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This is an alphabetical list of over 700 famous or influential people, with information about their lives and guides to further reading. Each person here was either formally adopted or fostered, lived in an orphanage or children's home, or for some reason was raised for a significant period during childhood by people other than his or her birth parents.

At the end are included a number of indexes of different kinds: ethnic group, nationality, profession, historical period, age at placement, transracial adoptees, type of placement, contact with birth family, etc.




Ancient Roman society institutionalized the adoption of adults. It was relatively common for a wealthy Roman couple to adopt an adult man, even a slave, as heir if they did not have any sons born to them, or their sons were unfit to inherit. This practice extended to the emperors, and there are a number of Roman emperors and other high officials who were adopted as adolescents or adults, usually by relatives, specifically to provide a suitable and reliable heir.

Augustus Caesar Octavius, 63 BCE-14 CE (Emperor, 31 BCE-14 CE), the Caesar Augustus of the Bible, also known as Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, whose decree taxing the world brought Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem where Christ was born, was born into the imperial family. His mother, Atia, was Julius Caesar's niece, and his father was Caesar Octavius. But his father died in 59, leaving him to be brought up by his mother.

When Caesar (his great-uncle) was assassinated in 31, his will revealed that he had secretly adopted Octavius and appointed him his successor. He ruled long and successfully, and was succeeded by his adopted son, Tiberius. Augustus is remembered as one of the great emperors of Rome, for his role in fulfilling Old Testament prophecy, for his opposition to Antony and Cleopatra, and as the man for whom the month of August was named. After his death, he was deified by the Senate.



Johann Sebastian Bach was born in 1685 in Eisenach, the eighth and last child of Johann Ambrosius and Maria Elisabeth Bach. His mother died in 1694 and his father in 1695. The nine-year-old orphan and his brother Jacob were then raised by an older brother, Johann Christoph, aged 24, an organist in Ohrdruf (there were five surviving children in all).

Bach's family was already known on both sides as a musical dynasty (The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians lists 75 members of the family), and Johann Sebastian grew up to be the most gifted of them all, one of the most famous organists and composers in history. Just before his 14th birthday, Johann left his brother's family to make his own way in the world, first as a paid chorister in Lüneberg, then as musician and composer in Weimar, Arnstadt, Mühlhausen, Köthen, and finally Leipzig.

Bach married twice and had 20 children, a number of whom also became famous musicians and composers. He was primarily famous in his lifetime as an organist and harpsichordist, especially for his skill at improvising; his compositions were thought to be old fashioned. After his death his music was largely forgotten until interest was revived by Felix Mendelssohn in the 19th century.



Count Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy commonly referred to in English as Leo Tolstoy (September 9,1828 – November 20 1910) was a Russian novelist, writer, essayist, philosopher, Christian anarchist, pacifist, educational reformer, vegetarian, moral thinker, and an influential member of the Tolstoy family.

He was born the son of a noble landowner in Russia but his mother died when he was two and his father when he was nine. He was then raised by relatives, first a grandmother, who died, then an aunt, who also died, and finally another aunt.

He was educated privately and then went to university, where he came under the influence of the teaching of Jean Jacques Rousseau. He left without graduating and plunged into a life of dissipation in Moscow high society. In 1851 he joined his brother in the Caucasus where he came to admire the Cossack way of life. He returned to St. Petersburg in 1856 and became more and more interested in the welfare of his serfs and progressive education, starting an influential school in the estate village of Yasnaya Polyana.

He married and had 13 children but his marriage was not happy and he was tormented by the disparity between his beliefs and his own great wealth. He left home at the age of 82 and died alone a few days later.

Tolstoy is widely regarded as one of the greatest of all novelists, particularly noted for his masterpieces War and Peace and Anna Karenina; in their scope, breadth and realistic depiction of Russian life, the two books stand at the peak of realistic fiction. As a moral philosopher he was notable for his ideas on nonviolent resistance through his work The Kingdom of God is Within You, which in turn influenced such twentieth-century figures as Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.



John Keats' father died in 1804 and his mother in 1810, but he did not live with her after the age of 10 (he was apprenticed to an apothecary), but rather with his grandmother, when he was not at boarding school. Very soon after his father died his mother remarried, but it was a disaster and she and the children ran away from her new husband. Their grandmother took custody of the children, and Keats' mother did not reappear until 1809.

Keats (October 31, 1795 – February 23, 1821) was one of the principal poets of the English Romantic movement. During his short life, his work received constant critical attacks from the periodicals of the day, though politics, rather than aesthetics, often dictated those opinions.

By the mid-nineteenth century, however, audiences began to appreciate his poetry fully and the significance of the cultural change his work both presaged and helped to form. Elaborate word choice and sensual imagery characterize Keats' poetry, especially his early writings. He often felt himself working in the shadow of past poets, particularly Milton, Spenser and Shakespeare. Only towards the end of his life did he produce his most original and most memorable poems, including a series of odes that remain among the most popular poems in English.



