These 20 Individuals Helped Shape History – And Here’s What They Really Looked Like

In our world of camera phones and selfie sticks, it’s easy to forget that photography is a relatively new phenomenon. Before that, people depicted the features of others through artworks such as paintings and sculptures – though not always accurately. But while the likenesses of many important figures from the past were captured in this manner, can we ever know how they appeared in real life? Well, with the help of digital imaging technology, we may finally have the answer to that – and the pictures we can now see are truly stunning.

20. Bishop Jacques de Vitry

Born in the latter half of the 12th century, Jacques de Vitry was among the most celebrated Catholic preachers of his period. The French theologian was a talented storyteller, in fact, and composed hundreds of sermons throughout his life. Jacques’ method of expressing religious thought was so effective, moreover, that his fellow clerics sat up and took notice – with some even being inspired by him.

Then, in 1229 – and around 11 years before his death – Jacques became a cardinal. And even centuries later, he has endured as a figure worthy of attention. To show what Jacques may have looked like, then, the company Visualforensic created a CGI facial reconstruction of the noted clergyman using CT scans.

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19. Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene is unarguably a significant figure within the Christian faith. According to the Bible, she was a Jewish companion of Jesus who was present during some crucial events during the Son of God’s lifetime. It’s said, for example, that she once saw Christ’s crucifixion and subsequent resurrection.

And over the centuries, Mary Magdalene’s legend has only grown. There may be proof that she once existed, too, as many believe that her skull lies in a church in the French town of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume. It’s this relic that served as the model for Visualforensic’s digital formulation of her likeness.

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18. Dante

The Divine Comedy is widely thought to be the most significant piece of literature ever composed in Italian. And its author, Dante, remains a hugely noteworthy figure today, with the poet and his oeuvre having not only influenced other literary greats, but also the trajectory of Western art.

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Renaissance artists often depicted Dante with a large nose and a serious mien. With the help of computer technology, drawings and measurements of the poet’s skull, however, we now have a more realistic-looking interpretation of one of history’s most celebrated writers.

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17. King Henry IV of France

France’s King Henry IV may be more familiar to you under one of his grandiose nicknames – Henry the Great, for example, or Good King Henry. Yet while the monarch ruled France for 21 years from 1589, during his lifetime he also served as the king of Navarre in modern-day Spain.

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Ultimately, Henry was murdered in 1610 at the age of 57, although some of his remains have apparently survived to the present day. The king’s skull, it seems, was stolen from his grave at some point before ending up in private hands in 1919. And it’s this piece of history that provided the basis for Visualforensic’s depiction of the ruler.

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16. Mary Queen of Scots

Following the death of her father James V, Mary Stuart became the Scottish queen as a newborn. She then held this title until 1567, when she was forced to surrender her throne. But while Mary subsequently turned to Queen Elizabeth I for help, the English monarch chose to condemn her counterpart to captivity and eventual death.

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Centuries on, specialists from Scotland’s University of Dundee attempted to piece together what Mary may have looked like. To do so, they utilized 3D modeling programs and so-called “craniofacial templates,” with their finished rendition then put on display in Edinburgh in 2013.

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15. Robespierre

History buffs will recognize Maximilien de Robespierre as one of the prominent leaders of the French Revolution. Yet while the rebel’s rise through the ranks of the Revolutionary government may have seemed practically unstoppable at first, he ultimately met a grisly end. Opposition forces got the better of Robespierre in 1794, and swiftly after that he was summarily executed.

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Yet a so-called death mask of Robespierre’s face was created, with this going on to form the basis for a likeness made by the acclaimed wax artist Madame Tussaud. The mask was also used as a reference point for a digital reconstruction conducted by facial reconstruction specialist Philippe Froesch and forensic pathologist Philippe Charlier in 2013. And this latter work seems to lay bare the potential sarcoidosis – an auto-immune condition – with which Robespierre is said to have suffered towards the end of his life.

