Famous People | S-Z
Brief bios of famous people from the German-speaking countries who have played a significant role in world history in the areas of the arts, politics, science, and technology.
- Featured! The Scorpions - Legendary German rock band
Egon Schiele (1890-1918) | Unconventional Austrian painter heavily influenced by Gustav Klimt. Schiele and his wife died in an influenza pandemic in 1918 (the same year Klimt died), the same year that the Wiener Sezessionsausstellung (Vienna Secessionist Exhibit) became a great success, displaying 50 of Schiele’s works. Also see his Art Directory bio and The Art of Egon Schiele (Web Museum).
Claudia Schiffer (1971- ) | Known as one of fashion’s top models, the tall, Teutonically blonde Mannekin from Düsseldorf is also one of the world's richest. Discovered by German designer Karl Lagerfeld in 1988, Schiffer announced in October 1998 that she would retire from the fashion runway. She continues to do photo and ad work, and make TV appearances.
Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) | Second only to Goethe, one of Germany’s greatest dramatists and poets. Schiller was forced by Duke Karl Eugen of Württemberg to study law and medicine for eight years. It comes as no surprise then to discover the theme of rebellion and protest in many of Schiller’s works. His dramas include Die Räuber (1781), Kabale und Liebe (1784), Don Carlos (1787), Wallenstein (1800, considered his greatest drama and translated into English by Coleridge), and Wilhelm Tell (1804).
Max Schmeling (1905-2005) | German boxer best known for his two bouts with the American Joe Louis. In 1999, Schmeling and German tennis star Steffi Graf (1969- ) were named “Athletes of the Century” by German sports jounalists. More about Schmeling from About.com - Max Schmeling.
Helmut Schmidt (1918- ) | Schmidt was Willy Brandt’s successor in 1974 and chancellor (SPD) for the next seven years (before the “other” Helmut, Helmut Kohl). One of the most intellectual of all German chancellors, Schmidt speaks eloquently in both German and English and has written several books. He is still popular, appearing regularly on TV as a somewhat cranky commentator and publishing Die Zeit, one of Germany’s most respected weeklies.
Gerhard Schröder (1944- ) | Elected German chancellor in September 1998, Schröder (spelled Schroeder in English) is the former governor (Ministerpräsident) of Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen). He succeeded Helmut Kohl, who had set the new German record for time in office as chancellor: 16 years (1982-1998).
Erwin Schrödinger (1887-1961) | An Austrian physicist best known for his work in quantum mechanics and his “cat paradox.” Born in Vienna, Schrödinger grew up bilingual in German and English, since his mother was half-English. Schrödinger studied in Vienna and in Germany (Jena). In 1933 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his “Schrödinger equation.”
Carl Schurz (1829-1906) | Born near Cologne, Germany, fled to America by way of England from the German revolution of 1848. Schurz was a Union general in the Civil War, became a US Senator (R, Missouri, 1869-1875), Secretary of the Interior in the Rutherford B. Hayes administration, and confidant of Abraham Lincoln (for whom he campaigned). He also edited several newspapers and wrote two biographies. As interior secretary, Schurz promoted civil service reform and was sympathetic to the American Indians. The small reservation town of Schurz, Nevada honors his name.
Arnold Schwarzenegger | The most famous of the many Austrian film people found on our German-Hollywood Connection pages.
Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) | Generous doctor to the natives in Lambarene, French Equatorial Africa (now Gabon), where he lived from 1913 until his death there in 1965. He established a hospital for the natives in Lambarene and worked tirelessly to improve the living conditions there. Schweitzer was also an accomplished musician (notably on the organ) and theologian/philosopher who wrote several books on religious, humanitarian themes, as well as a classic work on J.S. Bach. During his time in Africa, Schweitzer often traveled abroad to lecture and give organ recitals. His 1931 autobiography is entitled Aus meinem Leben und Denken (My Life and Thought). In 1952 he received the Nobel Peace Prize. Schweitzer was born in Kaysersberg in German Alsace, now in France.