Henry Morton Stanley was born in Denbigh, Denbighshire, Wales on January 28, 1841. His parents were not married, his father died when he was two years old and his mother, a butcher's daughter, refused to look after him, so he was brought up in a workhouse (now HM Stanley Hospital, St Asaph) until the age of 15.

The stigma of illegitimacy weighed heavily upon him all his life. After completing an elementary education, he was employed as a pupil teacher in a National School. In 1859, at the age of 18, he made his passage to the United States, and upon arriving in New Orleans, he became friendly with a wealthy trader named Stanley, whose name he later assumed.

After military service with both sides in the American Civil War, Stanley was recruited in 1867 by Colonel Samuel Forster Tappan (a one-time journalist) of the Indian Peace Commission to serve as a correspondent to cover the work of the Commission for several newspapers. Stanley was soon retained exclusively by James Gordon Bennett (1795-1872), founder of the New York Herald. This early period of his professional life is described in Volume I of his book My Early Travels and Adventures in America and Asia (1895).

He became one of the Herald's overseas correspondents and, in 1869, was instructed by Bennett's son to find the Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone, who was known to be in Africa but had not been heard from for some time. According to Stanley's account, he asked James Gordon Bennett, Jr. (1841-1918), who had succeeded to the paper's management at his father's retirement in 1867, how much he could spend. The reply was "Draw £1,000 now, and when you have gone through that, draw another £1,000, and when that is spent, draw another £1,000, and when you have finished that, draw another £1,000, and so on — BUT FIND LIVINGSTONE!"

Stanley traveled to Zanzibar and outfitted an expedition with the best of everything, requiring no fewer than 200 porters. He located Livingstone on November 10, 1871, in Ujiji near Lake Tanganyika in present-day Tanzania, and greeted him (at least according to his own journal) with the now famous, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"



Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born (July 18, 1918) into the Thembu sub-tribe nobility of the Xhosa people in Mveso, South Africa, initially raised by his parents there and in Qunu. He was early marked for great things, and was the first in his family to attend school.

Soon after his father died, when young Nelson was nine, he was taken to the larger village of Mqhekewenzi, the Thembu provincial capital, where he became the ward of the chief-regent, Jongintaba, for the next 10 years, although he continued to see his mother on visits.

He attended university, became a lawyer and African National Congress activist, went into exile, but was eventually arrested and imprisoned for 27 years, mostly on Robben Island. He was released in 1990 and became the first President of South Africa to be elected in fully-representative democratic elections. He retired in 1999.

Before his presidency, Mandela was a prominent anti-apartheid activist and leader of the African National Congress (ANC), and was sentenced to life imprisonment for sabotage after he went underground and began the ANC's armed struggle.

Through his 27 years in prison, much of it spent in a cell on Robben Island, Mandela became the most widely known figure in the struggle against apartheid. Among opponents of apartheid in South Africa and internationally, he became a cultural icon of freedom and equality comparable with Mahatma Gandhi. However, the apartheid government and nations sympathetic to it condemned him and the ANC as communists and terrorists, and he became a figure of hatred among many South African whites, supporters of apartheid, and opponents of the ANC.

Following his release from prison in 1990, his switch to a policy of reconciliation and negotiation helped lead the transition to multi-racial democracy in South Africa. Since the end of apartheid, he has been widely praised, even among white South Africans and former opponents.



Steven Paul Jobs (born February 24, 1955) was orphaned as a baby and adopted. He showed remarkable electronics aptitude early in life and attended lectures at Hewlett-Packard, where he also had a summer job and met Wozniac. He went to Reed College in Portland, Oregon (class of 1976), but dropped out after one term, although he continued to attend classes for a year, also experimenting with drugs and eastern religions.

Jobs is the co-founder – with Steve Wozniak -- and CEO of Apple and was the CEO of Pixar until its acquisition by Disney. He is currently the largest shareholder at Disney and a member of Disney's Board of Directors. He is considered a leading figure in both the computer and entertainment industries.

Jobs' history in business has contributed greatly to the mythos of the quirky, individualistic Silicon Valley entrepreneur, emphasizing the importance of design while understanding the crucial role aesthetics play in public appeal. His work driving forward the development of products that are both functional and elegant has earned him a devoted cult following.

Together with Wozniak, Jobs helped popularize the personal computer in the late '70s. In the early '80s, still at Apple, Jobs was among the first to see the commercial potential of the mouse-driven GUI (Graphical User Interface). After losing a power struggle with Apple's board of directors in 1985, Jobs founded NeXT, a computer platform development company specializing in the higher education and business markets. NeXT's subsequent 1997 buyout by Apple brought Jobs back to the company he co-founded, and he has served as its chief executive officer since his return.



Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE) was the son of Nicomachus, physician to King Amyntas II. His parents died when he was still a very young boy and he was brought up by a guardian, Proxenus, who sent him to Plato's academy in Athens about 367. He spent 20 years there and eventually founded his own academy.

His writings are among the most important in the history of western philosophy and science, and his influence on later thinkers has been incalculable: until the Renaissance they formed a major part of all European education. He was also appointed tutor to the future Alexander the Great. His first wife was Pythias, niece and adoptive daughter of his patron, King Hermeias of Atarneus and Assos. He later adopted Nicanor of Stagirus, Proxenus' son, who also married his daughter.