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14. Saint Anthony

The Egyptian Saint Anthony – said to have been among the first ever monks – is widely credited with being the architect of Christian monasticism. And as the religious man was known to have been a solitary figure, his life has represented something of a blueprint for monastic conduct ever since.

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In 2014, however, the University of St. Anthony of Padua’s Anthropology Museum joined up with an international team of forensic researchers to create a realistic digital reconstruction of Saint Anthony. Using a digital copy of the monk’s skull, the team created an image that presented him with a much fuller face than can be seen in previous depictions.

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13. Emily Dickinson

Although Emily Dickinson is today widely regarded as one of America’s greatest ever writers, she never received the acclaim that she deserved in her own lifetime. In fact, recognition of the poet’s talents only really emerged after she’d died and following her sister’s unearthing of her catalog of work.

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As fans will know, Dickinson passed away from kidney disease in 1886 at the age of 55. One digital rendering of the reclusive artist has shown us just how she may have looked if she had lived in the 21st century, however. And based on this image, we can easily imagine Dickinson typing away on her MacBook in some hip coffee shop.

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12. Agnes Sorel

Agnes Sorel was only 20 years old when she first encountered King Charles VII of France. And by many accounts, the supposedly attractive and smart young woman swept Charles off his feet. The pair then became lovers, with Sorel apparently holding great sway over the king. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that the monarch’s mistress made several foes during her lifetime.

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While expecting her and Charles’ fourth baby, however, Sorel fell ill and died under suspicious circumstances. In 2005 the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility subsequently discovered that she’d had a high amount of mercury in her system – although whether or not this means she was purposely poisoned is still unclear. In any case, Visualforensic was able to create a digital reconstruction of Sorel’s face using a CT scan of her skull.

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11. Mirabeau

Honoré-Gabriel Riqueti, Comte de Mirabeau was a prominent French politician of the 18th century. During his lifetime, he was at the heart of the governing National Assembly of France – an institution that held sway over the country at the beginning of the revolution there. Mirabeau passed away, though, before events took a more extreme turn.

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Then, after Mirabeau’s death in 1791, he was given a rather grandiose send-off. The Panthéon was actually built as a resting place for the statesman, with the famed Parisian monument later becoming a burial ground for numerous other important French figures. And centuries later, Visualforensic can give us a clue as to what Mirabeau once looked like. The company’s digital reconstruction of the famous man’s face was created in part after a laser scan of a death mask.

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10. The Sechelt people

The Sechelts – also known as the Shíshálh people – are native Americans from the Pacific Northwest Coast. And during the period when Europeans first made it on to the continent, the Sechelt population amounted to around 26,000 people – although sadly those numbers were ultimately decimated.

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Tragically, the Sechelts suffered greatly after foreign settlers arrived on their land. New diseases with which they had never previously contended – such as smallpox – spread widely, you see, and significantly laid waste to many of the locals. Still, thanks to laser scan work by Visualforensics, we can approximate what members of this group would’ve looked like several millennia ago.

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9. Johann Sebastian Bach

While classical music fans will instantly recognize Johann Sebastian Bach’s output, even those with no passion for the genre are likely to be familiar with at least one of his acclaimed compositions. And thanks to epochal works such as the Brandenburg Concertos, Bach’s place in the pantheon of greats is assured.

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In 2008, meanwhile, the Bachhaus Eisenach museum commissioned a reconstruction of the 18th-century composer. This depicts a man with something of an uneven face, full cheeks and notably dark eyes. But whether this image is an accurate interpretation or not, it still makes for an interesting snapshot of such an important figure.

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8. Civil War soldiers

On New Year’s Eve 1862 – while the U.S. was in the midst of the Civil War – the USS Monitor was sailing off Cape Hatteras in North Carolina. Tragically, though, the ship went down after a storm, with 16 of the more than five dozen crew members perishing as a result. And thanks to technology, we now have an idea of what some of these sailors looked like.

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In 2002 the gun turret of the USS Monitor was brought to the surface, with the remains of two crewmen found inside. Then, a decade later, the LSU Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services (FACES) Laboratory teamed up with the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to make digital reconstructions of the visages of the fallen seamen.

