Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People

Shannon Quinn - March 6, 2023

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
Inventor Alexander Graham Bell. Credit: ThoughtCo.

Alexander Graham Bell Advocated For Not Allowing Deaf People to Get Married or Have Children

Most people know that Alexander Graham Bell was the inventor of the telephone. But fewer people know that he was a teacher for deaf people. His own mother was hearing-impaired, and he even married a deaf woman named Mabel Hubbard. However, he believed that deafness was a “contamination” of the human race. He believed that deaf people would give birth to deaf children, and that it would spread through the population. In 1883, he presented a paper called Memoir Upon the Formation of a Deaf Variety of the Human Race. He suggested that deaf people should not be allowed to get married. (Which is hypocritical, since he married a deaf woman and had four children with her.) And he did not want people to use sign language.

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
Writer Rudyard Kipling. Credit: The Poetry Foundation

Rudyard Kipling Was Pro-Colonialism & Pro-British Empire

People remember Rudyard Kipling as the author of The Jungle Book, which went on to inspire the beloved Disney film. In 1907, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. As a child, he grew up in both India and England. But during his lifetime, he was a racist and a huge advocate for Colonialism. He is the one who came up with the phrase “the white man’s burden”, which is the belief that it’s white people’s moral duty to conquer non-white races and teach them about civilized society. Some people try to defend Kipling, saying that this thought process was normal back then. Almost all British people felt that way, not just him. Interestingly enough, he did end up moving to the United States, and married a woman from Vermont.

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
Credit: Apple Insider

Steve Jobs Was a Huge Jerk and A Terrible Dad

A lot of people look up to Steve Jobs as being the genius co-founder of Apple. But he was known for yelling and cursing at employees and friends alike. One time, he even berated an elderly Whole Foods employee. In his personal life, he denied being the father of his daughter, Lisa. She and her mother had to live on welfare because of it. He was sued for child support, and forced to take a DNA test. Even then, he did not spend much time with Lisa, and did not help her out financially until she was much older. Something else that rubs people the wrong way is that he refused treatment for his pancreas cancer. Ashton Kutcher tried to do the same all-fruit diet while filming the Jobs biopic, and he ended up in the hospital because his pancreas started to shut down.

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
Inventor Thomas Edison. Credit: History

Thomas Edison Stole Ideas and Electrocuted Animals

In every history class in America, Thomas Edison is revered and misattributed as the inventor of the lightbulb. He actually bought the rights to make the lightbulb from the actual inventors, Henry Woodward and Matthew Evans. In reality, he stole a lot of his ideas from other scientists, like Nicola Tesla. One awful, but accidental thing that Edison did was run X-Ray experiments on his assistant, Clarence Dally. They had no idea of the dangers of radiation poisoning, so Clarence ended up with burns and sores all over his body. Arguably the worst thing about him was that he killed many animals with electricity. In 1903, Edison filmed a demonstration on electrical currents at the Luna Park Zoo in Coney Island, New York. He electrocuted and killed an elephant named Topsy, just to make a point.

Historic Figures Who Were Secretly Terrible People
Explorer Christopher Columbus. Credit: History

Christopher Columbus Enslaved Indigenous People

Growing up, you were probably taught that Columbus “discovered” America. In reality, he wasn’t actually the first person to discover America. And on top of that, he was a downright terrible person. Columbus and his crew took many of the native peoples they encountered as slaves. Many of these people were forced to work under inhumane conditions. His men engaged in violent acts against the native peoples, including murder, rape, and torture. The arrival of Europeans in the Americas led to the spread of diseases that the native peoples had no immunity to. This led to devastating epidemics that wiped out large numbers of the indigenous population. Columbus was primarily interested in exploiting the resources of the Americas for the benefit of Spain. All of these reasons are why we are trying to change it to “Indigenous People’s Day” rather than Columbus Day.

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Mother Teresa Was Kind of a Heartless Bitch. Mitchell Sunderland. Vice. 2015.

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You Don’t Have to ‘Imagine’ John Lennon Beat Women and Children—It’s Just a Fact. Lauren Oyler. Vice. 2015.

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Why Celebrate ‘Terrible’ PT Barnum at All in ‘The Greatest Showman’? Lisa Lange. The Wrap. 2017.

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Lita Grey; Married Charlie Chaplin at 16. Burt Folkart. Los Angeles Times. 1995.

So It Turns Out Marlon Brando Wasn’t Great to Women. Inside Hook. 2022.

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Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Monticello.

Alexander Graham Bell and Deafness. Jamie Berke. Verywell Health. 2022.

It’s High Time We Let Rudyard Kipling Out of the Penalty Box. Malcolm Jones. The Daily Beast. 2017.

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