Underappreciated Individuals Who Became Famous Posthumously

After years of hard work, dedication and creative genius, there's nothing like finally becoming famous after biting the dust. Although Emily Dickinson never wanted fame, posthumously or otherwise, for the likes of Edgar Allan Poe, Galileo Galilei and Vincent van Gogh it would have been bitter irony.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)

Source: Britannica

Source: Britannica

Associated with Gothic tales of mystery and the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe penned these haunting short-stories: "The Raven," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Pit and the Pendulum,” "Murders on the Rue Morgue" and “A Cask of Amontillado.”

Despite his popularity now, Poe's contemporaries better knew him as a literary critic and struggling artist. For much of his life, he tried to make a living through writing but never overcame his financial difficulties or career challenges. 

Who would have guessed Edgar Allan Poe, a virtual literary nobody in the 1800s, would be a household name as much as 167 years later?

Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Source: UPENN.EDU

Source: UPENN.EDU

Unlike Edgar Allan Poe, who avidly strove to break into the literary community, Emily Dickinson wanted to stay out of it. She lived a life of reclusive isolation and never married. Most of her friendships were sustained through letter correspondences. 

Out of Dickinson's 1,800 some poems, only seven were published publicly during her lifetime and were heavily edited for style and conventional punctuation. Before she died, Dickinson instructed her sister Lavinia to burn her poems, wanting to keep them away from public eye. Despite her wishes, Lavinia and two friends edited and published her collection.

She has now become widely known as an innovative, pre-modernist poet. Many of Dickinson's poems are included in anthologies and taught in literature and poetry classes from middle school to college.

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

Source: Universe Today

Source: Universe Today

In the modern age, the man holding the prestigious titles "father of the scientific method," "father of physics," "father of observational astronomy" and "father of science" itself wasn't viewed as such several hundred years ago when he was making his mark on history.

Galileo Galilei, an Italian polymath in astronomy, physics, engineering, philosophy and mathematics, supported unpopular and controversial views such as heliocentrism. At the time, the Roman Catholic Church argued that Earth did not revolve around the Sun but was rather at the center of the universe. 

Galileo adamantly defended his views in his book Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, which appeared to attack Pope Urban VIII. Found guilty of heresy by the Roman Inquisition, he was forced to recant. He spent the rest of his life under house arrest.

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)

Source: Wiki Commons

Source: Wiki Commons

A prolific Dutch Post-Impressionist painter, Vincent van Gogh produced about 2,100 artworks, 860 of which were oil paintings including his  famous The Starry Night. After trying his hand at missionary work, van Gogh turned to more artistic pursuits in this 20s. 

Characterized by bold, symbolic colors and dramatic, impulsive brushwork, van Gogh's landscapes, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits expressed an exuberance he did not possess in his own life. He lived in poverty and suffered from epilepsy and depression until he committed suicide at the age of 37.

Van Gogh's art did not become popular until the late 1890s after he died. With the help of his sister-in-law, van Gogh's work spread from France and Belgium into Germany and the Netherlands. Today, Vincent van Gogh's pieces are worth millions of dollars.

Want to learn more about Vincent Van Gogh? If so, check out our episode about the Post-Impressionist painter on Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths, a Parcast Network podcast series.

Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths examines the lives and tragic deaths of people who changed history and influenced pop culture.