With the possible exception of Plato, Aristotle, is the most influential philosopher in the history of Western thought. Logic into the present century was basically Aristotelian logic. The study of the natural sciences was dominated by Aristotle until early modern times, and modern physics was developed in reaction to the Aristotelian tradition. His metaphysics continues to be the subject of philosophical debate, although his ethics now constitutes that part of his philosophy which appeals most to contemporary philosophers.

Aristotle's influence extends far beyond philosophy, however. For example, Aristotle was the founder of biology; Charles Darwin regarded him as the most important contributor to the subject. Aristotle's POETICS, the first formal work of literary criticism, had a strong influence on the theory and practice of modern classical drama. Aristotle's immense influence is due primarily to the fact that he seemed to offer an all-encompassing system, which, although lacking in certain respects, was as a whole formidably imposing and unrivaled in its comprehensiveness.

In 367, Aristotle went to Athens to join Plato's Academy, first as a student, then as a teacher. Plato had gathered around him a group of outstanding men who worked in a wide variety of subjects, ranging from medicine and biology to mathematics and astronomy. They shared no common doctrine but were united by the systematic effort to organise human knowledge on a firm theoretical basis and expand it in all directions. This effort, more than anything else, characterises Aristotle's own work.



William Jefferson Clinton (born William Jefferson Blythe III on August 19, 1946) was the 42nd President of the United States, serving from 1993 to 2001. Clinton's father was killed in a car accident shortly before he was born. His mother remarried in 1950 and he was adopted by his step-father.

Before his presidency, Clinton served nearly twelve years as the 50th and 52nd Governor of Arkansas. Clinton was the third-youngest person to serve as president, after Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.

During Clinton's presidency, the world continued to transition from the political order of the Cold War, and the United States experienced the longest period of peace-time economic expansion in its history. In 1998, as a result of charges of perjury and obstruction of justice (in relation to a sexual indiscretion) he became the second president to be impeached, by the United States House of Representatives. He was subsequently acquitted by the United States Senate and remained in office to complete his term. Clinton was a New Democrat politician and was mainly responsible for the Third Way philosophy of governance that came to epitomize his two terms as president.

Since leaving office, Clinton has been involved in public speaking and humanitarian work. He created the William J. Clinton Foundation to promote and address international causes, such as treatment and prevention of HIV/ AIDS and global warming. In 2004, he released a personal autobiography, My Life. His wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is the Junior United States Senator from the state of New York, where they both currently reside. She announced her plans to run for President of the United States on January 20, 2007, and has formed a campaign to become the first female president of the nation.



Louis Daniel Armstrong (4 August 1901 – July 6, 1971) (also known by the nicknames Satchmo, for satchel-mouth, and Pops) was an American jazz musician.

Armstrong was a charismatic, innovative performer whose musical skills and bright personality transformed jazz from a rough regional dance music into a popular art form.

One of the most famous jazz musicians of the 20th century, he first achieved fame as a trumpeter, but toward the end of his career he was best known as a vocalist and was one of the most influential jazz singers.

Armstrong was born to a poor family in New Orleans, Louisiana, in a poor section of New Orleans known as “the Battlefield.” He spent his youth in poverty in a rough neighborhood of uptown New Orleans, as his father, William Armstrong (1881-????), abandoned the family when Louis was an infant. His mother, Mary Albert Armstrong (1886–1942) then left him and his younger sister Beatrice Armstrong Collins (1903–1987) under the upbringing of his grandmother Josephine Armstrong.

By the time of his death in 1971, the man known around the world as Satchmo was widely recognized as a founding father of jazz – a uniquely American art form. His influence, as an artist and cultural icon, is universal, unmatched, and very much alive today.

Louis Armstrong’s achievements are remarkable. During his career, he:

* developed a way of playing jazz, as an instrumentalist and a vocalist, which has had an impact on all musicians to follow
* recorded hit songs for five decades, and his music is still heard today on television and radio and in films
* wrote two autobiographies, more than ten magazine articles, hundreds of pages of memoirs, and thousands of letters
* appeared in over 30 films as a gifted actor with superb comic timing and an unabashed joy of life
* composed dozens of songs that have become jazz standards
* performed an average of 300 concerts each year, with his frequent tours to all parts of the world earning him the nickname “Ambassador Satch”
* became one of the first great celebrities of the twentieth century.

Through the years, Louis entertained millions, from heads of state and royalty to the kids on his stoop in Corona. Despite his fame, he lived a simple life in a working-class neighborhood. To this day, everyone loves Satchmo – just the mention of his name makes people smile. He first learned to play the cornet (his first of which was bought with money loaned to him by the Karnofskys, a Russian-Jewish immigrant family) in the band of the New Orleans Home for Colored Waifs, where he had been sent multiple times for general delinquency, most notably for a long term after (as police records show) firing his stepfather's pistol into the air at a New Year's Eve celebration. To express gratitude towards the Karnofskys, Armstrong wore a Star of David pendant for the rest of his life.