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7. The Tollund man

In May 1950 a pair of peat cutters happened upon a dead body in a Danish bog. The remains appeared to be fresh, too, leading the duo to believe that they’d discovered a murder victim. In reality, though, the corpse had been lying in place for a considerable amount of time.

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The naturally preserved body is said to date back some 2,400 years, in fact. Experts have since suggested that this individual – known as Tollund Man – may actually have been purposely sacrificed as part of some ritual. And thanks to Visualforensic’s work – which included the use of CT scans – we now have a digital depiction of what this ancient human may have looked like at the time of his death.

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6. William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare is, of course, largely considered to be the finest English-language writer of all time. And with works such as Macbeth, Othello and Hamlet having all been attributed to the British playwright, it’s not difficult to see why. Yes, Shakespeare is considered to have produced countless masterpieces throughout his lifetime before passing away in 1616 at the age of 52.

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In the 1840s, meanwhile, a death mask of Shakespeare was apparently found in the German city of Darmstadt. Then, more than 150 years on, Dundee University’s Dr. Caroline Wilkinson conducted a so-called authentication analysis of the artifact. She also had 3D images created of the playwright, resulting in this impressively detailed rendition.

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5. George Washington

At one time, George Washington was the head of a Virginian plantation. As many of us know, though, he ultimately rose to become the commander-in-chief of the colonial forces during the American Revolution. And after that, of course, he was chosen as the United States’ first ever president.

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Since then, Washington’s likeness has been emblazoned on paintings and $1 banknotes – as well as Mount Rushmore. But now we have a potentially more realistic picture, as researchers Eric Altschuler and Krista Ehinger have managed to create a neat CGI image of the former president.

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4. Diseased Cro-Magnon individual

The term “Cro-Magnon” is a little out of date nowadays, as experts currently prefer to use the phrase “Early Modern Humans.” However these individuals are referred to, though, we’re talking about Homo sapiens, who existed from about 40,000 to 10,000 years ago. These people were even roaming around at the same time as another species of human: the Neanderthals.

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Fast-forward to the present day, and Visualforensic used CT scans of an approximately 30,000-year-old skull to create a digital rendering of a Cro-Magnon individual. It appears, too, that this particular person had a condition known as neurofibromatosis disease – a genetic ailment that leads to the growth of tumors on nerve tissue.

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3. Nefertiti

As an Egyptian queen and spouse to Pharaoh Akhenaten, Nefertiti was a significant figure of ancient times. And during her life, she’s said to have supported innovative and cutting-edge art – meaning it’s perhaps fitting that a sculpture of her head now serves as an important icon of ancient Egypt.

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Nefertiti’s bust is now in the Neues Museum in Berlin, Germany – although we’ll likely never know how accurate this likeness actually is. Nevertheless, in 2018 a team including Bristol University Egyptologist Dr. Aiden Dobdon used 3D imaging to create a replica of the queen’s head. The result of this work was then turned into a sculpture by the paleoartist Elisabeth Daynès.

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2. Celtic man

The Celts once lived in the British Isles and parts of the European continent, with their society beginning to evolve in around 1200 B.C. These people were split, however, into various different tribes – all of which broadly spoke in comparable tongues and conducted similar religious practices. And to this day, remnants of Celtic culture and language can be seen in Ireland and sections of Britain.

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Elaborate tombs and Celtic designs made of precious metals are still being dug up in Europe, too. And while there’s no real indication of what the ancient Celts would have looked like, Visualforensic has given us all a clue after using CT scans to analyze Celtic skulls.

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1. Jesus Christ

Depictions of the Son of God have appeared in countless artworks over the centuries – including, of course, Leonardo’s masterpiece The Last Supper. Yet given that Jesus was said to have been born in Bethlehem in modern-day Palestine, the versions of Christ that portray him as European-looking may not be particularly accurate.

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In 2001, then, British forensic anthropologist Richard Neave attempted to get to the bottom of the matter by constructing a model of a Galilean man as part of a BBC documentary called Son of God. This likeness, it turned out, was inspired by a real skull once found in Israel. Yet the expert never suggested that his interpretation actually showed how Jesus would have once appeared; rather, the model was only intended to give us a rough approximation of Christ’s features.

