Among millions of people who live on through centuries, some definitely leave their footprints behind. We are inspired by their achievements and at times aspire to emulate them as well. Here is a look at some famous men and women across continents, who left behind an indelible mark and whose names got etched in history forever.
Mother Teresa (1910-1997)
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”Read
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
- A Roman Catholic nun who devoted her life to serving the poor and destitute around the world.
- Founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India.
- Awarded the Nobel Prize* in 1979.
- Spent most of her years in India.
- A living Saint, she was canonised* by the Roman Catholic Church in 2016 as Saint Teresa.
Martin Luther King Jr (1929-1968)
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed.”Read
“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed.”
- America’s most influential Civil Rights* activists, who like Gandhi, believed in non-violent protests.
- An eloquent orator.
- Awarded the Nobel Prize in 1964.
- He was a symbol of America’s fight for justice and equality of the black Americans.
- He was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, his hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.”Read
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, his hands can't hit what his eyes can't see.”
- Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. he was an Olympic and World Champion boxer.
- He was crowned “Sportsman of the Century”.
- Converted to Sunni Islam in 1975 and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
- He refused to serve in the United States Army during the Vietnam War because he called war against the teachings of Koran.
- He suffered from Parkinson’s disease* and after a rather controversial life, died from a respiratory illness, on June 3, 2016.
Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won.”Read
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won.”
- A prominent Indian political leader who campaigned for Indian Independence through the principals of non-violence.
- Known as Father of the Nation, he had attained a degree in law.
- It was in South Africa, while practicing law, that he was struck by the level of racial discrimination experienced by the Indians and first experimented with campaigns of civil disobedience and protest.
- He only advocated non-violent protests and opposed all those who took to violent methods in the fight against the British. He was opposed to the partition of India, but agreed finally only to spend the day of Independence in prayer mourning the partition.
- He was critical of the Hindu Caste system and launched campaigns to change the status of untouchables. He was assassinated at the age of 78 by Nathuram Godse.
Aung San Suu Kyi (1945)
“It is not power that corrupts but fear.”Read
“It is not power that corrupts but fear.”
- A pro-democracy activist and leader of the National League for Democracy in Burma.
- She has peacefully struggled under a military dictatorship in Burma and has been speaking up for democracy in the country.
- She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 and the Jawaharlal Nehru Peace Prize by the Government of India for her non-violent struggle.
- She was released from house arrest in 2012.
- In the summer of 2012, she received an honorary doctorate from Oxford University, having studied PPE* at St Hugh’s College.
Eva Peron (1919-1952)
“I have one thing that counts, and that is my heart.”Read
“I have one thing that counts, and that is my heart.”
- Argentina’s first lady from 1946-1952, she inspired millions with her campaigns to help the poor and give women the right to vote.
- A theatre artist, she married politician Juan Domingo Peron and became President Peron’s first lady.
- As the President’s wife she took a high profile in campaigning for issues such as women's rights and improvement of descamisados*.
- Given the title of ‘Spiritual Chief of the Nation’ in 1952.
- An important symbol of emancipation for the women of Latin America who created a lasting political and humanitarian legacy, Eva Peron died tragically young from cancer in the year 1952.
Benazir Bhutto (1953-2007)
“I will not be intimidated. I will step out on the tarmac in Karachi not to complete a journey, but to begin one.”Read
“I will not be intimidated. I will step out on the tarmac in Karachi not to complete a journey, but to begin one.”
- The first woman to be elected to lead a Muslim state, as Prime Minister of Pakistan between 1988-1990 and 1993-1996.
- Along with her family, she was placed under house arrest by General Zia-ul-Haq, released in 1984, after which began her campaign for restoration of democracy in Pakistan.
- She was the first woman to lead a political party -- Pakistan People's Front (PPF) and a great crusader of democracy.
- As Prime Minister she was referred to as the ‘Iron Lady’ for her uncompromising approach to negotiate with unions.