Scorpions, The | (Rudolf Schenker [guitarist and founder], Klaus Meine, Matthias Jabs, James Kottak, Pawel Maciwoda) This legendary German rock band, formed in 1965 in Hanover (as "Nameless"; first recordings in 1971), performs in English. The Scorpions are known for these and other hit songs: "Wind of Change" (1990, Russian and Spanish versions 1991), "Send Me an Angel" (1990), "Rock You Like a Hurricane" (1984), "Still Loving You" (1984). In January 2010, after 46 years of performing, the band members announced they would retire after a farewell tour to promote their new album "Sting in the Tail." The band has sold over 150 million albums worldwide.
Official site: www.the-scorpions.com.
Heidi Simonis (1943- ) | The first woman to become governor (Ministerpräsidentin) of any of the 16 German states (Bundesländer). Simonis was elected governor/prime minister of Schleswig-Holstein in 1993, serving until 2005. Before that she served as the German Finanz-Ministerin (treasury minister). In 2005 she became chair of UNICEF in Germany, but was forced to resign after a funding scandal in 2008. An investigation into the matter was later dropped.
Alexander Spoerl (1917-1978) | A master of that rarity in German literature: witty, ironic humor. One of his classic works, the semi-autobiographical Memoiren eines mittelmässigen Schülers (Memoirs of a Mediocre Student, 1950), pokes fun at what might seem to be an unfunny subject, describing in hilarious detail what it was like growing up in Germany just as the Nazis were coming to power. In addition to other humorous novels, Spoerl wrote entertaining manuals on coping with everyday equipment and tools in Mit dem Auto auf du (On Familiar Terms with the Car) and Mit der Kamera auf du (On Familiar Terms with the Camera). His father, Heinrich Spoerl (1887-1955), was also a humorist, whose best known novel, Die Feuerzangenbowle (1933), was made into a movie with Heinz Rühmann.
Charles Proteus Steinmetz (1865-1923) | Professor, mathematical genius, and theorist, he died with about 200 practical patents to his credit. His inventions and improvements were primarily in the area of electrical devices and the transmission of electricity. Steinmetz was born in Breslau. He studied there, in Berlin, and in Zurich before coming to the US in 1889.
Rita Süssmuth (1937- ) | University professor and member of parliament Süssmuth (Suessmuth) served as the president of the German lower house of parliament (Bundestag) from 1988 to 1998.
Edward Teller (1908-2003) | Born in Budapest, Austria-Hungary, Teller went to Germany in 1926, where he studied in Karlsruhe and Leipzig. The Jewish physicist came to the US in 1935 after working in Göttingen and spending time in England and Denmark. Known as the “father of the H-bomb,” Teller worked on the wartime Manhattan project at Los Alamos, New Mexico. Teller accused American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer of blocking progress on the H-bomb during hearings in 1954.
Gerhard Thiele | German astronaut and scientist who has participated in NASA missions. One of nine Germans who have been to space. MORE > Germans in Space from AboutGerman.net
Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935) | German satirist best known for his biting humor and critical views of the human species. He committed suicide after his books were burned and he was exiled from Germany by the Nazis.
Famous Graves in Germany
Where are they buried?
“No one has any intention of building a wall.”
- Walter Ulbricht
Walter Ulbricht (1893-1973) | Became one of the world’s biggest liars as East German General Secretary when he said only months before he ordered the construction of the Berlin Wall in 1961: “Niemand hat die Absicht, eine Mauer zu errichten.” (“No one has any intention of building a wall.”) On August 13, 1961 Ulbricht ordered Erich Honecker to begin construction of the infamous Wall that would fall 38 years later when Honecker was the leader of the soon-to-be-extinct DDR.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) | Born in Aachen, Germany. Known for his trend-setting architecture and the phrase “less is more,” van der Rohe was associated with the Bauhaus and later headed the school that became the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. He designed classic skyscrapers like the Seagram building (1958) in New York City, which pioneered the use of open space around such mid-city structures. (Also see Helmut Jahn, Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus.)