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And as it turns out, many historical figures were all too human in their weird customs and bizarre practices. In fact, when you hear how – or, rather, where – Lyndon B. Johnson liked to take his meetings, you probably won’t see the 36th president in the same light ever again.

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History classes introduce us to a slew of important people, from politicians to inventors to artists. And, of course, many of these individuals have left indelible marks on our society, meaning their presence is often felt even in the 21st century. Yet sometimes these revered characters also had secrets or strange quirks that helped them work or get through the day – even Benjamin Franklin. Here are 40 of the weirdest habits practiced by historic icons.

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40. Michelangelo didn’t bathe

Famously, Renaissance man Michelangelo was responsible for the stunning work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Yet while he may be considered one of the finest artists of all time, he seemingly didn’t have as good a record in the hygiene department. Yes, Michelangelo supposedly didn’t perform any ablutions; apparently, he didn’t often wear clean clothes, either.

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39. Martin Luther ate his own waste

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Martin Luther didn’t like some of the Catholic Church’s practices, so he led the Protestant Reformation and ultimately set up the Lutheran Church. Despite the wisdom that he possessed, though, Luther supposedly partook in one particularly disgusting habit in the belief that it would improve his wellbeing. Somewhat alarmingly, it’s said that he actually consumed his own excrement on a regular basis.

38. Charles Dickens combed his hair hundreds of times each day

Given Charles Dickens’ odd quirk, it’s a wonder that he found the time to pen such classics as Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol. You see, the popular author hated his hair being out of place, and this therefore led him to brush through his mane almost incessantly on a daily basis.

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37. Franz Kafka had his cake and ate it, too

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It seems as though Franz Kafka knew how to inspire himself to get his writing work down. Since the novelist really liked pineapple upside-down cake, he’d give himself a huge treat after he’d completed a new piece. Yes, Kafka would consume an entire gateau to celebrate – and he wouldn’t let any outsiders take a single bite, either.

36. Maya Angelou couldn’t write at home

One of author and poet Maya Angelou’s most famous works is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. But she didn’t pen that lauded autobiography at home, as from the late ’60s Angelou actually preferred to write in small hotel rooms. She would bring along her own tools to aid her creativity, though, including a deck of cards and some sherry.

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35. Leonardo da Vinci didn’t like to see caged birds

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The quintessential Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci was versed in art, biology, music, sculpting, engineering, and anatomy, to name just a few disciplines. Yet he also had a soft side – especially when it came to animals. It’s said, for example, that he used to purchase birds in cages just so that he could free them. Leonardo is thought to have followed a vegetarian diet to boot.

34. Salvador Dalí was a pen stealer

Salvador Dalí had such an eccentric public persona that some wondered if it actually took away from his surrealist work. His antics may have distracted, though, from the fact that he occasionally stole from his fans. Yes, when admirers asked the artist to sign autographs, he would – and then he’d hang onto their pens.

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33. Beethoven counted out beans to make the perfect cup of coffee

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It’s no surprise that one of the most important composers ever to have lived exhibited strange behaviors to stoke creativity. In Ludwig van Beethoven’s case, the morning tended to start with a cup of coffee brewed with 60 beans exactly; he logged each one personally. On occasion, he’d also apparently walk around inside his room while spilling water onto his own hands and humming.

32. Andy Warhol created creepy time capsules

Andy Warhol’s contributions to the pop art movement included 1962’s Campbell’s Soup Cans – a collection of 32 renditions of the famous brand’s tins. But nothing that simple would likely ever be found within the time capsules that Warhol pieced together monthly. Instead, he filled these artifacts with strange finds, including boots that had once belonged to Clark Gable and a foot that had been mummified.

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31. Stravinsky used headstands to get his creative juices flowing

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No single genre can define composer Igor Stravinsky’s work, but it seems that he owed all of it to a morning ritual he used to spark his creativity. Apparently, Stravinsky would spend ten to 15 minutes in a headstand, which he believed helped open up his mind. Then he would feel ready to compose music.

