She was a student, an author, an activist. She met thirteen presidents, and won the Presidential Medal of Freedom. But Helen Keller was much more than just a symbol for people who are deaf or blind. Her life was filled with both triumphs and tragedies, and with the aid of her mentor, Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller became a legacy that still serves as an inspiration to all.
With Carter Roy & Vanessa Richardson
About Historical Figures
Big Lives. Little-known Facts. Great, unknown stories hide inside history—every other Wednesday, we dig up what you don't know about the icons you do know. Hosts Carter and Vanessa bring history to life, telling unexpected anecdotes, describing the real personalities behind big names, and examining each individual’s lasting impact on the world. A reboot of Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths. (iTunes “Best Debuts of 2016”) Historical Figures is part of the Parcast Network and is a Cutler Media Production. Ad-free archives of episodes six months or older are now available through Stitcher Premium.
John D. Rockefeller came from humble beginnings in Ohio. He had dreams to achieve the impossible: become the wealthiest man in the world. John accomplished this goal, but used controversial methods to do so. Was he a genius? Or was he a tyrant?
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a women’s rights activist well known for her work in the women’s movement. But Elizabeth lived a complicated life, and left a controversial legacy.
Father of free market economies, Adam Smith was one of many great philosophers of the 18th century Enlightenment period. His philosophies helped change the economy, putting an end to the long-standing feudal system. But outside of his well-known works, such as The Wealth of Nations, Smith remained private, even burning the paper trail of his life before he died.
Born in Italy on March 6, 1475, Michelangelo was destined to create outstanding and genius works of art. Although his family was of a lower class and discouraged him from pursuing a more noble career in the arts, Michelangelo followed his passion for art even as a young boy. And despite being well known for his paintings in the Sistine Chapel and his architecture, Michelangelo considered himself a sculptor above all else.
When Nicolaus Copernicus was born in 1473, scholars believed that the earth stood still, and the sun circled around it. Copernicus devoted his life to understanding the structure of our solar system, and found mathematical proof that the earth, in fact, orbits around the sun. Although he didn’t live to see his influence on astronomy, his findings opened the door to space travel, the discovery of other planets and galaxies...and even the chance of finding life outside of earth.
Jimmy Hoffa, born in Indiana in 1913, helped create the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and aimed to pave the way to the American Dream for laborers. But he also led a mysterious life, mingling with mobs and making enemies with dangerous men. This risky networking may have led to Hoffa’s disappearance.
George Gallup is responsible for polling as we know it today. He was a pioneer of survey sampling and inventor of the Gallup poll. But since he was young, he was an entrepreneur. We look deeper into his passions for journalism and psychology, and how Gallup’s polling impacted—and continues to impact—society today.
Orville and Wilbur Wright are famous for their developments in aeronautics. What began in Dayton, Ohio as entertainment later became a scientific passion for the brothers. The Wright Brothers risked their lives, again and again, to make their dream of human flight a reality.
The critically acclaimed psychologist Sigmund Freud spent years publishing famous papers, stirring up controversy in his field of study, and creating the ideas of psychoanalysis and the infamous Oedipus Complex. Vanessa and Carter explore Freud’s colorful life, his finding of an international psychology movement, and his near persecution during the Holocaust.
Happy Holidays from everyone at Parcast! We are taking a short break but will be back January 10th with all new episodes!
A man of contradictions, Pancho Villa was a prominent military leader in the Mexican Revolution who lived his life as a criminal, a hero...and a Hollywood star. Join Carter and Vanessa as they explore the successes and failures that defined Villa’s life and legacy, which is still prominent today.
Confucius was an ancient Chinese philosopher, teacher and politician whose wisdom and teachings are still followed to this day. Despite chaos and war during his life more than 2500 years ago, Confucius promoted harmonious ideals that resonated with people for centuries to come. China’s leaders did not always welcome his teachings, but today, he is often regarded as a hero.
Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize--and she didn’t only win one, she won two. Carter and Vanessa discuss Marie’s inspirations in naming the elements she discovered: polonium and radium, and how she fought sexism throughout her life, paving the way for women in science today.
The first Vice-President of the United States and second President, John Adams struggled to measure up to the mythic George Washington. Not that he wasn’t qualified- as a successful lawyer who helped pen the Declaration of Independence and served as an early ambassador for the fledgling nation, John Adams was instrumental to the birth of America. Carter and Vanessa explore Adams’ presidency, love affair with his wife Abigail, and his “frenemy” relationship with fellow founding father and presidential successor, Thomas Jefferson.
Nikola Tesla was a power-player in the current war, where General Electric and Westinghouse fought over how America would get electricity. Tesla contributed to the development of the alternating-current electrical system that’s widely used today and discovered the rotating magnetic field. Carter and Vanessa talk about Tesla’s mysterious visions of inventions, the strange illness he suffered, and how the kind soul gave up millions of dollars and died penniless.
She was crowned at only eighteen years old, but Queen Victoria made a name for herself as one of Great Britain’s most remembered monarchs, redefining the British crown for modern times. She reigned over her global empire for over 60 years. Carter and Vanessa explore Victoria’s isolated childhood, her great love affair, and the personality of the woman who defined an era.
The “Father of Europe”, Charlemagne’s rule as King of the Franks changed the face of Europe, unifying regions that had been at war and spreading Christianity across the continent. As Holy Roman Emperor, crowned by the Pope himself, he founded the Carolingian dynasty. His reign sparked an intellectual and cultural revival, the effects of which are still evident across Europe today.
A radical writer and philosopher, Karl Marx found himself exiled from multiple countries thanks to his communist writings in the 1800's. However, in the following century, this same writing stirred revolution across the world, as communist governments rose to power. What influenced the famous father of communism, and why did he believe it was the best system? Carter and Vanessa explore the life of the author of The Communist Manifesto and Das Capital, and how his revolutionary ideas resonated worldwide.
“The Mona Lisa”. “The Last Supper”. “The Vitruvian Man”. Leonardo Da Vinci’s work still inspires over five hundred years later. But what about the man behind the paintings? He was an illegitimate child, a graverobber, and briefly lived at the Vatican. Carter and Vanessa explore the complex life of the true renaissance man.
Much more than just a pool game, this Venetian merchant traveler adventured through China and the Mongolian Empire. Though his memoirs may have been heavily embellished, the book gave those who came after Marco Polo a broad picture of 13th century culture, led to advances in cartography and inspired explorers throughout history.