30 Of The Coolest People In History, As Shared In This Online Thread
History is an endless source of adventure — just picture the bold battles, revolutionary events, and celebrated figures of our past. Sure, they might seem distant at first, but they also offer great insight into what shaped our world today.
Plenty of incredible people made it into textbooks and the minds of anyone who ever stepped foot into a history class. But some heroes did remarkable things yet didn’t get the recognition they fully deserved. That's why Reddit user mrnutterbutter123 felt the urge to find out who are some of the coolest people that ever walked this Earth.
More than 5.8K members of Ask Reddit rolled up their sleeves, shared their knowledge, and reignited our passion for the subject. From Andre the Giant to Tiananmen Square Tank Man, Bored Panda handpicked some of the best answers that vividly illustrate how our past is brimming with people who led fascinating lives. So continue scrolling and upvote your favorites as you go!
Welles Crowther, aka The Man In The Red Bandana. I’m sure most of us have thought about what it must have been like in the World Trade Center on 9/11 and it must have been debilitatingly petrifying. He was 24 years old working on the 104th floor as an equities trader. Made his way down to the sky lobby of the South Tower and found a badly burned woman, carried her down 17 floors, then went back upstairs to help guide others to the only passable stairwell. Stayed up there helping others and working with the fire department until the towers collapsed. He’s responsible for saving around 20 lives and [passed away] a damn hero.
Nellie Bly . Went undercover and endured abuse to cover neglect and abuse in Blackwell’s asylum, went to Mexico and called out the dictator for going after the press and oppressing his people and then fleed/was exiled out of Mexico because of that, traveled the world in 70-something days to prove you could travel the world in 80 days or less (based off the the Jules Verne novel) , also did reporting on the Eastern European front in World War One and also was arrested after she was mistaken for a British Spy, and she did so much more ! Such a bad ass and one of my historical heroes.
Cassius Marcellus Clay
He was an abolitionist politician and certified badass from Kentucky who freed all of his slaves upon inheriting his father’s plantation, letting them stay and paying them a fair wage. He was the OG progressive and did not take s**t from anyone. It’s no wonder Muhammad Ali was named after him.
What is written below isn’t even 10% of the absolute badassery this man accomplished in his life. If you want the full story, check out the dollop episode in the comments.
“Clay had a reputation as a rebel and a fighter. Due to threats on his life, he had become accustomed to carrying two pistols and a knife for protection. He installed a cannon to protect his home and office.”
“In 1845, Clay began publishing an anti-slavery newspaper, True American, in Lexington, Kentucky. Within a month he received death threats, had to arm himself, and regularly barricaded the armored doors of his newspaper office for protection, besides setting up two four-pounder cannons inside.”
“During a political debate in 1843, he survived an assassination attempt by Sam Brown, a hired gun. The scabbard of Clay's Bowie knife was tipped with silver, and in jerking the Bowie knife out in retaliation pulled this scabbard up so that it was just over his heart. Sam Brown's bullet struck the scabbard, and embedded itself in the silver. Despite being shot in the chest, Clay drew his Bowie knife, tackled Brown, cut out his eyes, and finally threw him over an embankment.” This “embankment” was actually the top of the Russell Cave (for which Russell Cave Rd is named after), trivia for any of you native Lexingtonians. It’s on Mt. Brilliant farm just south of Elkhorn Creek, where the event was hosted.
“Clay served in the Mexican–American War as a captain with the 1st Kentucky Cavalry from 1846 to 1847. He opposed the annexation of Texas and expansion of slavery into the Southwest. While making a speech for abolition in 1849, Clay was attacked by the six Turner brothers, who beat, stabbed and tried to shoot him. In the ensuing fight, Clay fought off all six and, using his Bowie knife, [unalived] Cyrus Turner.”
He was instrumental in the institution of the emancipation proclamation: “Recalled to the United States in 1862 to accept a commission from Lincoln as a major general with the Union Army, Clay publicly refused to accept it unless Lincoln would agree to emancipate slaves under Confederate control. Lincoln sent Clay to Kentucky to assess the mood for emancipation there and in the other border states. Following Clay's return to Washington, DC, Lincoln issued the proclamation in late 1862, to take effect in January 1863.”
