Isaac Newton was always a loner, preferring to spend his time contemplating the mysteries of the universe. When the plague broke out in London in 1665 he was forced to return home from college. It was during this period of so much death, that Newton gave life to some of the most important theories in modern science, including gravity and the laws of motion.
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Joan of Arc was born in a small French village during the worst period of the Hundred Years' War. For generations, France had been besieged by the British. At age 11, Joan began to see religious visions telling her to join forces with the King of France. By the time she was a teenager, she was leading troops into battle in the name of her... Read more »
The story of a poor boy from Brazil who became the greatest soccer player of all time and one of the most important athletes of the twentieth century!
His parents may have named him Edson Arantes do Nascimento, but to the rest of the world, he is known as Pelé. The now-retired professional soccer forward stunned Brazil when he began playing for... Read more »
Discover why Selena, the Queen of Tejano music, became one of the most celebrated Mexican-American entertainers of the twentieth century!
As a young girl, Selena Quintanilla sang in a band called Selena y Los Dinos with her brother and sister. The family performed at fairs, weddings, quinceañeras, and on street corners in their native Texas.... Read more »
From the palaces of Austria to the mirrored halls of Versailles, Marie Antoinette led a charmed life. She was born into royalty in 1755 and married the future king of France at age 15. By 21 she ascended to the throne and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle of masquerade balls, sky-high wigs, and extravagant food. But her taste for excess ruffled many... Read more »
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was only 25 when he helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott and was soon organizing black people across the country in support of the right to vote, desegregation, and other basic civil rights. Maintaining nonviolent and peaceful tactics even when his life was threatened, King was also an advocate for the poor and... Read more »
As a field reporter in the 1960s, Gloria Steinem worked hard to dig up important stories. She went undercover to expose the grim realities of gender inequality in America. As her message continued to grow, she became the spokeswoman of the women’s liberation movement and created the feminist publication, Ms. magazine. Steinem continues to speak... Read more »
Bruce Lee was a Chinese American action film star, martial arts instructor, filmmaker, and philosopher. His Hong Kong and Hollywood-produced films elevated the traditional martial arts film to a new level of popularity and acclaim. Through such films as Way of the Dragon and Enter the Dragon, Lee helped to change the way Asians were presented... Read more »
Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books, based on her own childhood and later life, are still beloved classics almost a century after she began writing them. Now young readers will see just how similar Laura's true-life story was to her books. Born in 1867 in the "Big Woods" in Wisconsin, Laura experienced both the hardship and the adventure... Read more »
Born to a family of farmers, Lincoln stood out from an early age—literally! (He was six feet four inches tall.) As sixteenth President of the United States, he guided the nation through the Civil War and saw the abolition of slavery. But Lincoln was tragically shot one night at Ford’s Theater—the first President to be assassinated. Read more »
Born the eighth of seventeen children in Philadelphia, Betsy Ross lived in a time when the American colonies were yearning for independence from British rule. Ross worked as a seamstress and was eager to contribute to the cause, making tents and repairing uniforms when the colonies declared war. By 1779 she was filling cartridges for the... Read more »
Everyone has heard of Albert Einstein-but what exactly did he do? How much do kids really know about Albert Einstein besides the funny hair and genius label? For instance, do they know that he was expelled from school as a kid? Finally, here's the story of Albert Einstein's life, told in a fun, engaging way that clearly explores the world he... Read more »
Jim Henson broke into television with a five-minute puppetry segment when he was only a freshman in college. He created puppets like none ever seen before, with expressive fabric faces and rod-controlled arms. His Muppets became world-renowned celebrities and formed the backbone of a media empire. With black-and-white illustrations throughout,... Read more »
Bob Marley was a reggae superstar who is considered to be one of the most influential musicians of all time. Born in rural Jamaica, this musician and songwriter began his career with his band, The Wailing Wailers, in 1963. The Wailers went on to spread the gospel of reggae music around the globe.... Read more »
Walt Disney always loved to entertain people. Often it got him into trouble. Once he painted pictures with tar on the side of his family's white house. His family was poor, and the happiest time of his childhood was spent living on a farm in Missouri. His affection for small-town life is reflected in Disneyland Main Streets around the world.... Read more »
Born in 1860s Missouri, nobody expected George Washingtoni Carver to succeed. Slaves were not allowed to be educated. After the Civil War, Carver enrolled in classes and proved to be a star student. He became the first black student at Iowa State Agricultural College and later its first black professor. He went on to the Tuskegee Institute where... Read more »
Ben Franklin was the scientist who, with the help of a kite, discovered that lightning is electricity. He was also a statesman, an inventor, a printer, and an author-a man of such amazingly varied talents that some people claimed he had magical powers! Full of all the details kids will want to know, the true story of Benjamin Franklin is by... Read more »
At the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics, track and field star Jesse Owens ran himself straight into international glory by winning four gold medals. But the life of Jesse Owens is much more than a sports story. Born in rural Alabama under the oppressive Jim Crow laws, Owens's family suffered many hardships. As a boy he worked several jobs like... Read more »
In 1789, George Washington became the first president of the United States. He has been called the father of our country for leading America through its early years. Washington also served in two major wars during his lifetime: the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Washington's fascinating story comes to life--revealing the real... Read more »
Hold on to your Viking helmets as you learn about the first known European to set foot on North America in this exciting addition to the Who Was? series!