- She went on self imposed exile to Dubai in 1998, only to return to Pakistan in 2007, and was assassinated while campaigning for the PPF in 2007 at Rawalpindi. She was later named as one of the winners of the United Nations Prize in the field of Human Rights.
Jesse Owens (1913-1980)
“The battles that count aren’t the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself – the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us – that’s where it’s at.”Read
“The battles that count aren't the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself - the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us - that's where it's at.”
- A track and field star, who won four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics.
- He broke three world records in 1935 which included the long jump, 220 yards and 220 yards hurdles.
- He suffered greatly in America due to racial discrimination and had to work very hard and do odd jobs to raise money.
- He became a goodwill ambassador during the Civil Rights.
- Owens died of cancer at the age of 66 in 1980.
“The more difficult the victory, the greater happiness in winning.”Read
“The more difficult the victory, the greater happiness in winning.”
- The most iconic footballer of the twentieth century who helped inspire Brazil to victory in the 1958 World Cup.
- His crowning glory was the Brazilian victory in the 1970 World Cup in Mexico where the football played by him was considered the greatest in the history of the game.
- He scored 1,000 goals in professional games with one of the highest strike rates of 77 goals in 92 appearances.
- He finished his career in the lucrative US league in the year 1977, when he led the New York Cosmos to the US title.
- After retirement he has been a great ambassador for football and sports in general as well as the UN ambassador for ecology and environment and a UNESCO* goodwill ambassador.
Fidel Castro (1926-2016)
“I am a Marxist-Leninist, and I will be a Marxist-Leninist until the last days of my life.”Read
“I am a Marxist-Leninist, and I will be a Marxist-Leninist until the last days of my life.”
- A revolutionary and President of Cuba, he led Cuba in a Communist revolution changing the country's economic and political fortunes. He also promoted education, social values and stood up to US imperialism*.
- He gave five revolutionary principles which included reinstatement of the 1940 Cuban Constitution, a reformation of Land Rights, the right of industrial workers to a 30% share of company profits, the rights of sugar workers and the confiscation of holdings of those found guilty of fraud.
- He was jailed for a year for leading an attempt to overthrow the right wing military junta* in the year 1953.
- He became the Prime Minister of Cuba in 1959 and introduced sweeping economic reforms. He believed in egalitarianism* and anti imperialism.
- After being Prime Minister for seventeen years (1959-1976) and President for thirty two years (1976-2008), he retired due to ill health but remained a dominant personality of Cuba. He breathed his last on November 25, 2016.
Sachin Tendulkar (1973)
“When people throw stones at you, you turn them into milestones.”Read
“When people throw stones at you, you turn them into milestones.”
- A child cricket prodigy, Sachin Tendulkar debuted in Indian cricket at an early age in 1992.
- He has often been called ‘The Little Master’ or even ‘God of Cricket’.
- He was the first player to pass 10,000 runs in limited overs cricket. He also accumulated a record 18,000 ODI runs, giving him a total of over 34,000 runs at international level.
- He made another record by scoring a double century in one day internationals.
- His autobiography is called Playing it My Way.
J K Rowling (1965)
“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”Read
“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”
- This writer nursed an ambition to write from an early age but finally got her first book published in 1996 at the age of thirty one.
- She worked as an English teacher and lived on grants from the state while being a single mother.
- Known for brand Harry Potter, she started the series with Harry Potter and The Philosophers Stone and finished it with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. While she claims no further books in the series are likely to come out, she may take out a dictionary of things related to Hogwarts.
- She supports a number of charities including Anti Poverty, Multiple Sclerosis and Lumos.
- The Harry Potter series penned by her has been turned into films which have magnified the success of the books.
- Nobel Prize: A set of annual international awards bestowed in several categories by Sweden and Norwegian institutions in recognition of academic, cultural or scientific advances.
- Canonised: Officially declared to be a saint.