For a complete biography see: LOUIS ARMSTRONG



Born Norma Jean Baker to an unmarried woman, Monroe was fostered from babyhood until about the age of seven, because her mother was working and not well enough to care for her as well.

During this time she had contact with her mother, but did not know who she was. Then she went to live with her mother, who soon became mentally ill and was hospitalized, whereupon Monroe was adopted by her best friend.

In spite of the adoption she lived in a series of nine more foster homes and an orphanage until she married for the first time at 16 in order to get out of the care system which had so seriously failed her. In one of the foster homes she was sexually abused by a lodger when she was eight.

She became one of the most famous actresses of all time and was also the mistress of President John Kennedy. Her death from an overdose of sleeping pills may have been an accident, but has also been attributed to suicide and murder.


Read trivia and details of Monroe’s life: HERE



Johannes Kepler was born in Weil der Stadt, Swabia, on December 27, 1571. His father was a merchant who went as a mercenary soldier to fight in the Spanish Netherlands when he was two. His mother was the daughter of an inn-keeper and former mayor, with such a bad reputation that she was very nearly burned at the stake as a witch (her aunt had actually been burned as a witch. Kepler was part of her defense team in 1620). His mother went to follow his father, leaving young Johannes to be raised by her parents, although she returned in a year or two, while his father died in the war.

He was a sickly child (he had smallpox) and badly near-sighted, but his mathematical gifts were obvious from an early age. He intended to be ordained as a Lutheran pastor, and trained at the seminary in Tübingen, but became sidetracked by mathematics and astronomy (he also had disagreements with some Lutheran doctrines, which led to his excommunication in 1612).

From Tübingen he moved to Graz, Austria, where he taught mathematics and astronomy and also became involved in astrology. He became interested in the movements of the planets and their relative distances from the sun -- the Ptolemaic system, in which the planets and sun were believed to revolve around the earth was being overthrown by today's Copernican system, in which the planets are known to revolve around the sun -- and this led eventually to the formulation of his famous three laws of planetary motion.

In 1610 he was the first person to use the term "satellite" to describe the moon of a planet. He was invited to Prague by Tycho Brahe, whom he succeeded as imperial mathematician in 1601. He recalculated the date of the birth of Jesus Christ to 4 BCE, which is still the accepted date. In 1612 he moved again, to Linz, but in 1626 he had to move to Ulm, to escape anti-Protestant persecution under the new emperor. There followed a short period back in Prague, and he died in Regensburg.

In addition to being one of the world's greatest astronomers, he was also an important figure in optics, geometry, and mathematics.

He married twice and had 11 children, six of whom died in childhood.



Lennon's parents, Alfred (who was orphaned age nine and raised in an orphanage) and Julia Lennon, separated when he was three. From the age of five, after a failed attempt by his father to restart the marriage, and unwanted in the new family of his mother and step-father, he was raised by his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George, who were childless. A younger half-sister, Victoria Williams (born of a liaison between Mrs. Lennon and a soldier), was adopted by another family and raised in Norway, and she did not trace her birth family until 1996.

His Uncle George died suddenly when he was 12 and Lennon's behavior deteriorated. Lennon had a difficult time at school and was often in trouble with the headmaster. He and friends also stole from shops and threw stones at trains.

He formed a skiffle band, The Quarrymen, in 1955. In 1956 he entered Liverpool Art College (he was expelled in 1960) and discovered rock 'n' roll music. He met Paul McCartney in 1957, who introduced him to George Harrison. The band evolved into The Beatles (via Johnny and the Moondogs and The Silver Beetles). Drummer Ringo Starr joined the group in 1962, and the rest is musical and cultural history.

Lennon was awarded an MBE but returned it in 1969 in protest at British government policies over Nigeria and Vietnam.

He was murdered by a deranged fan on a New York street, outside his apartment house.



Born Schmuel Gelbfisz to a Polish Jewish family, at an early age he left his native Warsaw penniless and on foot. He made his way to Birmingham, England, where he remained with relatives for a few years using the anglicized name Samuel Goldfish.

In 1898, he emigrated to the United States, but fearing refusal of entry, he got off the boat in Nova Scotia before moving on to New York in January 1899.

He found work in upstate Gloversville, New York in the bustling garment business. Soon his innate marketing skills made him a very successful salesman. After four years, as vice-president of sales, he moved back to New York City.

Samuel Goldfish became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1902. At the time, the fledgling film industry was expanding rapidly and in his spare time, an enraptured Goldfish went to see as many movies as possible. Before long, he went into the business with Vaudeville performer Jesse L. Lasky, his brother-in-law at the time, and Adolph Zukor, a theater owner. Together, the three produced their first film, using an ambitious young director named Cecil B. DeMille.

Disputes arose between the partners and Goldfish left after a few years but their company evolved to later become Paramount Pictures. Goldwyn was married to Blanche Lasky from 1910 to 1915, with whom he had a daughter, Ruth. Subsequently he divorced Blanche and in 1925 he married actress Frances Howard to whom he remained married for the rest of his life. Their son, Samuel Goldwyn, Jr. would eventually join his father in the business.

