The saddest aspect of life is when talented people are ignored while they’re still alive. Recognition long after the person is gone only accentuates the tragedy. Yes, there are many famous people elevated to immortality who continue to live with us through their work. But, what makes the picture unpleasant is that these people lived a dismal life of non approval, and sometimes hatred when they were alive. I don’t know if revering their work could possibly be a way to pay homage to these great souls, but it surely brings us closer to them. So, without much ado, here’s a list of the top 10 people who became famous after death.
10. Alfred Wegener (November 1, 1880 – November 1930):
A German scientist and geologist, Alfred Wegener received his degree in Astronomy from the University of Berlin, and set out to experiment and discover many truths about the constant drifting of the continents, how they are connected to each other and, also, about jet streams. He propagated his theories while he was still alive, but the lack of concrete evidence never earned his work any approval from people. It was only after his death that Tuzo Wilson found substantial evidence to prove that Wegener’s theories were correct.
9. Galileo Galilei (February 15, 1564 – January 8, 1642):
Galileo Galilei was a scientist and mathematician of the 16th century, who built the first telescope to study stars and planets visible from the earth. He was the first to discover sunspots, moon craters and many other celestial bodies in the outer space that are known today. But, since he lived in a time when people’s lives were guided solely by religious beliefs, his theories were only considered as an outright opposition to all religious texts.
8. Vincent Van Gogh (March 30, 1853 – July 29, 1890):
Shy and reclusive as a child, Vincent Van Gogh never really got a chance to showcase his talent as a painter while he was still alive. In his late 20s he discovered his love for painting and tried to show the meaning of life with his art, but was unable to bring it to public light. Later he went into depression and suffered from epilepsy, which lead to his death. Around 2000 pieces of his art were discovered after he died, and today they are valued in millions.
7. Franz Kafka (July 3, 1883 –June 3, 1924):
Franz Kafka, a German language writer, is considered as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century but, sadly, he never lived to enjoy this fame. Publishers wouldn’t accept his work and no one took him seriously during his lifetime. He mostly dealt with the subject of existentialism, which was thought to be too revolutionary in his time. Before he died, Kafka had instructed his friend Max Brod to burn all his work after his death. But, thankfully, Brod got all his work published and the world came to know of a brilliant man.
6. Emily Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886):
A poetess, the works of Emily Dickinson are considered to be among the best in the world of literature by any female. During her lifetime, Emily was an extremely shy and introvert person, who would rarely open up with anyone. Many claimed that this was due to an unfulfilled romantic relationship. And, while eight of her poems were published when she was alive, she deliberately kept about 1800 poems hidden from people, for they described her personal thoughts on death, mortality and nature. After Emily’s death, her sister Lavinia, edited her poems and got them published.
5. Gregor Johann Mendel (July 20, 1822 – January 6, 1884):
The founder of the modern science of genetics, Gregor Johann Mendel, conducted several experiments with the pea plant and observed a common pattern in several structures in the plant. This revolutionary discovery was not understood by most people at that time, and they discarded his work as useless. But, in the beginning of the 20th century, the importance of genetics was discovered and today his theories are referred to as laws of Mendelian inheritance.
4. Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 – May 6, 1862):
An American author, philosopher and historian, Henry David Thoreau is most famous for his work ‘Walden’ and ‘Civil Disobedience’. During his lifetime, he propagated the concept of simple living in sync with nature, and how natural living is always better. People never understood his concepts and writings, which contained a lot of symbolism and hidden meaning and, therefore, discarded his works. He boasted of writing about 900 books, of which only two were published while he was still alive. He is still referred to as an anarchist because of his idea of governance. Nevertheless, one of the many who were influenced by his works long after he had died was a man called Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
3. Heath Ledger (April 4, 1979 – January 22, 2008):
Heath Ledger was a popular actor but his penultimate role of the Joker in The Dark Knight turned him into a phenomenon that continues to live on. The 28-year-old Australian actor died from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs just before the release of The Dark Knight. His performance in the film was praised by critics and fans alike. The emotion associated with the film because of his death elevated Ledger to a higher pedestal. Although nominated once before for an Academy Award, he won it posthumously for The Dark Knight. Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker is considered one of the best performances in Hollywood history, but he never lived to celebrate this recognition.
2. Edgar Allan Poe (January 19, 1809 – October 7, 1849):
An American writer and poet, Edgar Allan Poe is widely known as a Romantic Movement writer, who focused on mystery and macabre, not a common forte back in his times. In fact Edgar was the first to write a detective-fiction short story giving birth to the genre. Poe’s detective character Dupin inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to create the great Sherlock Holmes. Most of his writings were published while Poe was still alive, but he never made enough money to support himself. And, after the untimely death of his wife, he gave in to excessive drinking. Even his death is one of the greatest real-life mysteries.
1. Henry Darger (April 12, 1892 – April 13, 1973):
When he was alive, Henry Darger was despised as a mentally challenged person, and lived a secluded life in Chicago, Illinois. But post death in 1973, he got recognized for his art as well as his writings. Today, the cost of his single spaced manuscript of 15,145 pages commands a price upwards of $80,000. His famous work, ‘The Story of the Vivian Girls, in what is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion’, along with several hundred drawings and watercolor paintings is considered a magnum opus in both art and literature.