Contrary to some perceptions, many studies have shown that single children are as successful socially, in their relationships, and in their careers, as those with siblings.
Some famous only-children are listed below.
Leonardo Da Vinci, painter (lived 1452-1519)
One of the greatest painters of all time, and painter of possibly the most famous painting known to man, The Mona Lisa, Leonardo is also known for his technological ingenuity. He conceptualized flying machines and solar power long before their eventual creation.
Isaac Newton, scientist (lived 1642-1727)
One of the most influential scientists of all time and a key figure in the scientific revolution, he is best known for his laws of motion, including the discovery and quantification of gravity. He also built the world’s first reflecting telescope, and developed theories on fluids, the visible spectrum and calculus.
Hans Christian Andersen, author (lived 1805-1875)
Best remembered for his fairy tales, such as The Little Mermaid or The Emperor’s New Clothes. His works have inspired plays, ballets and films for centuries.
Ada Lovelace, mathematician (lived 1815-1852)
Known chiefly for her work on the early mechanical computer known as the analytical engine, she is often described as the world’s first computer programmer.
E. M. Forster, novelist (lived 1879-1970)
Best known for his critiques of class in British society. His 1908 novel, A Room with a View, is his most optimistic work, while A Passage to India (1924) brought him his greatest success.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, US President 1933-1945 (lived 1882-1945)
FDR led the United States through worldwide economic depression and WWII. A popular figure in American politics, he was instrumental in building the ‘New Deal’ coalition that defined American liberalism for the 20th century.
Mahatma Gandhi, activist (lived 1869-1948)
Leader of the Indian Independence movement, Gandhi inspired civil rights and freedom movements across the world. India now describes him as father of the nation, with his birthday, 2 October, commemorated as a national holiday.
Eleanor Roosevelt, politician (lived 1884-1962)
A strong human rights activist, Roosevelt served as Chairwoman of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, and as first chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. She was also the longest-serving First Lady of all time.
Charles Lindberg, inventor (lived 1902-1974)
In ‘The Spirit of St Louis’, Lindbergh made the first nonstop flight from New York to Paris. Later a strong antiwar voice, prize-winning author and environmentalist.
Ansel Adams, environmentalist (lived 1902-1984)
Adams was a widely successful photographer, famed for his black-and-white photos of Yosemite National Park. Later a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he led a life guided by a sense of social responsibility to man.
Cary Grant, actor (lived 1904-1986)
Known for his dashing good looks as well as his acting talent. His best-known films include Bringing Up Baby (1938), The Philadelphia Story (1940), An Affair to Remember (1957), North by Northwest (1959), and Charade (1963). He was nominated for two Academy Awards and five Golden Globes for Best Actor.
Jean-Paul Sartre, philosopher (lived 1905-1980)
A key figure of existentialism, Sartre was one of the leaders of 20th century Marxism. Works in sociology, literary studies and as a novelist helped him to the 1964 Nobel Prize for Literature, which he turned down.
Enoch Powell, Minister of Health 1960-1963 (lived 1912-1998)
A politician most famous for his “Rivers of Blood” speech, in which he commented on the economic burden of immigration, Powell was also an active member of the intelligence services throughout WWII.
Gerald Ford, US President, 1974-1977 (lived 1913-2006)
The 38th President of the United States, Ford was instrumental during the Cold War, signing the Helsinki Accords to move towards a détente.
Frank Sinatra, singer, actor & director (lived 1915-1998)
One of the best-selling artists of all time, he won 11 Grammys, including the Lifetime Achievement Award, and was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor in the 1953 Academy Awards, and Best Actor in 1955.
Gregory Peck, actor (lived 1916-2003)
Recipient of the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as ‘Atticus Finch’ in To Kill a Mocking Bird, he was also nominated four further times. Following his glittering film career, Peck gave his life to humanitarian efforts, for which he was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1969.
Iris Murdoch, philosopher (lived 1919-1999)
Best known for her novels about sexual relationships and morality. Several accolades led to her being made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1987.
An actress in the 40s and 50s, Reagan married her husband Ronald in 1952. As First Lady she founded the ‘Just Say No’ drug prevention campaign, and is now active in support of embryonic stem cell research.
Alan Greenspan, economist (born 1926)
Chairman of the Federal Reserve from 1987-2006, Greenspan served with the second-longest tenure ever of the position.
Burt Bacarach, singer & actor (born 1928)
A three-time Academy Award winner and six-time Grammy winner, Bacharach is best known for his hit songs throughout the 50s and 60s as a duo with Hal David.
Frank Borman, astronaut (born 1928)
Former commander of Apollo 8, the first mission to fly around the moon, he also set a 14-day spaceflight endurance record as part of Gemini 7, before serving on various executive NASA boards.
James Dean, actor (lived 1931-1955)
A cultural icon whose life was cut short by a car accident, he is best known for his role as ‘Jim Stark’ in Rebel Without a Cause. He was the first actor to receive a posthumous Oscar nomination for Best Actor, and is the only actor to have received two posthumous nominations.