In 1916 Samuel Goldfish partnered with Broadway producers Edgar and Archibald Selwyn, using a combination of both names to call their movie-making enterprise the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation. Seeing an opportunity, Samuel Goldfish then had his surname legally changed to the less comical-sounding Goldwyn. The Goldwyn Company proved moderately successful but it is their "Leo the Lion" trademark for which the organization is most famous. Eventually the company was acquired by Marcus Loew and his Metro Pictures Corporation but by then Samuel Goldwyn had already been forced out by his partners and was never a part of the new studio that became Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

He received the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun and the US Medal of Freedom.



Jean-Jacques Rousseau's mother died a few days after he was born (in Switzerland) and he was then raised by an aunt and uncle. Another version of his life says his father raised him until he was 10, and then gave him to the custody of his aunt and uncle, who sent him to boarding school.

Yet another version states that he and a cousin lived with an unrelated family from 1722 and only briefly, later, lived with his aunt and uncle. He ran away from his apprenticeship to an engraver after three years and became secretary and companion to a wealthy and sympathetic woman.

In 1742 he went to Paris and became a music teacher, copyist and secretary, and a friend of Diderot, who commissioned him to write the music articles for the famous Encyclopédie. He first became known as a philosopher in the 1750s, and his influence on modern political and educational philosophy has been profound. His views antagonized the authorities in both France and Switzerland and in 1762 he went into exile in Prussia and then England, returning to France under an assumed name in 1768.

As a brilliant, undisciplined, and unconventional thinker, Rousseau spent most of his life being driven by controversy back and forth between Paris and his native Geneva. Rousseau sired but refused to support several illegitimate children and frequently initiated bitter quarrels with even the most supportive of his colleagues. His autobiographical Les Confessions (Confessions) (1783) offer a thorough (if somewhat self-serving) account of his turbulent life.

Rousseau first attracted wide-spread attention with his prize-winning essay Discours sur les Sciences et les Arts (Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts) (1750), Rousseauin which he decried the harmful effects of modern civilization. Pursuit of the arts and sciences, Rousseau argued, merely promotes idleness, and the resulting political inequality encourages alienation. He continued to explore these themes throughout his career, proposing in Émile, ou l'education (1762) a method of education that would minimize the damage by noticing, encouraging, and following the natural proclivities of the student instead of striving to eliminate them.

Rousseau began to apply these principles to political issues specifically in his Discours sur l'origine et les fondements de l'inégalité parmi les hommes (Discourse on the Origin of Inequality) (1755), which maintains that every variety of injustice found in human society is an artificial result of the control exercised by defective political and intellectual influences over the healthy natural impulses of otherwise noble savages. The alternative he proposed in Du contrat social (On the Social Contract) (1762) is a civil society voluntarily formed by its citizens and wholly governed by reference to the general will [Fr. volonté générale] expressed in their unanimous consent to authority.

He also wrote Discourse on Political Economy (1755), Constitutional Program for Corsica (1765), and Considerations on the Government of Poland (1772). Although the authorities made every effort to suppress Rousseau's writings, the ideas they expressed, along with those of Locke, were of great influence during the French Revolution. The religious views expressed in the "Faith of a Savoyard Vicar" section of Émile made a more modest impact.



Joseph Rudyard Kipling (December 30, 1865 – January 18, 1963) was born to English parents in Bombay, but when he was six years old he and his sister were sent back to England, where they were fostered until 1877 by a rigidly Calvinistic family who abused him physically and emotionally, while favoring his sister.

His mother eventually returned to England and rescued him. He then went to a brutal boarding school until he rejoined his parents in India when he was 17, to work as a journalist.

He is best known today for his children's books, including The Jungle Book (1894), The Second Jungle Book (1895), Just So Stories (1902), and Puck of Pook's Hill (1906); his novel, Kim (1901); his poems, including Mandalay (1890), Gunga Din (1890), and "If—" (1895); and his many short stories, including "The Man Who Would Be King" (1888) and the collections Life's Handicap (1891), The Day's Work (1898), and Plain Tales from the Hills (1888).

Kipling was one of the most popular writers in English, in both prose and verse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The author Henry James famously said of him: "Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius (as distinct from fine intelligence) that I have ever known." In 1907, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English language writer to receive the prize, and he remains today its youngest-ever recipient. Among other honours, he was offered the British Poet Laureateship and a knighthood, both of which he refused.

However, later in life Kipling also came to be seen (in George Orwell's words) as a "prophet of British imperialism," though Orwell himself never doubted Kipling's literary genius. Many saw prejudice and militarism in his works, and the resulting controversy about him continued for much of the 20th century. According to critic Douglas Kerr: "He is still an author who can inspire passionate disagreement and his place in literary and cultural history is far from settled. But as the age of the European empires recedes, he is recognized as an incomparable, if controversial, interpreter of how empire was experienced. That, and an increasing recognition of his extraordinary narrative gifts, make him a force to be reckoned with."



