7 Great Personalities Who Didn't Go To School But Changed The World


7 Great Personalities Who Didn't Go To School But Changed The World

Seven great people managed to influence the world by only using their power of mind.

Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison went to school when he was 8 years old and stayed for just three months. We was the worst in his classroom and his teacher didn't like him. Edison's father used to believe that his son was stupid (maybe it was him who wasn't that intelligent). Some day, the teacher told Edison - in front of the entire class - that he (Thomas) was a moron. Thomas, who wasn't that obedient, left the class immediately and, when he got back home, he told his mother that he would never return to school. And that's what he did (school wasn't obligatory in 1855). Edison started studying at home. His mother became his teacher, but only taught him the basics.

Although he used to write letters without using punctuation marks, even when he turned 19 years old, little Edison really enjoyed reading. He used to read Shakespeare and Dickens all day until the day his mother gave him the book "School of physics". It was when inventor Edison was born. He created a small workshop in the house's basement and he started doing experiments all the time.

When he was twelve years old, he had already managed to assemble a telegraph and to create an electric trap for mice. He soon realized that he needed money to improve his workshop and started looking for a job. He found a job in a town near his. He had to travel there by train, spending three hours daily.

Edison used these three hours to study and to earn money by selling fruits, nuts and candies in the train. He even started selling his newspaper! He bought an old hand press from an Antiquarian, so that he could constitute and print a small newspaper about train's schedule and some political news.

Meanwhile, Edison made some of the most important inventions: the microphone, the phonograph, the electric light, the concrete, and he perfected the telephone, the photo camera and the electrical generator. In 1882, when he was 35 years old, he launched the first power station (in New York). Two and a half thousand patents bear his name -and they do have punctuation. Let us remember his most famous phrase: "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety nine percent perspiration."

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was "uneducated" too. With his "emancipation proclamation", Lincoln freed America's slaves. That's why he was murdered three years later.

Despite the fact that he was the son of a lumberjack and that he didn't even go to primary school, since he used to work in a farm, Lincoln used his free time to learn how to read. He used to read mostly newspapers. When he turned 26 years old, he started studying law books on his own and two years later he managed to get the license to practice law.

His political rivals were always trying to underline his humble background and his lack of "official education". However Lincoln never felt bad about that.

Mark Twain

"Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn" have been best sellers for 150 years.

If young Mark Twain (real name: Samuel Langhorne Clemens) lived in our time, he'd have been called hyper and people would treat him like a sick kid, since he couldn't sit still for a second.

Twain took lessons for only a few weeks. He was 12 years old and he had just learnt how to read, when his father died and little Clemens had to start working. He used to work in a barge which where he got his nickname. He also worked in a printing shop and some time later he got a job editing for a small agricultural newspaper.

Twain started to write the news using the humor for which his books are also known for. He used to say, for example, that the weather was perfect to prune the potato trees. His newspaper was very successful and soon Twain started to write articles in other newspapers too. He used to report traveler's stories from all over the world and when his books were published, he gained world wide recognition. When he turned 67 years old, the hyper kid became a professor in Missouri's and Oxford's university

Charles Dickens

Dickens left school when he was 11 years old. As he describes in "David Coperfield", his teacher seemed to enjoy students' beating, so we can assume that Dickens had hard time at school.

"I really wonder, when I look back in my past, what a start for a life, to be humiliated by such an incompetent and audacious person".

Dickens had to leave school to look after his five younger siblings. He also had to find a job, since his parents were uncaring. Some time later his whole family was incarcerated because of debts! Only Charles managed to avoid prison. He stayed in a room alone, having inherited only a box filled with books. He used to read "Robinson Crusoe" and "Gulliver's travels" and he used to dream about writing something comparable to them.

Charlie Spencer Chaplin (Charlot)

Charlie Spencer was meant to become the most recognizable figure of the 20th century. Charlie never went to school! His only care in his childhood was, as he himself says: "How to satisfy my hunger".

He used to live in London with his mother and his half brother, in a situation of indescribable poverty. His father was an alcoholic actor who had abandoned them. His mother was a former pianist who worked as a needlewoman. She soon fell apart and was closed in an asylum, while her children went to the orphanage.

As Charlie's son wrote:

"Children in the orphanage had never had neither enough food nor warm clothes. They used to treat them like they were criminals".

Chaplin stayed there for a long time. When he grew up, his father helped him to become an actor in the theater. He earned some money and left for America. He was 21 years old and that was when he started thinking about his lack of education. "I wanted to know what everyone knew, so that I could defend myself against the contempt the world".

The first book he bought was English Grammar and, later, an english-latin dictionary. He never read these books. Then he bought the book "The World as Will and Representation" by Arthur Schopenhauer. As he described, he kept on reading it again and again for years without ever fully understanding it.

However, Charlie Chaplin was the man who changed the future of the cinema completely, the man who made the world laugh and cry.

Heinrich Schliemann

When Schliemann was 8 years old, he already knew what he wanted to become. After seeing the representation of burning Troy in a magazine, Schliemann decided that he should discover this place. His father tried to convince him that Troy was a mythical city. But little Heinrich had already taken his decision.

When he turned 14 years old, Schliemann had to become the student of a merchant. He needed money, so he found a job in a ship that would travel to America. Unfortunately the ship wrecked on the Dutch coast and Schliemann stayed in the Netherlands. Three years later, he had already learnt how to write and read in: Dutch, English, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. He also learnt Russian when he traveled to Petersburg to trade guinea colors, nitro, sulfur etc.

When he turned 26 years old, he had already became a millionaire. He finally went to America and learnt Polish and Swedish. He earned much more money by trading gold. Then he became ready to follow his childish dream: to discover Homer's Troy. The last languages he learned were Arabian and Greek. He traveled in the East and he finally stayed in Greece (where he married a Greek woman).

When he was 48 years old, he began excavations in Asia Minor. Soon he truly found his "dream city".

There were also other people who were "uneducated" but changed the world, such us Swedish Alfred Nobel, who had to leave school when he was nine years old to sell matches to survive, Scotsman Andrew Carnegie who used to work as a heater when he was a kid and Benjamin Franklin who went to school for only one year and a half.

These stories come from Gerhard Prause's book: Genies in der schule.



  1. Hey, Schliemann was also a thief, who stole treasures from Turkey. This is clear with court cases, Ottomans opened for.

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  5. I can’t say that school and education are not important, but I think that there are much more important things. Moreover, we are considering the times when the school was not as accessible as it is now. However, the same Benjamin Franklin, who studied for only 1.5 years, was smarter than most of our college graduates. Even reading the essays about him https://studydriver.com/benjamin-franklin/, you can understand how educated he was.



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Thinking Humanity: 7 Great Personalities Who Didn't Go To School But Changed The World
7 Great Personalities Who Didn't Go To School But Changed The World
Seven great people managed to influence the world by only using their power of mind.
Thinking Humanity
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