20 Historical Figures that We Would Love to Bring Back from the Dead
20 Historical Figures that We Would Love to Bring Back from the Dead

20 Historical Figures that We Would Love to Bring Back from the Dead

Steve - August 4, 2019

20 Historical Figures that We Would Love to Bring Back from the Dead
Portrait of George Washington, by Gilbert Stuart (c. 1797). Wikimedia Commons.

14. George Washington deserved the chance to observe the future he helped lay the foundations for

Initially, an officer in the Virginian militia, fighting in and arguably causing the French and Indian War, following rejection by the British Army for a commission George Washington turned to farming. Establishing himself as a prominent member of the Virginian aristocracy, upon the creation of the Continental Army on June 14, 1775, Washington was nominated by the Adams brothers to serve as commander-in-chief as a unifying figure over the presumed favorite of John Hancock. Leading with distinction, albeit personally achieving a mixed military record during the Revolutionary War, Washington oversaw victory and independence for the Thirteen Colonies.

Drawn from retirement back into politics to preside over the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Washington was unanimously elected as the 1st President of the United States in 1788. Serving for two terms, during which time he defined the role and responsibilities of the office, Washington not only oversaw the creation of the federal government but instilled precedents that would last through the ages. Dying in 1799, less than three years after resuming his retirement, Washington, despite his personal foibles and shortcomings, deserves the right to pass judgment over the country he helped to build and observe its progress in the more than two hundred years since his day.

20 Historical Figures that We Would Love to Bring Back from the Dead
Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, by Francesco Melzi (c. after 1510). Wikimedia Commons.

13. The cultural and technological potential of Leonardo da Vinci in the modern world is beyond estimation

The archetypal “Renaissance Man” or “Universal Genius”, Leonardo da Vinci was an acclaimed Italian polymath from the late-15th and early-16th centuries whose influence has spanned the generations since. Widely considered one of the most diversely talented individuals to have ever lived, Leonardo’s contributions to the world ranged from the artistic, including sculpting and painting, to the scientific, such as engineering and mathematics. Offering also countless technological innovations, Leonardo’s ingenuity has been credited with the conceptual creation of flying machines, tanks, solar power, and the calculator – all technologies far beyond the capabilities of his time.

Predominantly remembered today as a painter, with his Salvator Mundi sold at auction for $450.3m – the highest price ever paid for a work of art – as well as producing The Last Supper, the most replicated religious painting in history, and the Mona Lisa, only fifteen original works have survived to the modern age. Unrivaled in skill and scope, an opportunity for Leonardo to transform and making further lasting contributions to humanity’s culture and knowledge could not be overlooked. Furthermore, for a man of unquestionable intellectual thirst, the chance for Leonardo to experience the future of humanity would be a gift like no other.

20 Historical Figures that We Would Love to Bring Back from the Dead
The Tusculum portrait, possibly the only surviving sculpture of Caesar made during his lifetime (c. 1st century BCE). Wikimedia Commons.

12. Julius Caesar could provide invaluable insights into politics, military strategy, and ancient history unobtainable from any other source

Rising through the ranks of the Roman Republic’s military, in 60 BCE Julius Caesar had leveraged himself into a leading position as a member of the First Triumvirate. Earning acclaim and fortune as a result of his legendary victories in the Gallic Wars, but becoming too powerful for the Senate to tolerate in the process, on January 10, 49 BCE, Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his legions and assumed control of the government. Emerging triumphant from the resultant civil war, Caesar was proclaimed “dictator for life” and begin the process of converting the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire.

However, just five years later, a group of dissenters assassinated Caesar on the Ides of March, triggering a series of civil wars which would see Caesar’s adopted son rise as the first Imperator of Rome. One of the most skilled military commanders of the ancient world, if not human history at large, Caesar, in spite of his evident authoritarian and anti-democratic political leanings, was equally a strong and successful leader who oversaw the creation of arguably the greatest political entity to ever exist. Both traits would offer the modern world great wisdom and learning opportunities, providing insights otherwise lost to antiquity.

20 Historical Figures that We Would Love to Bring Back from the Dead
Passport photo of Alan Turing, aged sixteen (c. 1928 or 1929). Wikimedia Commons.

11. We would love to give Alan Turing the opportunity to live in a more tolerant and appreciative world

Graduating from King’s College, Cambridge in 1934, at the age of only twenty-two Alan Turing was elected a fellow of his college on the basis of his dissertation proving the central limit theorem. Rapidly becoming one of the leading minds of mathematical computation, in 1938 Turing was awarded his Ph.D. with his introduction of ordinal logic and the notion of relative computing. Recruited by the British Government during the Second World War, Turing worked as a leading member of the secret team at Bletchley Park, employing his genius as part of the coordinated crypto-analytical effort to break the German ciphers and decode communications.