Leif Erikson was born to be an explorer. His father, Erik the Red, had established the first European settlement in present-day Greenland, and although he didn't yet know it, Leif was destined... Read more »
Susan B. Anthony may be an international icon but her campaign for women's rights had personal roots. Working as a school teacher in New York, Anthony refused to settle for less pay than her male colleagues which ignited her lifelong devotion to women's equality. Anthony toured the United States and Europe giving speeches and publishing articles... Read more »
Every kid has heard of Harry Houdini, the famous magician who could escape from handcuffs, jail cells, and locked trunks. But do they know that the ever-ambitious and adventurous Houdini was also a famous movie star and the first pilot to fly a plane in Australia? This well-told biography is full of the details of Houdini's life that kids will... Read more »
Born in Connecticut in 1811, Harriet Beecher Stowe was an abolitionist, author, and playwright. Slavery was a major industry in the American South, and Stowe worked with the Underground Railroad to help escaped slaves head north towards freedom. The publication of her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a scathing anti-slavery novel, fanned the flames that... Read more »
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in 1869 in British-occupied India. Though he studied law in London and spent his early adulthood in South Africa, he remained devoted to his homeland and spent the later part of his life working to make India an independent nation. Calling for non-violent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence... Read more »
Ever since Howard Carter uncovered King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, the young pharaoh has become a symbol of the wealth and mystery of ancient Egypt. This Who Was . . . ? explains the life and times of this ancient Egyptian ruler, covering the story of the tomb’s discovery, as well as myths and so-called mummy curses. Read more »
Who Is Hillary Clinton? Readers of our New York Times best-selling series can find out now!
At age fourteen, Hillary Clinton thought it would be thrilling to become an astronaut, so she sent an application to NASA. The reply was a flat out rejection: the space program didn't take women. It was a critical moment for the young girl, one that made... Read more »
Amelia Earhart was a woman of many "firsts." In 1932, she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. In 1935, she also became the first woman to fly across the Pacific. From her early years to her mysterious 1937 disappearance while attempting a flight around the world, readers will find Amelia Earhart's life a fascinating... Read more »
Claude Monet is considered one of the most influential artists of all time. He is a founder of the French Impressionist art movement, and today his paintings sell for millions of dollars. While Monet was alive, however, his work was often criticized and he struggled financially. With over one hundred black-and-white illustrations, this book... Read more »
When Derek Jeter was eight years old, he announced that he was going to play baseball for the New York Yankees. Jeter earned the attention of major league scouts in high school and was drafted to the New York Yankees in 1992. Named Rookie of the Year, he helped the Yankees win the World Series five times, and became team captain in 2003. With... Read more »
Over a long, turbulent life, Picasso continually discovered new ways of seeing the world and translating it into art. A restless genius, he went through a blue period, a rose period, and a Cubist phase. He made collages, sculptures out of everyday objects, and beautiful ceramic plates. True Kelley's engaging biography is a wonderful introduction... Read more »
From his childhood in rural Illinois to moviemaking days in Hollywood and on to a career in politics that took him all the way to the Oval Office, Ronald Reagan kept an abiding faith in America and in what our country stood for. The oldest president ever, he survived a near-fatal assassination attempt and lived to be 93. Who Was Ronald...Read more »
Discover the man behind the chocolate bar! Milton Hershey’s life was filled with invention and innovation. As a young man, he was not afraid to dream big and work hard. Eventually, he learned the secret to mass-producing milk chocolate and the recipe that gave it a longer, more stable shelf life. He founded a school for those who didn’t have... Read more »
Born in Warsaw, Poland, on November 7, 1867, Marie Curie was forbidden to attend the male-only University of Warsaw, so she enrolled at the Sorbonne in Paris to study physics and mathematics. There she met a professor named Pierre Curie, and the two soon married, forming one of the most famous scientific partnerships in history. Together they... Read more »
As a child he dreamt of changing South Africa; as a man he changed the world. Nelson Mandela spent his life battling apartheid and championing a peaceful revolution. He spent twenty-seven years in prison and emerged as the inspiring leader of the new South Africa. He became the country’s first black president and went on to live his dream of... Read more »
You've probably seen her on t-shirts, mugs, and even tattoos, well, now that famous face graces the cover of our latest Who Is? title.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is famous for her stylish collars (called jabots) and her commanding dissents. This opera-loving New Yorker has always spoken her mind; as a young lawyer, RBG advocated for gender... Read more »