He was also appointed minister to Russia and was present for the Tsar’s emancipation of the Serfs. And his house has (it’s still standing) an extremely early form of indoor plumbing and central heating that was revolutionary for the time. He donated 10 acres of the land to form Berea College, the first integrated coeducational college in the South. Dude led an extremely interesting life and is, in my opinion, one of the most important unknown and undiscussed figures in American history.
Let's just put it out there — some people have a difficult time with history. Well, you can hardly blame them when this subject is often presented in a way that puts more focus on memorizing the facts than on fully understanding them. In classes, students get offered a fair share of names and dates that happened years ago, and for some, learning them seems a waste of time and can even drive them away from the subject.
However, history can offer a lot to a person — if they’re only willing to look. It is rich with stories of people who led full and intriguing lives, came up with brilliant plans and inventions, and achieved great accomplishments. Thanks to historical documents and word of mouth, we can still discover new names that slipped through the cracks of a broader historical scope.
He was a military doctor during WW1, a completely committed amazing pedagogue and the headmaster of a Jewish children’s home during WW2 in the Warsaw Ghetto.
He was given several chances to flee to Palestine. Instead electing to stay with the children.
Eventually he accompanied them all the way into the gas chamber, to make sure they didn’t have to die alone and scared.
It’s one level of bad-a**ery to [take out] for your cause.
It’s a whole different level of bad-assery to walk towards certain death for several years, endure hardship and starvation. Not for some grand cause. Not even to trade your life for someone elses.
But only because you feel so much love towards your fellow man, to think it’s your duty to make sure they won’t have to die alone.
Joe Medicine Crow. The last legit Native American to earn the War Chief Title. In World War II he was a scout and wore traditional Crow Nation war paint and feathers. To become a war chief he had to touch an enemy without [unaliving] him, take an enemy's weapon, lead a successful war party, and steal an enemy's horse. He stole over 50 horses from the SS and earned a Bronze Star.
Medicine Crow [passed away] at 102 years old. He was born with Woodrow Wilson in office and met Barack Obama before he [passed away].
I always felt Jonas Salk was pretty bad-ass. The dude created the first successful polio vaccine and gave away the cure for free.
Scrolling through this list, you can find absolutely phenomenal people you might never have heard about. And no wonder why — the world is far too complex to know everything, and history is extremely vast. At the same time, it is also one of the most popular subjects — nearly everyone seeks to learn something about the past at some point in their life.
"If someone doesn’t love history yet, they probably haven’t learned about the area and period that will capture their imagination," Darren R. Reid, Ph.D., a lecturer in history at Coventry University, told Bored Panda in a previous interview.
Alan Turing, a mathematician who saved 2 million lives in WWII just by doing math.
Tiananmen Square Tank Man
Armed only with a grocery bag he fearlessly stood down a column of tanks to protest the brutal suppression of peaceful protest by the corrupt and morally bankrupt government of the People’s Republic of China. He dared to openly defy the leadership of China, a feat most modern world leaders who have militaries behind them don’t have the spine to do.
Witold Pilecki, a man so badass that he voluntarily and secretly went into Auschwitz as a prisoner and spy to gather information; while there he regularly made reports on conditions and also organised resistance. As the the war dragged on and conditions became worse, he then successfully broke out of Auschwitz so that he could personally convince his superiors of the truth, as they found his reports too ghastly to be real.
Whether people come across a captivating story, a fascinating personality, or simply see a funny historical meme while scrolling on social media, it can help them learn about compelling chapters of the past that they didn’t even know existed.
According to Reid, history teaches you how to investigate complex, world-shaping events, how to systematically find and analyze evidence, and how to communicate your ideas.
"People who study history become critical thinkers with a powerful analytical toolset and the ability to communicate complex ideas," he added. "Those are incredibly important skills — and they develop them whilst learning about the past and the forces that have shaped our society."
"Studying history is not just about gaining knowledge — it’s about gaining important skills that can be used to find success in a dizzying array of jobs and careers."
Her son (Emmett Till) was lynched because he wolf whistled at a white woman named Carolyn Bryant. Carolyn’s husband and his step brother kidnapped Emmett and had tortured and Murdered him. His body was found in the Tallahatchie River and it was beyond recognizable. When his mother received the body in Chicago she held an open casket to show the world what racism does to black children. Today is actually her birthday so...