Performing a pivotal role at the Government Code and Cypher School, Turing’s team was responsible for recovering vital intelligence that directly resulted in the Allied victory against the Axis powers. Prosecuted in 1952 under the Labouchere Amendment, which stipulated homosexuality was a “gross indecency” and a criminal offense, Turing was compelled to accept chemical castration as an alternative to imprisonment. Committing suicide in 1954 from cyanide poisoning as a result of the barbaric actions of the British government, Turing unquestionably deserves the chance to apply his incomparable genius in a more tolerant and appreciative age.

20 Historical Figures that We Would Love to Bring Back from the Dead
Roman copy of a Greek bust of Aristotle, by Lysippos from 330 BCE. Wikimedia Commons.

10. The reintroduction of Aristotle would enable the refinement of his ancient but nonetheless still relevant works

As already noted the student of Plato, Aristotle, along with his mentor, is broadly considered the “Fathers of Western Philosophy”. Little is known about the life of Aristotle, joining the Academy at the age of seventeen and remaining until he was thirty-seven, departing Athens only upon the death of Plato. Hired by Philip II of Macedon, Aristotle, starting in 343 BCE, became the tutor to Alexander the Great and founded the library at Lyceum. Writing hundreds of books, none of which were actually intended by Aristotle for publication, only approximately one-third of his original output is believed to have survived to the modern-day.

Covering subjects ranging from biology, logic, politics, and rhetoric, Aristotle laid the foundations for both natural and social sciences throughout the Western world. Influencing both the Islamic and Christian spheres as his teachings spread, it would not be until the Enlightenment his theories and suppositions about the world were finally replaced by more modern and scientifically accurate designs of the universe. Touching the lives of every single person and subject in existence, it would be proper for “The First Teacher” to be allowed to see the fruits of his labors and the results of generations of inquiry and research.

20 Historical Figures that We Would Love to Bring Back from the Dead
Anne Frank, while living in Amsterdam (c, 1940). Wikimedia Commons.

9. Anne Frank deserved better than death in a concentration camp at the age of fifteen

Born on June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt, at the age of five Annelies Marie Frank, along with her parents and sister, became one of more than three hundred thousand Jews to flee Germany between 1933 and 1939. Settling in Amsterdam, following the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in 1940 her father, Otto, sought unsuccessfully to emigrate to the United States. Receiving for her thirteenth birthday an autograph book, Anne decided to use it for a diary and begun her now famous journal illustrating the lives of Jews under Nazism. Following her sister Margot’s call-up by the Central Office for Jewish Emigration to report to a work camp for mandatory labor, on July 6, 1942, the Franks went into hiding.

Concealing a hidden annex in an office building with a bookcase, leaving behind a trail of evidence suggesting they had fled to Switzerland, only four employees at the site knew of the Franks’ proximity. Offering supplies at the risk of their own lives, on August 4, 1944, following an unknown informant’s tip, the complex was raided and the sheltering Jews were found. Deported to a series of concentration camps, Anne, along with her sister, died at Bergen-Belsen in early 1945. Providing one of the deepest and most human insights into the Holocaust, Frank deserved the chance to live the life she could only dream about in the pages of her now-legendary diary.

20 Historical Figures that We Would Love to Bring Back from the Dead
Portrait of Michelangelo, by Daniele da Volterra (c. 1544). Wikimedia Commons.

8. Known in life as “The Divine One”, Michelangelo would only be a positive contribution to the modern world’s less traditional artistic scenes

Known commonly simply by his first name, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni reigned as one of the greatest artists of the High Renaissance. Sent to Florence as a youth to study grammar, even as a boy Michelangelo was already more interested in the arts, spending most of his time with painters and copying pieces from churches. Producing several of the most famous works of painting, sculpture, and architecture in history, Michelangelo, known in life as “The Divine One”, is perhaps the only individual capable of challenging Leonardo da Vinci, his contemporaneous rival, for the definitive title of “Renaissance Man”.

Sculpting two of his best-known works – the Pietà and David – before the age of thirty, Michelangelo transitioned for a time back into his childish obsession with painting. Creating two of the most influential frescoes of all time, both of which were for the Sistine Chapel –The Last Judgment and the scenes from Genesis found on its ceiling – Michelangelo eventually, at the age of seventy-four, became the architect of St. Peter’s Basilica. Influencing generations of successors attempting, and failing, to surpass his artistic genius, the return of Michelangelo could only mean more legendary works and valuable additions to human culture.

