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Baruch Spinoza was a Jewish-Dutch philosopher. His work paved the way for modern biblical criticism and religious philosophers of the Enlightenment. In his most well known work, Ethics, he opposed the mind-body dualism of Descartes and attacked many of the Cartesian principles, such as ‘the mind and body are distinct substances that can affect one another’ and that ‘we must always trust our senses’. Spinoza also questioned the authenticity of the Hebrew Bible in his work, resulting in his exclusion from Jewish society.

Louis Pasteur was a French chemist and microbiologist. He is known for inventing pasteurisation, a process in which milk is treated in order to reduce the number of viable pathogens and thus prevent sickness. Pasteur also created the first vaccines for rabies and anthrax. In addition to his discoveries, he founded the Pasteur Institute in 1887. Since then, the private foundation has been home to scientific breakthroughs such as the isolation of two HIV viruses and the production of the first effective anti-tuberculosis vaccine.

Marie Antoinette was born an Archduchess of Austria and, after her marriage to Louis XVI of France in 1770, became Queen of France and Navarre when he took the throne in 1774. Although initially liked and accepted, Marie was eventually spurned by the French people for her promiscuous behaviour and perceived sympathy for France’s enemies. In 1792, the French monarchy was abolished and the royal family was imprisoned in the Temple Prison. In 1793, just eight months after the execution of her husband, Marie Antoinette was tried for treason and beheaded in the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

Carl Linnaeus was a Swedish botanist, physician, zoologist, and is known as the father of modern taxonomy. He is also known for originating the idea of binomial nomenclature which eventually developed into ‘Linnaen taxonomy,’ a system of scientific classification used in biology. Linnaeus also contributed to biology research of the origin of humans, classifying men and women just as he would a plant or animal.

Vladimir Lenin was a Russian communist revolutionary, politician and political theorist. He was the Premier of the Soviet Union for just two years before his death. Lenin was the leader of the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party and thus played a key role in the October Revolution of 1917, which overthrew the government and established the socialist state, the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic. Lenin was a highly controversial leader and is often refered to as a dictator, known for his orders to execute or torture anyone in opposition to the Bolsheviks.

Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer, abolitionist and the sixteenth president of the United States. His efforts to end slavery and unite the states of America were advanced by his Gettysburg Address, a speech recognising the right of all people to be free, and his Emancipation Proclamation, an executive order ending slavery in the Confederate States. Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865, just six days after the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and the end of the Civil War.

Benjamin Franklin was a political theorist, statesman, inventor and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a member of the group of men who signed the United States Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin played a key role in instigating the American Revolutionary War and establishing the United States of America and its Constitution. Franklin was also known as the publisher of Poor Richard’s Almanack and for his many experiments with electricity, several of which brought about the invention of the lightning rod.

Charles Babbage was a British mathematician and inventor. He is credited with having originated the concept of the programmable computer with his invention of the ‘Analytical Engine’ in the 1820s. The device used a system of punch cards to deliver instructions and perform any arithmetical calculation. His creation included many of the key components found in the more complex designs of today’s computers.

Harold Williams was a New Zealand journalist and foreign editor of The Times. He is considered to be one of the most accomplished polyglots in history. Williams was able to speak approximately 58 languages as well as other related dialects. He was also an authority on Russian affairs, having travelled to every part of the country studying the people, culture and language. During the First World War, Williams helped to establish a British Propaganda Office in Petrograd and used his knowledge of Russia to form a bond with the Russian press.

Noah Webster was an American lexicographer and spelling reformer of the English language. He enrolled at Yale University just before his sixteenth birthday and graduated four years later in 1778. Webster also earned a masters degree from Yale and completed studies in law through a mentorship with a local attorney. Eventually Webster wrote and published spelling, grammar, and reading books aimed at elementary school students. These books went on to become the famous Webster’s Blue Back Speller.