Ingrid Bergman was born in Stockholm, Sweden on August 29, 1915. Her mother, Friedel Adler Bergman, a Hamburg, Germany native, died when Ingrid was just three years old. Ingrid’s father, Justus Samuel Bergman, a Swede, raised Ingrid until his death, when she was 12. Justus, who owned a photography shop, encouraged Ingrid’s artistic pursuits and even caught some scenes of her as a small child with a motion picture camera.

Many years later, the famous director Ingmar Bergman (no relation), with whom Ingrid worked, compiled and edited these home movies. After her father’s death, Ingrid was left to the care of an unmarried aunt, who died within months, and she eventually spent her teenage years with an uncle and his family.

As a teenager, Ingrid appeared as a film extra, in addition to acting in productions at the private school she attended. After graduating in 1933, she attended the Royal Dramatic Theater School in Stockholm for a year, during which time she made her professional stage debut. Her first speaking role in a film came in Swedish director Gustaf Molander’s "Munkbrogreven" in 1935, in which she played the maid of a hotel that sold illegal liquor.

In 1936, Ingrid made the film that would change her life. The picture "Intermezzo," written and directed by Molander, tells the story of a famous violinist who has an affair with his daughter’s piano teacher, played by Ingrid. Her performance caught the attention of Hollywood film producer David O. Selznick, who bought the rights to remake the film in Hollywood with Ingrid in the starring role. Between making the two versions of "Intermezzo, Ingrid worked on the Swedish films "En Enda Natt" ("Only One Night") and "En Kvinnas Ansikte"("A Woman’s Face), among others, and the German film Die Vier Gesellen.

In 1939, at David O. Selznick’s request, Ingrid made the transition to Hollywood. With this move she began a career that would span five decades, win her three Oscars, two Emmys and a Tony Award, and see her image go “from saint to whore and back to saint again,” as Ingrid once described it herself. The Hollywood version of "Intermezzo: A Love Story"was a success, and resulted in Selznick signing Ingrid to a seven-year contract. While she only made two movies with Selznick during the duration of their contract, Ingrid made several other movies and starred in some stage productions during these years as well.



Malcolm Little was born in the American South. His father, a Christian minister, was murdered by white racists in 1931. Several years later, because of their great poverty, and her mental illness, he and his siblings were taken from their mother by social workers and put into a children's home. He was later fostered.

Malcolm was a smart, focused student. He graduated from junior high at the top of his class. However, when a favorite teacher told Malcolm his dream of becoming a lawyer was "no realistic goal for a nigger," Malcolm lost interest in school. He dropped out, spent some time in Boston, Massachusetts working various odd jobs, and then traveled to Harlem, New York where he committed petty crimes. By 1942 Malcolm was coordinating various narcotics, prostitution and gambling rings.

Eventually Malcolm and his buddy, Malcolm "Shorty" Jarvis, moved back to Boston. In 1946 they were arrested and convicted on burglary charges, and Malcolm was sentenced to 10 years in prison. (He was paroled after serving seven years.) Recalling his days in school, he used the time to further his education. It was during this period of self-enlightenment that Malcolm's brother Reginald would visit and discuss his recent conversion to the Muslim religion. Reginald belonged to the religious organization the Nation of Islam (NOI).

Intrigued, Malcolm began to study the teachings of NOI leader Elijah Muhammad. Muhammad taught that white society actively worked to keep African-Americans from empowering themselves and achieving political, economic and social success. Among other goals, the NOI fought for a state of their own, separate from one inhabited by white people. By the time he was paroled in 1952, Malcolm was a devoted follower with the new surname "X." (He considered "Little" a slave name and chose the "X" to signify his lost tribal name.)

Intelligent and articulate, Malcolm was appointed as a minister and national spokesman for the Nation of Islam. Elijah Muhammad also charged him with establishing new mosques in cities such as Detroit, Michigan and Harlem, New York. Malcolm utilized newspaper columns, as well as radio and television to communicate the NOI’s message across the United States. His charisma, drive and conviction attracted an astounding number of new members. Malcolm was largely credited with increasing membership in the NOI from 500 in 1952 to 30,000 in 1963.

That same year, Malcolm went on a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The trip proved life altering. For the first time, Malcolm shared his thoughts and beliefs with different cultures, and found the response to be overwhelmingly positive.

When he returned, Malcolm said he had met "blonde-haired, blued-eyed men I could call my brothers." He returned to the United States with a new outlook on integration and a new hope for the future. This time when Malcolm spoke, instead of just preaching to African-Americans, he had a message for all races.

Racial tensions ran increasingly high during the early 1960s. In addition to the media, Malcolm's vivid personality had captured the government's attention. As membership in the NOI continued to grow, FBI agents infiltrated the organization (one even acted as Malcolm's bodyguard) and secretly placed bugs, wire-taps, cameras and other surveillance equipment to monitor the group's activities.

After repeated attempts on his life, Malcolm rarely traveled anywhere without bodyguards. On February 14, 1965 the home where Malcolm, Betty and their four daughters lived in East Elmhurst, New York was fire-bombed. Luckily, the family escaped physical injury.

