of the most famous victims of the Holocaust. She wrote a series of journals which documented her life while hiding, and although she died at the age of 15, her notes were later published in The Diary of a Young Girl.

Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) was a Russian communist and politician who served as the head of the government of Soviet Russia and the Soviet Union from 1917 until his death in 1924. He was also the main contributor to the political theory of Leninism.

​Margaret Thatcher (1925-2013), sometimes called The Baroness Thatcher and nicknamed “The Iron Lady” was a British stateswoman who was the first woman to become the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (1979-1990) and she also served as the Leader of the Conservative Party.

Tycho Brahe (1546-1601) was a Danish writer, nobleman and astronomer whose accurate observations of the planetary system and development of astronomical instruments made way for some of the world’s greatest discoveries.

​Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC) was and ancient Greek scientist, philosopher and author whose work has influenced Islamic philosophy and Christian scholasticism. He was proficient in many subject areas, including biology, psychology, metaphysics and philosophy of science.

Louis XIV (1638-1715), also known as Louis the Great, was the King of France from the age of 5. His ruling lasted more than 72 years, the longest of any of the European sovereign. He was innovative and responsible for bringing absolute monarchy to France.

Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) was an English statistician who has been called the founder of modern nursing. During the Crimean War, she served as the manager of nurses where she tended to wounded soldiers, often making her rounds at night which gave her the nickname “The Lady with the Lamp."

Rene Descartes (1596-1650) was a French philosopher and scientist who has been called “The Father of Western Philosophy.” He was also a key player in the scientific revolution. His book, The Meditations on First Philosophy, is still, one of the standard textbooks being used in most universities of philosophy.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) was an English writer who is best known for creating some of the world’s greatest literary pieces, and characters. Some of them include, A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and A Tale of Two Cities.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) was an Austrian neurologist who was the founder of psychoanalysis. He also developed therapeutic techniques such as free association, and developed his own theory of the unconscious, many of the concepts which are still being studied today.

Marie Curie (1867 – 1934) was a Polish physicist and chemist who made significant advances in research on radioactivity. She was also the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person to win the award twice, and the only person to win in two different sciences, Physics and Chemistry.

Francois-Marie Arouet, otherwise known as “Voltaire” (1694-1778), was a historian, writer and philosopher during the Age of Enlightenment and was best known for advocating freedom of religion and speech, and attacking the Catholic church and Christianity.

Jane Austen (1775 – 1817) was an English writer and novelist who was primarily known for writing six major novels which became some of the best-selling in the world. These publications include Emma, Persuasion, Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Sense and Sensibility.

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 – 1821) was a French military leader who, during the French Revolution, was known for his success on the battlefield and in the political realm. He was also the Emperor of the French from 1808 to 1814 and again in 1815.

Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel (1883-1971) was a French businesswoman and fashion designer who founded the luxury brand, Coco Chanel. She has often been named as the one who freed women from the confines of a corset and in doing so, created a more casual, but still feminine and chic look.

Marie Antionette (1755-1793) was the very last queen of France before the French Revolution (1789-1799) and was married to Louis XVI and at the time of his ascension to the throne. She was well-liked​ by the public, but after numerous rumors of promiscuity, spending money carelessly and “the affair of the diamond necklace,” many grew to hate her.

St.Francis of Assisi (1181/1182 – 1226) was an Italian Catholic preacher, deacon and friar who was responsible for foun​ding the Order of Friars Minor, the Order of Saint Clare, the Custody of the Holy Land and the Third Order of Saint Francis.

Countess Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed (1560 – 1614) was a Hungarian noblewoman who was also an alleged murderer. She, along with a group of four other people, was accused of torturing and murdering an estimated 650 women from 1585 – 1609. She was later confined to a solitary windowless room until she died, almost five years later.

Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955) was a German Nobel Prize-winning physicist who was responsible for developing the theory of modern relativity and the law of the photoelectric effect ​but is most known for his mass-energy equivalence formula E=mc2.

Leif Erikson (970 – 1020) was a Norse explorer and the first European to discover North America. According to some Icelandic history books, he had established a Norse settlement in what we now know as Canada. He is also the son of Erik the Red, the founder of the first Norse settlement in Greenland.

Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) was an English biologist and geologist who is known throughout the world for his theory of evolution. He was also known for his voyages on the HMS Beagle, specifically the second trip to the Galapagos Islands where he studied its numerous endemic species.

St. Patrick (AD 385 – 461) was a Century Roman-British missionary and patron saint of Ireland who was responsible for bringing Christianity to the country. Every 17th of March in Ireland, Saint Patrick’s feast day is celebrated and is a public holiday.

Franz Ferdinand (1863 – 1914) was the Archduke of Hungary as well as being the royal prince of Hungary and Bohemia (a part of the Czech Republic) from 1896 until his assassination, some 18 years later. This death, along with that of his wife, would later lead to the initiation of World War I.

Socrates (470 – 399 BC) was a Greek philosopher who was named as one of the founders of Western philosophy. Although none of his writings were documented, it was described in full detail by students and fellow philosophers, Xenophon and Plato.

Donatello di Niccolo di Betto Bardi (1386 – 1466) was an Italian sculptor during the European Renaissance. He developed his own and a new style of sculpting and his most notable works include David, St, Mark and Madonna of the Clouds.

Charlemagne​ (742 – 814), sometimes called “Charles the Great,” was the King of the Franks, the Emperor of the Romans and the King of the Lombards. He was responsible for uniting Europe during the Middle Ages and converted his subjects to Christianity.

Nicholas II (1868 – 1918) was the last Emperor of Russia whose reign lasted from 1894 until he was forced to resign in 1917. He was given the nickname “Nicholas the Bloody” because of the Khodynka Tragedy, Bloody Sunday, and the Russo-Japanese War. His reign was also said to be the fall of the Russian Empire.

Sir Isaac Newton (1642 – 1726/1727) was an English mathematician, astronomer and physicist who was one of the most influential scientists of all time. He was responsible for coming up with the laws of motion, the law of universal gravitation, as well as many others.

Gaius Julius Caesar (100 BC – 44 BC) was a Roman general and politician whose leadership led to the fall of the Roman Republic and rise of a new one, the Roman Empire. He was known as a fearless and sometimes controversial leader who paved the way for his country to be one of the greatest of its time.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) was an Italian inventor, painter, cartographer whose resume of work includes painting Annunciation, The Last Supper, The Mona Lisa as well as drawing notes, including The Vitruvian Man and other anatomical drawings.

Marco Polo (1254 – 1324) was a Venetian explorer and merchant who was the first European to document his travels​ throughout China. These travels, which were recorded in The Travels of Marco Polo, made him very wealthy and paved the way for people like Christopher Columbus and Bento de Goes.

Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1542) was a Polish mathematician and astronomer who is best known for creating a model for the universe where the sun was in the center. Before his death, he published his work in a book that served as a major contributor to the Scientific Revolution.

Joan of Arc (1412 – 1431) whose nickname is “The Maid of Orleans” is a French woman who played an important role in the Lancaster phase of the Hundred Year War. After her death, she was declared a national symbol by Napoleon Bonaparte.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606 – 1669) was a Dutch printmaker and painter who has been called one of the greatest “visual artists in the history of art,” and whose works, which are featured all over the world include, The Night Watch, The Return of the Prodigal Son and The Storm of the Sea of Galilee.

John Calvin (1509 – 1564) was a French pastor, theologian and Protestant​, who played a major role in Christian theology, which was later called Calvinism, and has had a major impact on the world we know today.

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