30. Voltaire would only live close to a country’s borders

French philosopher Voltaire had a tendency to ruffle feathers with his writing. In 1734, for instance, he denounced the institutions of his home country, enraging members of Parliament to the point that they wanted him arrested. So, Voltaire fled to a friend’s chateau in Cirey near the French border, allowing him to escape the nation if he was chased. After that, he always lived close to the boundary between one nation and another – just to be safe.

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29. Nikola Tesla believed celibacy helped him to create

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Of all the ways to get the creative juices flowing, Nikola Tesla specifically refused to engage in one of them. Yes, the inventor of the alternating current electric supply system felt as though chastity aided his pursuit of his professional aims. He maintained that he’d made the right decision, too, and ultimately he died a bachelor.

28. Charles VI of France thought that he was a wolf made of glass

Charles VI restored a shining reputation to the crown during his reign, with his subjects even going so far as to call him “Charles the Beloved.” But in his 20s, the French monarch started suffering through periods of bad mental health, leading some to dub him “Charles the Mad” instead. During one of his episodes, he even believed himself to be a wolf made of glass. The king would therefore approach castle guests and howl at them, although he’d also avoid being touched himself for fear that he would break into pieces.

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27. Churchill liked to be naked

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British prime minister Winston Churchill reportedly enjoyed hanging out in his office naked, and it’s even said that another head of state once walked in and saw him in the buff. According to legend, Churchill traveled to the White House during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s tenure. Then, when FDR entered the prime minister’s room at one point, the commander-in-chief reportedly found his British counterpart nude following a recent bath.

26. Picasso carried around a gun in case anyone annoyed him

Pablo Picasso’s bright, unique mind guided him as he co-founded the Cubist movement. Picasso’s avant-garde style led to lots of questions, though, and these inquiries sometimes annoyed the artist himself. So, when he became irritated by people asking too much, he would whip out a revolver in order to quieten them. And while the influential icon actually loaded the weapon with blanks, this was nevertheless quite the statement.

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25. Frida Kahlo lied about her age

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Much of Frida Kahlo’s artwork took its cues from her home nation of Mexico – not least the country’s natural landscape. And as it turns out, Kahlo let Mexico inspire a little white lie that she’d tell about herself, too. You see, although she entered the world in 1907, she would inform people that she had actually breathed her first in 1910. And, incidentally, that year also happened to see the kick-off of the Mexican Revolution.

24. Stanley Kubrick had 16 cats

Stanley Kubrick’s perfectionism infamously alienated him from some of his movie casts. But perhaps he left this tough persona at the studio door. In any case, Kubrick had a deep love for animals; he even took care of 16 cats at one point. The director’s menagerie apparently grew to include seven golden retrievers and four donkeys, too.

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23. Marie Antoinette wanted to cosplay as a peasant

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As the Queen of France and Navarre, Marie Antoinette made a reputation for herself by spending big. And, ultimately, her subjects would blame her profligacy for an economic downturn in France. But before that point, the monarch had the so-called “Queen’s Hamlet” built at Versailles. This was a tiny peasant village where she would dress up in a shepherdess costume and make believe that she was a commoner. She even milked cows and sheep while cosplaying there.

22. Henry VIII hired staff to wipe him after trips to the bathroom

King Henry VIII gained notoriety for his string of wives – some of whom he had beheaded. Clearly, then, the English monarch had little shame – and this seemed to extend to his trips to the toilet, too. You see, Henry hired a fleet of male staffers called the Grooms of Stool, whose sole job was wiping the king after he went to the bathroom. What’s more, all of the men who held this position were later knighted – and it sounds like they earned the distinction.

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21. Alan Turing could run with the best of them

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Alan Turing’s work in algorithms and computation was the basis for modern computer science, making him arguably one of the most influential individuals of the 20th century. Yet he still took time out from his pioneering work to indulge in his hobby of running. And he was good at it, too. In fact, Turing is said to have run a marathon in two hours and 46 minutes – just 11 minutes shy of the record held by the Olympic gold medalist of the time.