After breaking or tying more than sixty records in hockey, it's no wonder that Wayne Gretzky is known as "The Great One." Born in Brantford, Ontario, on January 26, 1961, in a nation obsessed with the sport, he threw himself into the game practically from the time he first laced up a pair of skates. When he retired from the NHL in 1999, he had... Read more »
Named Temujin at birth by his nomadic family in early Mongolia, the great Genghis Khan used his skill and cunning to create the Mongol Empire and conquer almost the entire continent of Asia. As ruler of the largest empire in human history, he was as respected as he was feared. Learn more about the man and the legend in Who Was Genghis Khan? Read more »
On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon and, to an audience of over 450 million people, proclaimed his step a giant leap for mankind. This Eagle Scout built his own model planes as a little boy and then grew up to be a test pilot for experimental aircraft before becoming an astronaut. Read more »
Born in a little cabin in Tennessee, Dolly Parton always dreamed big, and she was right to! She wrote her first song at age five and became a country music star by the time she was in her early twenties. Of course, her success didn't stop there. Dolly Parton is also an actress, author, businesswoman, and philanthropist whose "Imagination... Read more »
If not for a stint in reform school, young Louis Armstrong might never have become a musician. It was a teacher at the Colored Waifs' Home who gave him a cornet, promoted him to band leader, and saw talent in the tough kid from the even tougher New Orleans neighborhood called Storyville. But it was Louis Armstrong's own passion and genius that... Read more »
As a kid, Jackie Robinson loved sports. And why not? He was a natural at football, basketball, and, of course, baseball. But beyond athletic skill, it was his strength of character that secured his place in sports history. In 1947 Jackie joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking the long-time color barrier in major league baseball. It was tough... Read more »
As a child his passions were comics and cars, but George Lucas grew up to be one of the most successful filmmakers of all time. He is a producer, screenwriter, director and entrepreneur whose company Lucasfilms pioneered the movie effects that changed the world of animation. He founded Industrial Light and Magic, which transformed special sound... Read more »
Like Michelangelo, Galileo is another Renaissance great known just by his first name--a name that is synonymous with scientific achievement. Born in Pisa, Italy, in the sixteenth century, Galileo contributed to the era's great rebirth of knowledge. He invented a telescope to observe the heavens. From there, not even the sky was the limit! He... Read more »
Born a slave in Maryland, Harriet Tubman knew first-hand what it meant to be someone's property; she was whipped by owners and almost killed by an overseer. It was from other field hands that she first heard about the Underground Railroad which she travelled by herself north to Philadelphia. Throughout her long life (she died at the age of... Read more »
As a young boy, Charles Darwin hated school and was often scolded for conducting “useless” experiments. Yet his passion for the natural world was so strong that he suffered through terrible seasickness during his five-year voyage aboard The Beagle. Darwin collected new creatures from the coasts of Africa, South America, and the Galapagos... Read more »
Even as a kid, everyone thought Jeff Kinney was talented. People loved his drawings, and when he went to college, his comic strip Igdoof was so popular that it spread to other universities! Still, Jeff faced challenges. His cartoons were rejected by syndicates that claimed his art was unprofessional. Then, an idea struck: Jeff would write a... Read more »
Put on your blue suede shoes and get ready for another addition to the Who Was…? series! The King could not have come from humbler origins: Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, during the Depression, he grew up with the blues music of the rural South, the gospel music of local churches, and the country-western classics. But he forged a sound all his... Read more »
It seems entirely fitting that Maurice Sendak was born on the same day that Mickey Mouse first made his cartoon debut--June 10, 1928. Sendak was crazy about cartoons and comic books, and at twelve, after seeing Disney's Fantasia, he decided that he was going to become an illustrator. His love of childrens books began early: often sick and... Read more »
Born in Austria in 1756, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed his first piece of music, a minuet, when he was just five years old! Soon after, he was performing for kings and emperors. Although he died at the young age of thirty-five, Mozart left a legacy of more than 600 works. This fascinating biography charts the musician's extraordinary career... Read more »
Though much of his early life remains a mystery, Blackbeard most likely began his life as Edward Teach in the sailing port of Bristol, England. He began his career as a hired British sailor during Queen Anne's War. He eventually settled in the Bahamas under Captain Benjamin Hornigold who taught the young sailor to go "a-pirating." Soon enough,... Read more »