Wernher von Braun (1912-1977) | See listing under “B”
“The limits of my language mean the limits of
my world.” - Ludwig Wittgenstein
Richard Wagner (1813-1883) | Revolutionized classical music with his "Tristan und Isolde." His tremendous influence on opera came from popular works such as his "Ring Cycle" and the “Meistersinger von Nürnberg.” Wagner built his famous music hall in Bayreuth, now the home of the annual Richard Wagner Festival (Festspiele). Fortunately, Wagner’s music transcends his dark side as an anti-Semite and a philanderer. His life was also intertwined with that of “Mad King Ludwig” of Bavaria, who supported Wagner financially for a time. - See pictures of Wagner's grave in Bayreuth.
August von Wassermann (1866-1925) | Best known as the German pathologist who invented a widely-used test for the diagnosis of syphilis in 1906. Born in Bamberg, Wassermann studied in Vienna, Munich, Strassburg, and Berlin, where he was a student of bacteriologist Robert Koch. Wassermann also developed a treatment for diphtheria and vaccinations for cholera, tetanus, and typhoid fever.
Wim Wenders | German film director (Wings of Desire), and...
Billy Wilder | Legendary Austrian director (Some Like It Hot, Double Indemnity), are just two of the famous film people found on our The German-Hollywood Connection pages.
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) | An Austrian-British philosopher of Jewish descent born in Vienna, he had much of his work published posthumously — although his main work, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, considered a masterwork of philosophical thought (logical positivism), was first published in England in German and English in 1922. Tractatus dealt with the question of human language and thinking. Ironically, Wittgenstein claimed that his ideas were misunderstood by those claiming to be his followers.
Carl Zeiss (1816-1888) | Opened a workshop in 1846 for constructing microscopes and other optical instruments. The Carl Zeiss firm in Jena became famous for its quality glass and optical products. After World War II it was split into a western and an eastern firm.
Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin (1838-1917) | Graf (Count) Zeppelin invented the rigid-frame airship near Lake Constance (Bodensee). Born in Konstanz on the shores of Lake Constance, Zeppelin first attended the Polytechnikum in Stuttgart and later studied military science in Ludwigsburg. As a young military officer, Zeppelin visited America in the midst of the Civil War to brush up on his military knowledge. His airship LZ3 first flew successfully in 1908. Long after his death, the Zepplin airship became one of Germany’s greatest icons – until the Hindenburg (LZ 129) disaster in New Jersey in 1937.
Gravesite > Zeppelin’s Grave
Hans Zimmer | Composer of film music for The Lion King and other Hollywood pictures — just one of the famous film people in The German-Hollywood Connection!
Konrad Zuse (1910-1995) | Invented the world’s first mechanical binary digital computer, the Z1 (1936-1938), in Berlin. Zuse’s Z2 (1940) was the first fully functioning electro-mechanical computer. A more advanced Z3 followed the next year. The Z4, completed in 1945, is considered the world’s first programmable computer and predates the ENIAC in the US by several years. More…
“I remember mentioning to friends back in 1938 that the world chess champion would be beaten by a computer in 50 years time. Today we know computers are not far from this goal.”
- Konrad Zuse
MORE > Famous People Index
MORE > Famous Women from Austria, Germany, Switzerland
MORE > German-Hollywood Connection
MORE > Famous Graves in Germany - Where are they buried?
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- Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus
- German-Hollywood Connection
- Famous Graves - Famous people buried in Germany
- Famous People: Full Index - Austrians, Germans, Swiss
Related Web Sites
- Bauhaus, Dessau - A well-designed site for the historical and famous school of architecture and design in Dessau, Germany. In German and English.
- Biography.com - Bios of some Germans, Austrians, and Swiss. Also lists upcoming “Biography” TV shows. Past TV presentations have covered Sigmund Freud, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Wagner and other German-speaking notables. Searchable.
- Projekt Gutenberg (Germany) - Classic German writers and their works (in German)
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