Happy Birthday Mrs.Mobley.
In my eyes she is the most bad-ass person in history.
Simo Häyhä, known as the White Death. Hero of the Finland-Russia Winter War, and the single greatest sniper to ever live. With a confirmed kill count of 300, but likely number probably over 1000. He got his jaw shot off, had it fixed and still lived to the age of 94.
He used Iron sights so people couldn't see the glare of a lens. Put snow in his mouth so his breath didn't reveal his position. The dude systematically hunted the soviets. Silent, deadly. There's a reason he is the White Death.
Nikola Tesla, for inventing basically everything we use in the modern age.
Discovering the little tidbits of information that surround a specific chapter of our past can help us deepen our knowledge and understand why things happened the way they did. Studying basic facts about distant eras and events can change our perspective, accelerate our critical thinking, and allow us to think of new brilliant ideas.
However, as with everything we see on the internet, we should take every new piece of information with a pinch of salt. After all, not every historic truth or detail is true. So Reid explained that we must check our sources. "The internet is an incredible tool, but it is also responsible for producing and disenchanting a lot of bad information."
Christopher Lee, the actor behind Count Dooku, Saruman and many others was a certified bad a**. Spy and Nazi killer in WWII. Had a couple heavy metal albums as well.
Vasily Arkhipov. Quite litetally stopped WW3 by deciding not to launch a nuclear strike.
Hedy Lamarr. She became a Hollywood movie star, then went on to pioneer technology used in bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
To avoid accidentally believing false facts and bogus theories, Reid noted — "Don’t take anything for granted". Especially today, when we can find most historical documents, letters, speeches, and many more sources with a few searches and quick clicks on hyperlinks.
"Look to the works of credible scholars to ensure the accuracy of whatever you’ve read or whatever you intend to produce," the lecturer added.
The clear answer is Julia Child.
This superwoman was a WWII spy, invented shark repellent, singlehandedly brought French cuisine to America, was over 6 feet tall, was a bestselling author, was a champion woman’s basketball player, regularly went small game hunting, was known as an avid prankster, the recipient of multiple Emmys, the French Legion of Honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and honorary doctorates from several universities including Harvard, was a dedicated wife, and is beloved worldwide to this day.
Honestly, her Wikipedia page is an absolute roller coaster ride if anyone is interested.
Michael Collins. Showed up 7 minutes late to negotiations for the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1922, and when he was corrected said “You’ve had 700 years, I’ll take my 7 minutes”
Olga of Kiev
This lady lost her husband and when it was proposed she marry his murderer, she was like 'sure, send a delegation over so we can talk this out' and they came. She had them dropped in a pit and buried them alive. Then she had another party of men sent to talk about the marriage, and they came. She said, 'hey, it was a long journey, why not come relax in this bathhouse' and they did. She set the bathhouse on fire when they were in it. Then Olga went and sent the Drevilians another message, 'hey bring out the booze i'm coming to mourn my husband's death in your city'. She came, she mourned, she got the Drevilians drunk, and she had them [taken out] by her followers while they were drunk off their asses.
Olga went and got her army, laid siege to the place where her husband was [unalived] for a year, then told them 'I'm willing to forgive and forget if you guys give me a bunch of birds' and the Drevilians did. They turned the birds into mini matches by attaching sulphur to their legs, and then released them. Set the city on fire. Freaking savage.
Our past is full of charming and brave people, but you might have missed them in your history class. Reid advised you to be curious and explore the past. "Learn the lessons our ancestors teach us through their words and actions. Learning about the past is one of the best ways to understand why we — all of us — act the way we do."
Sgt. Dipprasad Pun of the royal Gurkha Rifles
He took out 30 Taliban by himself and was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross.
On 12/13 May 1945 at Taungdaw, Burma [now Myanmar], Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung was manning the most forward post of his platoon which bore the brunt of an attack by at least 200 of the Japanese enemy. Twice he hurled back grenades which had fallen on his trench, but the third exploded in his right hand, blowing off his fingers, shattering his arm and severely wounding him in the face, body and right leg. His two comrades were also badly wounded but the rifleman, now alone and disregarding his wounds, loaded and fired his rifle with his left hand for four hours, calmly waiting for each attack which he met with fire at point blank range.
