Among historically famous people of Western Civilization which one is most lately born who has no known likeness?

By "historically famous" I mean some person who is mentioned as being historically significant in an English-language history textbook used widely in American or British secondary schools.

If there is some question as to whether a person is "famous" then apply the criteria that they must merit their own entry in the 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica and be a historically significant actor. By an "actor" I mean someone famous for their own actions on history, thus people like Robert Jenkins do not count because he became famous as an accidental victim, and actors and writers do not count because they are famous for their works, not their historical actions.

For example, there is Christopher Columbus, born in 1451, for whom there is no known authentic likeness.

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    The criterion of appearing in a textbook used widely in American or British secondary schools is a terrible measure of fame. For example, it wouldn't be at all surprising if François Hollande isn't mentioned in any such textbook. And I'm sure there are plenty of figures from the 20th century history of eastern Europe who aren't mentioned in British or American schoolbooks. Except your requirement of being in the 1911 Britannica already rules out anyone from the 20th century. – David Richerby Dec 6 '15 at 13:57
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    @DavidRicherby: I believe Tyler's intent is to require an objective notion of famous-ality, by proposing a criteria, rather than to absolutely state the final version of the objective rule a priori. If you can come up with a suitable non-likenessed 20th Century personality who is objectively famous (by some reasonable measure) I don't see any regular contributors to this stack objecting (sic). – Pieter Geerkens Dec 6 '15 at 14:36
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    Doesn't quite fit, but there are no surviving recordings of George Orwell, either audio or video, despite his fame as a broadcaster and author. There are photographs though. – Ne Mo Dec 6 '15 at 23:29
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    since this got necro'd today, I am going to go out on a limb and say Satoshi Nakamoto. He is the primary inventor of bitcoin and there are no known images of him. Of course that could be a pseudonym but no one knows. – ed.hank May 1 '19 at 18:16

I'll lead with Sacagawea (May 1788 - December 1812), the guide/interpreter for Lewis and Clark who clearly is both objectively famous, and lacks both an entry in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica and even a mention in the article for Meriwether Lewis.

Update: - from Sacagewea Dollar - Initial Design Selection on Wikipedia (my emphasis)

the Commission chose an obverse design depicting Sacagawea with her infant son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, as designed by sculptor Glenna Goodacre. Goodacre chose Randy'L He-dow Teton to model for Sacagawea, of whom there are no known contemporary portraits, to help the artist capture the features of a young Native American woman

Further - I submit that any historical person chosen as a design image for a United States dollar coin is, objectively, famous.

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    +1 This is going to be a hard one to beat. – Mike Dec 6 '15 at 3:17

Thasunke Itko or Crazy Horse (c. 1840-1877) has no known image from his lifetime.

There is a photograph allegedly but not certainly of him, and a drawing based on his sister's description made in 1934. And a giant statue being carved in a mountain since 1948.

But there is no certainly authentic photograph or drawing made during his lifetime.

And the same should be true for a number (though not all) of other famous American Indians during the 19th century, some of whom may have died after Crazy Horse.

Added May 3 2019. Of course many famous native Americans or American Indians like Crazy Horse have been depicted by actors in various movies and television episodes. And often there was little resemblance between the various actors who portrayed the same historic person.


I am intentionally scorning your arbitrary definition of "famous". There is a very famous contemporary British artist called Banksy, of whom there is no image, photographic or otherwise.

  • Artists are specifically not included (see the question text). – Tyler Durden Dec 6 '15 at 21:42
  • Unfortunately, some busy-body has deleted the most important part of my answer. – fdb Dec 6 '15 at 21:54
  • I have now restored it. – fdb Dec 6 '15 at 21:59
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    How do we know that Banksy is a single person rather than an anonymous group like the mathematician Bourbaki? – Pieter Geerkens Dec 7 '15 at 0:26
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    There are probably many images of Banksy online - we just don't know which human corresponds to that cognomen. I think the spirit of the original question is quite clear and excludes secret identities. If we don't have an image of someone because we don't know who they are that's a very different situation. – TheMathemagician Dec 9 '15 at 12:08

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