One week later, however, Malcolm’s enemies were successful in their ruthless attempt. At a speaking engagement in the Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965 three gunmen -- all members of the Nation of Islam -- rushed Malcolm onstage. They shot him 15 times at close range. The 39-year-old was pronounced dead on arrival at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.

Fifteen hundred people attended Malcolm's funeral in Harlem on February 27, 1965 at the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ (now Child's Memorial Temple Church of God in Christ). After the ceremony, friends took the shovels away from the waiting grave diggers and buried Malcolm themselves. Later that year, Betty gave birth to their twin daughters.

The legacy of Malcolm X has moved through generations as the subject of numerous documentaries, books and movies. A tremendous resurgence of interest occurred in 1992 when director Spike Lee released the acclaimed movie, Malcolm X. [The film received Oscar nominations for Best Actor (Denzel Washington) and Best Costume Design.]

Malcolm X is known as one of the most influential of all the civil rights activists of the 1950s and 1960s.



Cyrus (590/580-ca. 529 BCE) was the founder of the Achaemenid empire, one of the greatest of the ancient kingdoms, centered on Persia. According to legend Cyrus was the son of prince Cambyses and the daughter of King Astyages. In a dream Astyages was told that the baby Cyrus would overthrow him, and to avoid this he ordered that the baby be killed. But the official delegated to do this gave the baby to a shepherd instead.

When he was 10 the deception was discovered by Astyages, but because of his outstanding qualities he was allowed to live in exile. But in 550 the prophecy came true, and Cyrus overthrew his grandfather. A variant of this legend, reported by Herodotus, has Cyrus as a feral child, at least for a while, cared for by dogs.

Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus II of Persia and Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Persian Empire under the Achaemenid dynasty. As leader of the Persian people in Anshan, he conquered the Medes and unified the two separate Iranian kingdoms; as the king of Persia, he reigned over the new empire from 559 BC until his death. The empire expanded under his rule, eventually conquering most of Southwest Asia, much of Central Asia, and much of the region just bordering the powerful Indian empire to create the largest nation the world had yet seen.

During his 29-year reign, Cyrus fought against some of the great states of the early Classical period, including the Median Empire, Lydia, and the Neo-Babylonian Empire. Cyrus did not venture into Egypt, as he himself died in battle, fighting the Massagetae along the Syr Darya in August 530 BC. Cyrus was succeeded by his son, Cambyses II, who managed to conquer Egypt during his short rule.

Cyrus is the first king whose name was suffixed with the word "Great," or Vazraka in Old Persian, (Bozorg in modern Persian), a titulary style adopted by his Achaemenid successors including Darius the Great, Xerxes the Great, et al. He is considered by most Persians as the Father of Iran. Beyond his civilization, Cyrus left a lasting legacy on religion, politics (the Declaration of Independence), military strategy, as well as on Middle Eastern and Western civilization.



Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – September 17, 1179), was born into a family of free nobles in the service of the counts of Sponheim, close relatives of the Hohenstaufen emperors. She was the tenth child, sickly from birth. From the time she was very young, Hildegard wrote, she experienced visions. In fact, the only surviving tale of Hildegard's childhood involves a conversation that she held with her nurse. Hildegard described an unborn calf as "white... marked with different colored spots on its forehead, feet and back." The nurse, amazed with the detail of the young child's account, told Hildegard's mother, who later rewarded her daughter with the calf, whose appearance Hildegard had accurately predicted.

Perhaps due to Hildegard's visions, or as a method of political positioning, Hildegard's parents, Hildebert and Mechthilde, offered her as a tithe to the Church at the age of eight. Hildegard was placed in the care of Jutta, the sister of Count Meinhard of Sponheim, just outside the Disibodenberg monastery in the Bavarian region now known as Germany. Jutta was enormously popular and acquired many followers, such that a small nunnery sprang up around her. Upon Jutta's death in 1136, Hildegard was unanimously elected as "magistra," or leader of her sister community. The election would lead to the significant move, executed with great opposition, of twenty members of her community to her newly-formed monastery, St. Rupertsberg at Bingen on the Rhine in 1150, where she became abbess.

Hildegard realized that keeping her visions to herself was a wise choice, and confided them only to Jutta, who in turn told Volmar, Hildegard's tutor and, later, scribe. Throughout her life, she continued to have many visions. In 1141, she received a call from God, "Write down that which you see and hear." She was hesitant to record her visions, and soon became physically ill. In her first theological text, “Scivias,” or "Know the Ways," Hildegard described her struggle within.

Attention in recent decades to women of the medieval Church has led to a repopularization of Hildegard, particularly of her music. Approximately eighty compositions have survived, which is one of the largest repertoires among medieval composers. Among her better known works, 'Ordo Virtutum',' or "Play of the Virtues," is a morality play and an example of a rare and early oratorio for women's voices, with one male part, that of the Devil, who, because of his corrupted nature, cannot sing. The play has served as an inspiration and foundation to what later became known as opera.

The oratorio was created, like much of Hildegard's music, for religious ceremonial performance by the nuns of her convent. Hildegard's music is described as monophonic; that is, designed for limited instrumental accompaniment and characterised by soaring soprano vocalisations. Hildegard, in fact, remains the first composer whose biography is known.