20. Ulysses S. Grant didn’t like people seeing him naked

It takes a lot of courage to be a general, and Ulysses S. Grant assumed this position during the Civil War. Even so, it seems that the 18th U.S. president was too afraid to strip down naked in front of anyone but his wife. And while this may sound normal today, that wasn’t the case in the 19th century. You see, someone of Grant’s status would typically have had servants to bathe and clothe him. He wouldn’t strip down and wash with soldiers in the barracks, either, which was another common practice of his time.

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19. William Wordsworth ran his work past his pet dog

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Even those with a dislike of verse will likely be familiar with William Wordsworth – the iconic British poet who helped ushered in the era of Romanticism within the genre. Allegedly, though, any work of Wordsworth’s that you may have read didn’t go to press without a very important figure editing. Somewhat unusually, the legendary figure is said to have read his poems aloud to his dog. And if the pooch barked or reacted in any other audible way during the recital, Wordsworth apparently reworked the piece in question.

18. Henry Cavendish was so shy that he’d communicate through notes

English physicist Henry Cavendish made the monumental discovery of hydrogen, yet the importance of his work seemingly did little to break him from his shyness. Cavendish felt awkward throughout his entire life, in fact, and so he did all he could to avoid interactions with others – including only speaking to his housemaids through notes.

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17. Charlie Chaplin had a very strange audition process

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While a lead role alongside Charlie Chaplin may have been coveted by many, any women hoping to nab a part in one of his films reportedly had to go through the wringer in order to get on screen. Rumor has it that Chaplin required female actors to remove all of their clothes before he threw pies at them, as, somehow, that helped him decide who his next star would be.

16. Stonewall Jackson did strange arm stretches

Stonewall Jackson led the Confederate army during the American Civil War until he lost a bout with pneumonia in 1863. Before then, though, Jackson’s main concern seemed to be the asymmetry of his arms. You see, it’s said that the general believed one arm was lengthier than its counterpart, and so he often undertook stretches that were meant to even out the blood circulation in both limbs.

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15. Hans Christian Andersen always carried rope with him in case of fire

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Hans Christian Andersen made his name by penning a slew of beloved children’s stories, from “The Little Mermaid” to “The Ugly Duckling.” But although Andersen wrote these happily-ever-afters, he had some serious fears about the way in which his own life could end. And as the legendary writer particularly feared falling victim to a hotel fire, he carried rope with him constantly so that he had a chance of escaping any blaze.

14. Alexander Graham Bell had a fear of moonbeams

Nowadays, we’re told to keep our eyes and skin covered in order to protect them from the sun’s harmful UV rays. But the inventor of the telephone and founder of AT&T, Alexander Graham Bell, supposedly had bigger fears about moonbeams. To ensure that any light from Earth’s natural satellite didn’t get into his house, then, he left his windows constantly shrouded.

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13. William Faulkner typed with his toes

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William Faulkner was a Nobel Prize laureate whose work came in a slew of different forms: novels, short stories, screenplays, essays, poems and even a play. Somehow, though, Faulkner managed to create his oeuvre in a very strange manner. Apparently, he would place his hands inside his footwear and proceed to type with the use of his toes.

12. Benjamin Franklin dated cougars

Benjamin Franklin led a busy life. As well as being a Founding Father of the United States, Franklin has also been credited with unearthing electricity, coming up with the concept of bifocals and establishing the University of Pennsylvania. And, interestingly, the legendary polymath had a clear preference when it came to dating: he only tended to get involved with older women.

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11. Ronald Reagan would rub your earlobe if he liked you

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President Ronald Reagan may have ushered in a new era of modern conservatism, but it seems that he was much more liberal in the ways in which he showed affection for others. For one, Reagan had a strange habit for grasping his friends’ and relatives’ ears to signify his fondness for the recipient – a practice that he’d apparently adopted in earlier life.