John Updike, author & poet (lived 1932-2009)
Famous for his Rabbit series, two of which were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, he is one of only three authors to win the prize for fiction more than once. As well as critiques, poetry and children’s books, he was a regular columnist for The New Yorker.
Elvis Presley, singer & actor (lived 1935-1977)
The King of Rock and Roll, and one of the biggest cultural icons of the 20th Century, his hit songs such as Blue Suede Shoes and Heartbreak Hotel propelled him to the accolade of best-selling solo artist in music history.
Anthony Hopkins, actor (born 1937)
A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), Hopkins won an Academy Award for his role as ‘Hannibal Lector’ in Silence of the Lambs, three BAFTAs and two Emmys, before being awarded a knighthood in 1993.
John Lennon, musician (lived 1940-1980)
Lennon was a founding member of the most successful band in history, the Beatles. He was also known for his political and peace activism, including boisterous criticism of the Vietnam War.
Robert De Niro, actor (born 1943)
De Niro’s works include the critically acclaimed Godfather series, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver and Cape Fear, all of which earned him Academy Award Nominations. Numerous Golden Globes, BAFTAs and other awards culminated in an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003.
Danielle Steel, novelist (born 1947)
The fourth best-selling author of all time, and currently the best-selling living author, her books have been translated into 28 languages, with 22 adapted for television, including two that have received Golden Globe nominations.
Robin Williams, actor (lived 1951-2014)
Originally a stand-up comedian, Williams rose to fame as ‘Mork’ in Mork and Mindy. Well-known for leading the comedy renaissance, and his off-the-wall improvisational skills, he also starred in acclaimed dramas such as Dead Poets Society, Awakenings and Good Will Hunting, for which he won Best Supporting Actor.
Pierce Brosnan, actor (born 1953)
As well as his well-known roles in the James Bond series, Dante’s Peak and Mamma Mia, Brosnan is a keen environmentalist and ambassador for UNICEF. He helped to launch the campaign ‘Unite for Children, Unite Against Aids’.
The first African American woman to hold the position of Secretary of State, and the first woman to serve as National Security Advisor, she was instrumental in fighting for more democratic and responsible governments across the world, particularly in the Middle East.
Nick Faldo, golfer (born 1957)
As well as his 40 professional wins, 30 of which came on the European Tour, Faldo has won six majors, both the Open and Masters three times. Perhaps the most successful English golfer of all time, he has spent a total of 97 weeks as world number 1.
Lenny Kravitz, musician (born 1964)
From 1999-2002 Kravitz won the Grammy Award for Best Male Vocal Performance for his retro and unique style. As well as receiving nominations for many other awards, he has now moved into acting, recently playing ‘Cinna’ in the Hunger Games films.
Kirsten Smith, writer (born 1970)
An American screenwriter and novelist, her scripts follow the ‘girl-power’ movement of the late 90s and early 2000s. Her films, such as 10 Things I Hate About You and Legally Blonde, are both critically and popularly acclaimed.
Christina Applegate, actor (born 1971)
Applegate was a child-actress who has built an established and glittering adult career. Applegate has won an Emmy as well as nominations for a Tony and Golden Globes. Best known for her roles in Anchorman and The Sweetest Thing, she has also starred in numerous Broadway hits.
Idris Elba, actor (born 1972)
A British actor and graduate of the National Youth Music Theatre, he is best known for his role as Nelson Mandela in The Long Walk to Freedom, and as a gritty detective in Luther. As well as spending time as a DJ and hip-hop/soul musician, Elba has been nominated for three Golden Globes, winning one for Best Actor.
Tiger Woods, golfer (born 1975)
One of the best golfers of all time, Woods has amassed 14 major titles and 79 PGA tour wins (second of all time).
Charlize Theron, actor (born 1975)
Star of films like The Cider House Rules and Mighty Joe Young, she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 2003 for her role in Monster. She received further nominations for her performance in North Country and Young Adult.
Alicia Keys, singer (born 1981)
A best-selling R&B artist, Keys has ben showered with musical awards, being only the second ever artist to win five Grammys in one night. Her 35 million album sales helped her to be number 14 on VH1’s list of ‘100 Greatest Women in Music’.
Natalie Portman, actor (born 1981)
A psychology graduate from Harvard and a successful actress, she has won awards for her roles in V for Vendetta, Black Swan and Closer, and as a director for Eve.
Chelsea Clinton, journalist and philanthropist (born 1985)
Daughter of former US President Bill Clinton and US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Chelsea was previously a special correspondent for NBC News, but is now a campaigner for both the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative.
Maria Sharapova, tennis player (born 1987)
A former world number one, currently ranked at number two, Sharapova has won four Grandslams, an Olympic Silver Medal, and is also a founder of the ‘Sugarpova’ sweets business.
Daniel Radcliffe, actor (born 1989)
Best-known for his role as Harry Potter in the hit films, Radcliffe has gone on to star on stage in Equus and in films such as Woman in Black and Kill Your Darlings. He also supports many charities, including the Demelza House Children’s Hospice and the Trevor Project.