...Of the 87 enemy dead counted in the immediate vicinity of the Company locality, 31 lay in front of this Rifleman's section, the key to the whole position. Had the enemy succeeded in over-running and occupying Rifleman Lachhiman Gurung's trench, the whole of the reverse slope position would have been completely dominated and turned.
This Rifleman, by his magnificent example, so inspired his comrades to resist the enemy to the last, that, although surrounded and cut off for three days and two nights, they held and smashed every attack.
His outstanding gallantry and extreme devotion to duty, in the face of almost overwhelming odds, were the main factors in the defeat of the enemy.
TL;DR Guy gets surrounded by 200+ Japanese troops, his comrades get taken out and gets left alone, stabs his knife in the floor and declares no Japanese passes that line, throws back several grenades until one explodes, obliterates his hand, injures his arm and face so he just loads his rifle with his other hand and shoots at least 31 [unalive] (literally single handedly). And this lasted for four hours, not a quick 10 minute burst.
The Gurkhas are either brutally heroic or ridiculously insane (or probably both). They will be outmanned and outgunned but they will never be outfought. They would take a knife to a gunfight. And they'd probably win.
Reposting a comment I had on a similar thread a while back:
"How has no one said Giles Corey yet?
He was accused of witchcraft along with his wife Martha Corey during the Salem Witch Trials. After being arrested, Corey refused to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. He was subjected to execution by pressing in an effort to force him to plead — the only example of such a sanction in American history — but instead [passed away] after two days of torture.
As a result of his refusal to plead, on September 17, Sheriff George Corwin led Corey to a pit in the open field beside the jail and in accordance with the above process, before the Court and witnesses, stripped Giles of his clothing, laid him on the ground in the pit, and placed boards on his chest. Six men then lifted heavy stones, placing them one by one, on his stomach and chest. Giles Corey did not cry out, let alone make a plea.
After two days, Giles was asked three times to plead innocent or guilty to witchcraft. Each time he replied, "More weight."
Andre the Giant. The guy could drink a case full of beer, then go out in the ring and throw his opponent around like a rag doll.
Henrietta Lacks (born Loretta Pleasant; August 1, 1920 – October 4, 1951) was an American woman whose cancer cells are the source of the HeLa cell line, the first immortalized human cell line and one of the most important cell lines in medical research.
Queen Boudica, led an Iceni uprising against the roman army.
Lyudmila Mikhailovna Pavlichenko (née Belova; 12 June [O.S. 30 May] 1916 – 10 October 1974) was a Soviet sniper in the Red Army during World War II, credited with 309 confirmed [take outs], making her the most successful female sniper in history.
John Brown, an abolitionist who organized a slave revolt, and was hanged for it.
Absolute boss, yet still vilified as being 'too radical' even today.
Theodora, Byzantine Empress.
She started out as an actress, and the Emperor Justinian fell in love with her. Despite objections, they got married.
During the Nike Revolts, her husband almost fled the city of Constantinople and nearly lost the empire. She stood up to him and reasoned with him, urging him not to leave. He stayed, put down the riots, and went on to lead the empire well for many years with Theodora by his side. His most lasting legacy was a massive overhaul and simplification of 1000 years of Roman/Byzantine law into what is now called the Justinian Code. It's often a model for modern systems of jurisprudence.
Tony Iommi. On the very day he was about to quit his job, he got the tips of two of his fingers on his right hand cut off. Thought he would never play guitar again, but he went on the essentially invent heavy metal. That's pretty badass imo.
Dude turned down his first Distinguished Combat Medal because he didn't like the general who was supposed to give it to him. All good though, he earned two more. A movie about him would be called too unrealistic if they made one.
Unnamed Viking from the Battle Of Stamford Bridge In 1066;
“By the time the bulk of the English army had arrived, the Vikings on the west side were either slain or fleeing across the bridge. The English advance was then delayed by the need to pass through the choke-point presented by the bridge itself. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle has it that a giant Norse axeman (possibly armed with a Dane Axe) blocked the narrow crossing and single-handedly held up the entire English army. The story is that this axeman cut down up to 40 Englishmen and was defeated only when an English soldier floated under the bridge in a half-barrel and thrust his spear through the planks in the bridge, mortally wounding the axeman”
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