20 Historical Figures that We Would Love to Bring Back from the Dead
Taizu, better known as Genghis Khan, as illustrated in an album depicting several Yuan emperors (c. the 14th century). Wikimedia Commons.

7. It would be an interesting social experiment to observe Genghis Khan in a world so divorced from his own

The founder and first Great Khan of the Mongol Empire, Genghis – known also by his birth name Temujin and as Taizu under his grandson’s Yuan dynasty – stands among the greatest and most fearsome rulers from all of human history. Uniting by force the disparate tribes of the Central Asian plateau over a period of decades, in 1206 CE Genghis turned the combined might of his new empire against the historic enemies of the Mongol people. Launching an invasion of China, bringing the northern Jin dynasty to its knees, Genghis only broke off his unrelenting assault to attack the Islamic Khwarazmia following their execution of his ambassadors.

Utterly destroying the offending nation, conquering vast portions of Asia along the way, Genghis laid the foundations for what would become the largest contiguous empire in history. Known historically for his savage brutality against his enemies, ruthlessly subjugating lands under his control according to his whim, in addition to providing learning opportunities about a largely lost period of history, it would be an amusing, perhaps even cruel, social experiment to place a nomadic ruler who disdained wealth and possessions into the modern materialistic world where such things are the primary defining characteristics of most people’s self-worth.

20 Historical Figures that We Would Love to Bring Back from the Dead
Photograph of Martin Luther King (c. 1964). Wikimedia Commons.

6. Martin Luther King Jr. deserves the opportunity to pass judgment on the fifty years since his murder and determine whether America has actually moved forwards

An American Baptist minister who rose to become the most visible spokesperson of the Civil Rights Movements, Martin Luther King Jr. remains to this day one of the most respected individuals from modern history. Leading the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 and elected the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, following the failed struggle in 1962 to end segregation in Albany, Georgia, King helped organize the now-famous March on Washington a year later. Delivering his universally acclaimed and celebrated “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, King proclaimed a vision of the future without racial hatred or discrimination.

Winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, recognizing both his activism but also his passionate conviction in nonviolent resistance, in 1965 King was a leading figure in the Selma to Montgomery marches. Planning a national occupation of Washington D.C. in 1968, on April 4 of the same year King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, by James Earl Ray. Posthumously awarded the nation’s highest honor – the Presidential Medal of Freedom – as well as commemorated by a federal holiday and memorial on the National Mall, King deserved the chance to provide an honest assessment of the ongoing struggle for racial equality and whether or not his dream, even now fifty years on, has been realized.

Read More: June 8, 1968: James Earl Ray is Arrested.

20 Historical Figures that We Would Love to Bring Back from the Dead
Stained glass at St John the Baptist’s Anglican Church, Ashfield, New South Wales, illustrating Jesus’ description of himself “I am the Good Shepherd” (c. 1932). Wikimedia Commons.

5. The returns of varying religious founders would provide much-needed clarity on the disputed subject of religion

One of the most controversial components of human existence, religion continues to both unite and divide the various tribes of our species throughout the world. Inspiring great works of devotion and sacrifice, as well as tremendous acts of violence and hatred in the name of divine authority, the ultimate question of the universe is one that likely cannot ever be conclusively answered via rational scientific means but instead depends upon the individual logic or faith of each person. That would be unless one could converse with the founders of each world religion, to dissect and analyze their own claims firsthand.

Whilst modern scholars debate the historicity of Jesus and his miracles, of the Buddha and his conversion from Siddhartha Gautama to a religious leader, or of Mohammad and the divine revelation he supposedly received in the Cave of Hira, these inquiries can be far more definitively answered via the specific individuals in question. Resulting in either the unification of humanity under a single banner of one true religion following recorded demonstration of the divine, or the death knell of religion and the emergence of humanity into an age of secular reason, one cannot deny the rationality nor usefulness of bringing such people back from the dead.

20 Historical Figures that We Would Love to Bring Back from the Dead
Photograph of Alfred Hitchcock on the set of his television program, Alfred Hitchcock Presents (c. September 2, 1955). Wikimedia Commons.

4. The resumption of Alfred Hitchcock’s career could only mean original and modern thrillers on a level rarely seen by today’s audiences

Widely considered among the greatest and most influential filmmakers in the history of cinema, Sir Alfred Hitchcock was an English director and producer active across a six-decade career spanning from 1919 to 1980. Known as the “Master of Suspense“, Hitchcock was personally responsible for directing more than fifty feature films, becoming in the process as famous as his actors and arguably the first modern celebrity filmmaker. Entering the industry in 1919 as a title card designer, Hitchcock made his directorial debut just six years later with The Pleasure Garden before starting to make impactful contributions to the thriller genre in 1927 with The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog.