In addition to music, Hildegard also wrote medical, botanical and geological treatises, and she even invented an alternative alphabet. The text of her writing and compositions reveals Hildegard's use of this form of modified medieval Latin, encompassing many invented, conflated and abridged words. Due to her inventions of words for her lyrics and a constructed script, many conlangers look upon her as a medieval precursor.



Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia on April 25, 1917. Her birth parents both died when she was a child. She never knew her father and her mother died about 1935. Some sources state that she earlier ran away from her abusive step-father and lived on the streets. After her mother's death she was placed in an orphanage.

In 1934 she won her first talent contest, at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem. She was "discovered" by Chick Webb, who was looking for a new singer, and he and his wife then fostered and eventually legally adopted her. In mid 1936, Ella made her first recording. "Love and Kisses" was released under the Decca label, with moderate success. Webb died on June 16, 1939, and Ella mourned the loss of her mentor.

Soon she was one of the most celebrated singers and black women in the world. In later life she suffered seriously from diabetes. In 1993 both legs were amputated because of its effects.

Dubbed "The First Lady of Song," Ella Fitzgerald was the most popular female jazz singer in the United States for more than half a century. In her lifetime, she won 13 Grammy awards and sold over 40 million albums.

Her voice was flexible, wide-ranging, accurate and ageless. She could sing sultry ballads, sweet jazz and imitate every instrument in an orchestra. She worked with all the jazz greats, from Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Nat King Cole, to Frank Sinatra, Dizzy Gillespie and Benny Goodman. (Or rather, some might say all the jazz greats had the pleasure of working with Ella.)

She performed at top venues all over the world, and packed them to the hilt. Her audiences were as diverse as her vocal range. They were rich and poor, made up of all races, all religions and all nationalities. In fact, many of them had just one binding factor in common -- they all loved her.

In mid 1936, Ella made her first recording. Love and Kisses was released under the Decca label, with moderate success. On June 16, 1939, Ella mourned the loss of her mentor Chick Webb.

On the touring circuit it was well-known that Ella's manager felt very strongly about civil rights and required equal treatment for his musicians, regardless of their color. Ella continued to work as hard as she had early on in her career, despite the ill effects on her health. In September of 1986, Ella underwent quintuple coronary bypass surgery.



William Wordsworth was born on April 7, 1770. His mother died when William was eight, and his father died five years later. Although the family had been well off (their father was an attorney), debts owed by their father's main client were not paid, leaving the orphans much less well provided for.

Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy were separated and went to live with various uncles. The two children were especially close and the separation was very painful for them, but in 1795 she inherited enough money for them to live together until William died. He published his first poem in 1787 and went on to become one of the most famous poets in the English language.

Dorothy's journals and diaries are a major source of information about William's life and poetry, but are also important literature in their own right, and she was a major figure in the Romantic movement generally. In 1829 she became ill and a permanent invalid. In 1835 she developed arteriosclerosis, which affected her mind for the rest of her life.

William and Dorothy spent their childhood largely in Cockermouth and Penrith, his mother's home town. William and Dorothy and his future wife Mary Hutchinson attended infant school in Penrith between 1776 and 1777.

From 1779 until 1787 William attended the Grammar School in Hawkshead, lodging with Ann Tyson at Colthouse initially, then with his brothers. At Hawkshead William thrived -- receiving encouragement from the headmaster to read and write poetry. During these years he made many visits to the countryside, gaining inspiration as the powers of nature exercised their influence. He then went to St John's College Cambridge, where he was not a notable student, but inevitably matured in thought and sophistication.

In 1795 the Wordsworths stayed in a cottage in Dorset, where they met Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey. In the years ahead a close relationship developed between William, Dorothy and Coleridge. William and Coleridge then undertook a tour of the Lake District, starting at Temple Sowerby, and finishing at Wasdale Head, via Grasmere. At Grasmere they saw Dove Cottage, then an empty Inn called the Dove and Olive Branch.

In December 1799 William and Dorothy moved into Dove Cottage, in Grasmere, Coleridge having previously moved to Greta Hall in Keswick. Dorothy was William's secretary as William dictated his poetry. In 1802 William married his childhood companion Mary Hutchinson, and the first three of their five children were born. They lived here for two years, with poet and friend Coleridge. They then moved to the Old Rectory, opposite St Oswald's Church, a cold and damp house where his two youngest children died.

In 1813 they moved to Rydal Mount, where William and Mary stayed until their deaths in 1850 and 1859. Whilst at Rydal Mount William became Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland, and had an office in Church St Ambleside. In 1820 he published his “Guide through the District of the Lakes.” In 1842 he became the Poet Laureate, and resigned his office as Stamp Distributor.

In 1850 William caught a cold on a country walk, and he died on 23 April, St George's day, 80 years after his birth. He and Mary who died 9 years later have a simple tombstone in the churchyard of St Oswald's Church in Grasmere, now one of the most visited literary shrines in the world. William Wordsworth wrote some 70,000 lines of verse, 40,000 lines more than any other poet.