Famous Germans in History: Leaders to Poets and More

Lydia Fulson

By: Lydia Fulson / Writer, Photographer, Blogger, Artist, Thrill Seeker, and Adventurer

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From famous musicians and poets to kings and queens, Germany was the home to so many inspirational and entertaining folk. Let's learn about the famous Germans in history.

Einstein memorial: famous Germans in historyEinstein lounging around thinking up clever thoughts

Some of the biggest names in history come from our lovely Germany. Can you name any right off the bat? There's more to German history than the bad ones. 

Think of possibly the world's biggest nerd. That's right, Albert Einstein – the German-born theoretical physicist who made a major impact on the pillars of modern physics. In his wise words, “Logic will get you from A to Z, imagination will get you everywhere.”

Imagination thrives here, for sure. Other famous Germans we're going to discover are Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm; perhaps you've heard of the undeniably renowned Brothers Grimm, who thrived on their creative imaginations. Their recreation of the Pied Piper tale was so eerie and well illustrated. Who was the Pied Piper of Germany's Hamelin? Well, that's a tale for another time.

But there's more to this than storytellers. There are the world changers, too.

Martin Luther was a brave man, a theologist, hymn-writer, and monk who pushed for the Protestant reformation of the Catholic Church.

Famous Germans in history

Great musicians, writers, inventors, and theorists came from this great country. Let's start with some of the famous ...

German Kings

Everyone needs someone to look up to, someone to rule, and someone to be a leader. In many cases, these were the kings. Kings have been around for thousands of years. And in Germany, they went down in rich history as some of Europe's most eccentric, brave, and bold kings.

  • King Ludwig II of Bavaria: The most well-known and notorious of kings. He is known for his eccentric taste and over-the-top spending habits. While good to his servants, he denied his royal duties to spend and spend and spend. When you've got it, flaunt it. Right?
  • Frederick the Great: Frederick had a troubled past, but that was no match for his determination. He rose to the occasion and gained expansion of Prussia. He became a force to reckon with and served the German people with the utmost kindness and willingness to protect them.
  • Louis IV: A tenacious and for-the-people ruler. One of the first of German emperors. He upheld the title with gratitude and fought well with his strong army by his side. Louis was the true definition of a King.

Of course, this is only a handful of Germany's strong rulers. There are so many interesting ones to uncover. That Ludwig, though, my goodness, what a crazy story!

German Composers and Musicians

Young Bach: famous Germans in historyYoung Bach composing a masterpiece!

These people changed the name of the game of music forever. Famous not only for their humble homes in the German states, but becoming known worldwide for their works. Some of the most famous Germans in history are on this list.

  • Ludwig van Beethoven: He was and went down with the legacy of being the most impressive classical German composer. Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 29 is labelled as one of the most difficult songs ever to play on the piano.
  • Johann Sebastian Bach: He was known more commonly as Bach, another face of classical music. He's actually the most famous composer of the 1600s.
  • Felix Mendelssohn: A man of many talents in the musical world. Felix was a composer but also a pianist, organ player, and conductor. He was famous for his spectacular symphonies.
  • Johannes Brahms: The composer of over 200 famous romantic songs. A conductor, composer, and pianist.
  • Richard Wagner: Thanks to his relationship with the former ruler of Bavaria, King Ludwig, Wagners' composed operas which gained mega fame. He went on to write the famous Der fliegende Holländer, Der Ring Des Nibelungen, Siegfried.

German Poets and Novelists

Many big names in German literature changed the world of poetry, children's books and novels.

  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe: Johann was a famous poet and novelist in the late 1700s. The Sorrows of Young Werther was his most known novel.
  • Brothers Grimm:  Imagination got these brothers a long way from their poverty-filled childhoods to filling other people's childhoods with joy, writing famous novels and folklore tales like Rapunzel, Hansel and Gretel, Rumpelstiltskin, the creepy Pied Piper, and many more! Talk about imagination. It looks like Einstein was right.
  • Annette von Droste-Hülshoff: Another poet and novelist that went down in history as the best female poet in Germany. Das geistliche Jahr and Letzte Gaben were just a few of her famous works.
  • Anne Frank: Everyone has heard of the brave and courageous story of Anne Frank. Little did she know that her diary of tragedy would become an inspirational novel known all across the globe.

German Philosophers

Immanuel Kant : famous germans in historyThe brilliant Immanuel Kant featured on the German stamps marking his anniversary dates.

The journey of philosophy was everywhere in Germany in the late 18th century. But what started all of this? Well, a lot of it came from that man up there and several others who fed off each other's theories.

  • Immanuel Kant: A German philosopher that brought enlightenment thinking to the people. He was the biggest and most impactful influence on philosophy, metaphysics, ethics, and more. He released very intriguing writing about the great earthquake that hit Lisbon in 1775 and was able to calculate exactly what caused it. He was praised for his geniuses, so much so that he was featured on German postal stamps, like the one shown above.
  • Friedrich Nietzsche: Another man of excellence that helped pave the way for future philosophers. He dabbled in many types of philosophy and was the youngest ever to hold the title of Classical Philology at Basel University. He was only twenty-four when his genius started to be recognized around Europe. He was loved but also hated, as it was speculated that he might have been involved in the Nazi party.

Germany produced so many philosophers who changed the way of thinking, acting, and doing as a whole. Karl Marx was a historian, philosopher, and environmentalist. He and another famous man named Arthur Schopenhauer really fed off Immanuel Kant's ideas to help their theories.

It's not often that science and philosophy come together, but in the late 1800s, it was common for German scientists and philosophers to come together to form theories and work to find common ground.

German Inventors

*Cue floating lightbulb overtop of the head*

Johannes Gutenberg: famous germans in historyJohannes and his colleagues observing the work of their invention! What a moment.

The fantastic world of imagination can and has led to people finding groundbreaking discoveries. These inventors took on the most complex mechanics, designs, and thoughts to create some of the world's most convenient, handy dandy, and speedy tools!

Some of these names may ring a bell. No, not Alexander Graham Bell … We're looking for the famous Germans in history. :)

  • Johannes Gutenberg: A 14th-century inventor and artistic craftsman who invented a huge piece of history, the printing press. He worked tirelessly for years trying different metals and oil blends to get the perfect movable press, and that he did – a successful man of brilliance.
  • Karl Benz: The man, the legend, Mr. Benz. The designer, automotive engineer, and maker of the snazzy Benz car. It all started with a three-wheeled Benz Patent-Motorwagen that he invented and only went up from there. Yes, the number of wheels went up too. From here, he invented the Benz Victoria. Now that's riding in style. His models and success skyrocketed, and his name is known worldwide.
Benz Victoria : famous germans in historyMr. Benz sporting his snazzy new Benz Victoria with his pals.

This shows that it takes little money to succeed; look at these fellas and ladies. Creativity, imagination, and a little bit of elbow grease can get one a long way in life.

Wow. Now you know the names of some famous Germans in history: big names, hidden and lost-in-time names, and names that changed the world as we know it.