Garnering a total of forty-six Oscar nominations for his movies, winning six, Hitchcock lent his name to his unique style of film-making, employing the use of camera movements to mimic a person’s gaze as to transform viewers in voyeurs and maximize anxiety. Directing four films regarded as among the greatest of all time – Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Psycho – eight of his films have been selected for preservation by the Library of Congress. With the advances of modern cinema at this disposal, and with a noticeable dearth of high-quality theatrical content, Hitchcock’s renewal would be a welcome addition to today’s over-saturated blockbuster-dominated medium.

20 Historical Figures that We Would Love to Bring Back from the Dead
Portrait of Benjamin Franklin, by Joseph Duplessis (c. 1785). Wikimedia Commons.

3. Benjamin Franklin was not only instrumental in laying the foundations of the United States but resided at the forefront of science and technology

A polymath who would become one of the most remembered Founding Fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin enjoyed an illustrious career ranging from being an author, a scientist, and finally a statesman. Across a life that almost spanned the entirety of the eighteenth century, Franklin served as one of the foremost figures of the American Enlightenment. Responsible for numerous inventions, most prominently the lightning rod, bifocals, and an eponymous stove, Franklin is widely celebrated today for his discoveries and theories relating to electricity as well as founding the University of Pennsylvania.

Earning the title of “The First American“, Franklin was one of the earliest advocates of colonial unity and independence. Serving as the nation’s first ambassador to France, Franklin was instrumental in forging and maintaining the vital Franco-American alliance that proved essential to achieving victory against the British in the Revolutionary War. Laying the foundations as the inaugural Postmaster General for the country’s communications network, Franklin’s interests were wide-ranging and impactful. Like Washington, Franklin – who is also depicted on American currency, appearing on the one hundred dollar bill – similarly deserves the chance to pass judgment on his successors whilst also enjoying the inventions which followed his own.

20 Historical Figures that We Would Love to Bring Back from the Dead
Portrait of Herbert George Wells by George Charles Beresford (c. 1920). Wikimedia Commons.

2. H.G. Wells predicted many of the everyday technologies we depend upon today and it is only fair he be permitted to also enjoy them

A forward-looking social critic, Herbert George Wells is today most remembered for his artistic contributions as an author and the “father of science fiction“. However, during his own lifetime, Wells was known best as a futurist and progressive commentator, envisioning a brighter path ahead for humanity and attempting to encourage mankind to tread said road. Foreseeing the advent of aircraft, mechanized warfare, space travel, nuclear weapons, satellites, and even the Internet, Wells’ imagination bore no limitations. Nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature four times, Wells’ acclaimed works include The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds.

However, Wells was more than simply a visionary author, campaigning also as a committed socialist. Supporting the short-lived League of Nations as a means to potentially unite humanity and end future conflicts, the failure of the organization weighed heavily on Wells. Penning The Rights of Man in 1940, the influential text laid the groundwork for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights eight years later. Sadly, Wells did not live to see his moral vision instituted globally, dying in 1946, and it would be only fair to permit Wells to see the world he could only dream about within the pages of his novels.

20 Historical Figures that We Would Love to Bring Back from the Dead
Portrait of Galileo Galilei, by Justus Sustermans (c. 1640). Wikimedia Commons.

1. The father of modern science, Galileo Galilei was persecuted by the Catholic Church despite the veracity of his claims

Considered the father of several disciplines and fields, including observational astronomy, modern physics, the scientific method, and even modern science in general, Galileo Galilei was an Italian polymath who lived during the Renaissance period. Championing the heliocentric interpretation of the universe proposed by Copernicus in 1543 – twenty-one years prior to Galileo’s own birth – in opposition to the prevailing geocentric models of the time, Galileo’s consistent and ardent defense of the theory ultimately attracted unsavory attention. Drawing the ire of the Roman Inquisition, after decades of ill-treatment and abuse Galileo was eventually accused of heresy in 1633.

Found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, Galileo was forced to recant his scientific beliefs, in particular, that the Sun lies at the center and around which the Earth revolves. Sentenced to life imprisonment, commuted to house arrest, for the remainder of his life, Galileo used his final years to condense and publish prior research and ideas on subjects of physics spanning speed and gravity to relativity and motion. One of the foremost scientists in human history, Galileo deserves not only to know his steady conviction in his theories was well-founded but to experience the wonders of the modern age he helped to build.


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“Michelangelo, the Divine One”, ARHuelsenbeck, Medium. Oct 20, 2018

“Genghis Khan and the Mongol Conquests”, Stephen Turnbull, Osprey Publishing (2003)

“Martin Luther King Jr.: A Life”, Marshall Frady, Penguin Publishing (2005)

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