10. Franz Schubert slept with his glasses on

You won’t find a portrait of Franz Schubert without his glasses on. That’s because the Austrian musician – most famous for composing “Ave Maria” and other vocal pieces – had extremely bad vision. In fact, his eyesight was so blurry that he wore his glasses around the clock – even while he dozed.

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9. Georgia O’Keeffe had a studio in her car

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Georgia O’Keeffe’s most famous modernist paintings depict the New York City skyline, enormous flowers and the sweeping land of New Mexico. Yet while she had to get out into nature in order to accurately capture the arid plains of the southwestern state, painting in the desert sun could prove uncomfortable, to say the least. So, O’Keeffe transformed her car into a studio by putting her canvas into the back of the vehicle and working on it from the front.

8. Lyndon B. Johnson held meetings on the toilet

Lyndon B. Johnson is among the select few to have served in all four of the American federal government’s elected positions: congressman, senator, vice president and president. Clearly, though, he didn’t let that distinction go to his head. After all, while he was in the White House, LBJ is said to have held talks as he sat on the toilet.

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7. Honoré de Balzac really liked coffee

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Honoré de Balzac would go to sleep right after dinner, rise at midnight and write from 1:00 a.m. until 8:00 a.m. And as the French novelist needed fuel to get him through such a rigorous work schedule, he’d supposedly down what corresponded to approximately 50 cups of coffee per day. Balzac didn’t always drink the beverage in its liquid form, though; on occasion, he crushed the beans into a powder and devoured the resulting substance instead.

6. Demosthenes would get a bad haircut to force himself to stay home and work

Ancient Greek orator Demosthenes is roundly considered to have been one of the best speakers of his time. But he got to be that way through a lot of practice – as well as a strange hairstyling tactic. Namely, Demosthenes would shave off half of his hair, thus making himself look so ridiculous that he couldn’t display himself in public for a few months. That gave him plenty of opportunity to perfect his speeches.

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5. Napoleon liked to write about romance

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A military genius, Napoleon Bonaparte successfully commandeered French armies through the country’s revolution and into the wars that followed. But, somehow, the leader had time to tap into his softer side. During his lifetime, Napoleon penned a novella called Clisson et Eugénie, which told the story of a soldier and the woman waiting for him at home. What’s more, many believe that his own experiences on the front had acted as a stimulus for the tale.

4. Henry Ford kept a jar full of Thomas Edison’s breath

People mistakenly credit the invention of the motor vehicle and the assembly line to Henry Ford. What he did do, however, was make personal cars less of a pipe dream and more of an accessible resource for average Americans. And through it all, Ford was inspired by the work of inventor Thomas Edison; in fact, the pair even eventually became friends. But things took an odd turn in 1931, when Edison was on the brink of death. Somewhat strangely, Ford asked his son – who also happened to be present – to gather Edison’s last breath in a jar for him.

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3. Albert Einstein would eat bugs off of the ground

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Physicist Albert Einstein famously came up with the formula for mass-energy equivalence, E = mc², which today is perhaps the most well-known equation in the world. Still, those who knew the Nobel Prize winner reported that he had some odd tendencies. For one, he apparently once picked up and devoured a bug that he found on the ground. It was also noted that Einstein sometimes went birdwatching, bringing a violin with him and playing it in tears.

2. Thomas Edison didn’t like it if someone added salt to their food

Perhaps the most significant inventor in American history, Thomas Edison revolutionized recording, motion pictures, communication and electrical power. In addition, he came up with a way to determine whether he wanted to hire someone to work with him. Specifically, if Edison noticed a person salting their food before taking the first mouthful, he wouldn’t offer them a position, as he felt that he couldn’t recruit anyone who would act on a theory before investigating it.

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1. Pythagoras didn’t want people to eat beans

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Ancient Greek philosopher Pythagoras made a slew of scientific and mathematical discoveries during his day. Some of the ideas that he also came up with, however, were distinctly weird. And perhaps the strangest of all was the religion that Pythagoras founded, which prevented practitioners from eating beans or flattening out any grooves that they left in their bedsheets.

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