9 famous Swiss people you need to know
Published on September 6, 2023 / Updated on September 8, 2023
Many famous Swiss people have had a profound impact on the world outside their mountainous Central European country. From athletes to scientists, from writers to film stars, Switzerland has produced personalities that have influenced global culture and spurred innovation. So, let’s look at nine famous Swiss people who changed the world.
Born in 1887 in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Le Corbusier went on to become one of the most famous and influential Modernist architects in the world. However, his artistic talents were even more wide-ranging. He was also a sculptor and painter renowned for creating enamels and tapestries. Seventeen of his projects are on the UNESCO World Heritage List, including the stunning Villa Le Lac on Lake Geneva and La Tourette near Lyon.
Although Einstein was born in neighboring Germany, he lived in Switzerland for many years and even gained Swiss citizenship in 1901. He developed his famous theory of relativity in Bern in 1905. Before this, he also studied in Zurich and later reflected on his years there as some of the happiest of his life.
Turning now to show business, we have Ursula Andress. This German-speaking Swiss actress captured hearts globally when she starred opposite Sean Connery as the first Bond girl in the 1962 spy film Dr. No. Andress became a pin-up icon and went on to star in other movies through the 1960s and 1970s, including Woody Allen’s 1965 screwball comedy What’s New Pussycat?.
Rousseau is a renowned philosopher and is also one of the most famous people to renounce their Swiss citizenship. Born in Geneva in 1712, Rousseau was interested in political philosophy and moral psychology. He focused a great deal of his intellectual energy on the idea of preserving human freedom.
Two of Rousseau’s most famous works, Émile and The Social Contract, were condemned in Geneva for religious heterodoxy. In response, Rousseau gave up his citizenship and fled the country to escape arrest.
Author Johanna Spyri’s fame is often eclipsed by that of her best-known fictional character, Heidi. Born in 1827 in rural Switzerland, Spyri published Heidi while living in Zurich between 1880 and 1881. “Heidi” has since been translated into 50 languages and retains its status as a beloved children’s novel to this today.
Jean Piaget was a Swiss psychologist who had a remarkable influence on the way we view child development. He studied the natural sciences and received a doctorate in zoology before turning to psychology. Through his research, he identified different stages of cognitive development in children, reinforcing the theory that children think differently from adults.
At number seven, we have Martina Hingis, one of Switzerland’s most famous tennis players. Though Hingis was born in Slovakia, she moved to Switzerland when she was a seven-year-old tennis prodigy. At the age of 16, she became the youngest player to ever win a Grand Slam in the Open Era and is the youngest person ever to be ranked world number one.
Staying with tennis, Roger Federer is one of the most famous people from Switzerland and one of the most recognizable sports stars in the world. Federer is often regarded as the greatest tennis player of all time, having won 20 Grand Slam singles championships as well as countless other awards. He is also multilingual and speaks German, French and English.
Born in 1917 in the canton of Bern, Gosteli is one of Switzerland’s most famous feminists. She campaigned tirelessly for women’s suffrage at a federal level in Switzerland, which was finally granted in 1971 (Switzerland was the last country in Europe to grant women the right to vote!). Gosteli also set up the Marthe Gosteli Foundation, an important women’s rights organization in the country.
Whether you’re planning a trip or you’re simply curious to know more about Switzerland’s impact on the world, try to learn a little more about the country’s most famous citizens. There are famous people born in Switzerland, like Roger Federer and Martha Gosteli, and others who made Switzerland their home, such as Martina Hingis and Albert Einstein. Learning more about these famous Swiss people gives you a glimpse into the nation’s history and culture.