Historical Figures Who Were Accomplishing Feats Of Greatness A Lot Younger Than You Thought

List Rules
Vote up the historical figures whose youthful successes are most surprising.

Some of history's most notable individuals were high achievers at a surprisingly young age. Many of the men and women on this list - ranging from emperors to film stars and chess players - began their careers as children; others boasted significant accomplishments in young adulthood. All of them did something noteworthy before the age of 25.

Want to feel old? Read on to find out just how young some of history's biggest talents were when they started to accomplish great things.


  • Louis Braille Invented The Braille Language For The Blind At 15
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
    374 VOTES

    Louis Braille Invented The Braille Language For The Blind At 15

    Born in France in 1809, Louis Braille was blinded at the age of just 3 years old. Braille didn't let his condition limit what he could do, however.

    While a student at the Royal Institute for Blind Youth in 1824, Braille met Charles Barbier, an officer who had developed "sonography," a system of written communication based on raised dots.

    Though Barbier had developed his system with the French Army in mind, 15-year-old Braille believed a similar method could be used by people who were blind - and so he went to work creating what is now known as "braille."

    374 votes
  • Swiss Psychologist Jean Piaget Wrote A Scientific Article At 11
    Photo: Unidentified (Ensian published by University of Michigan) / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Jean Piaget, one of the most important child psychologists of the 20th century, showed signs of brilliance from a young age. Swiss-born Piaget got his scholarly start when he wrote an article about the albino sparrow at the age of 11, which many see as the beginning of his publishing career.

    Piaget continued writing about the natural world into his teens. His scholarship was so good that most people believed he was an adult academic.

    200 votes
  • One of the most legendary conquerors got his start as a teenager. Alexander - not yet "the Great" - was born in 356 BC into the Macedonian royal family. 

    When Alexander was 16, his father, Philip II, went away on a military campaign and put the kingdom in Alexander's hands. Alexander marked the occasion by leading the Macedonians to victory against the Thracians and acquiring the first part of what would become a vast empire.

    284 votes
  • A mathematical and scientific mind for the ages, Blaise Pascal was only 19 when he built what is considered to be the "first digital calculator," the Pascaline, in the 17th century.

    What inspired the teenaged Pascal to create the device? His father was a tax collector, and Pascal wanted to build a device to help him in his calculations.

    235 votes
  • Annie Oakley Began Winning Shooting Competitions At 15
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Born in Ohio in 1860, Annie Oakley - perhaps the most mythologized sharpshooters in American history - saw sidearms as a way to support her family. According to Oakley, she first took up a pistol to feed her family. The target was a squirrel. "I was 8 years old when I made my first shot, and I still consider it one of the best shots I ever made," she said.

    That first shot would inaugurate a legendary career. Oakley's hunting not only fed her family but also generated an income. She sold some of the game from hunts to area shops for a profit. She made so much money that by the age of 15, Oakley paid off her mother's mortgage.

    Oakley's shooting was so good that she entered - and won - competitions as a teenager, and went on to enjoy international fame.

    269 votes
  • Mary Shelley Began Writing 'Frankenstein' At 18
    Photo: Richard Rothwell / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Mary Shelley, née Godwin, was born in 1797 into a family of high achievers. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, published on women's rights, and her father, William Godwin, was a philosopher and writer. Shelley, it appears, inherited her parents' creative talent and work ethic.

    When she was only 18, Shelley began writing what has become one of the most popular and adapted pieces of literature ever created: Frankenstein. Beginning as an entry in a writing competition among friends in 1816, Frankenstein would eventually be published two years later.

    221 votes