Famous People Born in the Chinese Zodiac Year of the Snake

February 9, 2013 7:00 pm Last Updated: October 1, 2015 11:12 am
LINCOLN statue
A life size statue of US President Abraham Lincoln at the entrance to his summer retreat where he lived during a quarter of his presidency (Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

The snake ranks sixth of all the animals in the Chinese zodiac. People born in the Year of the Snake are considered the most intuitive, even while remaining the most private and reticent. They are intelligent and wise, and are usually regarded as great thinkers. Following are some famous people who were born in a Year of the Snake.

Emperor Kang Xi, 1654–1722, China

Born on May 4, 1654, Kang Xi, the son of Emperor Shun Zhi of the Qing Dynasty, ascended to the Chinese throne when he was 7 or 8 years old. He died in 1722 after ruling China for 61 years, making him the longest reigning monarch in Chinese history.

When he was old enough to rule the country, he made an attempt to stabilize the Chinese empire by suppressing revolutions and controlling the Manchu hierarchy. Later on in his life, he turned his attention on economic issues. 

During his rule, Kang Xi helped publish some 60 books, maps, calendars, including the famed Kangxi Dictionary—the standard dictionary of Chinese used in the 1700s and 1800s. 



Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749–1832, Germany

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, simply referred to as Goethe, is primarily known as the author of “Faust,” a renowned piece of German literature, but was also a politician, poet, playwright, and a scientist.

“Faust,” the two-piece drama about a scholar who makes a pact with the devil after he derived no fulfillment in his life, is considered one of the most important pieces of world literature. 

Goethe’s scientific writing focused mainly on color and optics, publishing his Theory of Colours in 1810, and has been described as one of the earliest writers to analyze the potential impacts of the Industrial Revolution.

Franz Schubert, 1797–1828, Austria

In his lifetime, Austrian composer Franz Schubert composed more than 600 pieces of music, including nine symphonies, several operas, and others. He is often described as one of the earliest composers of Romantic music.

He didn’t live very long, dying at the age of 32 obscurity, and did not receive much recognition during his lifetime. It wasn’t until decades after his death that interest in his work grew. 

His more famous pieces include “Die Winterreise,” “Die schöne Müllerin,” and his “Great C Major” symphony. 

Abraham Lincoln, 1809–1865, United States

The 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, is often described as the greatest president in U.S. history, with his face adorning the penny and the $5 bill. 

He is credited with preserving the Union during the Civil War and issued the Emancipation Proclamation, allowing those who were enslaved in Confederate territory to be freed.

After the Civil War ended, he stated: “These dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” 

Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865.

Alfred Nobel, 1833–1896, Sweden

Born in Sweden in 1833, Alfred Bernhard Nobel is best known for creating the award that bears his namesake: the Nobel Prize.

But he also was the inventor of dynamite, the versatile explosive used in a variety of industries.

During his lifetime as an arms manufacturer, Nobel amassed a large personal fortune. However, he was concerned that after his death, his legacy would be that of a “merchant of death,” as he was described in a headline by a French newspaper in 1888.

“Dr. Alfred Nobel, who made his fortune by finding a way to kill the most people as ever before in the shortest time possible, died yesterday,” the newspaper wrote in an obituary mistakenly written for Alfred, after his brother Ludvig died.

This description prompted him to leave most of his fortune behind for the creation of the annual Nobel Prizes. The prestigious awards are issued for literature, medicine, physics, peace, chemistry, and economics. 

Gandhi, 1869–1948, India

Mohandas Gandhi’s surname is synonymous with nonviolence and civil disobedience, leading India to independence against the British during the early half of the 20th century.

During the early 1900s, Gandhi began his activism while living in South Africa, then a British colony. Following World War I, he became a the most visible figure in India’s attempts towards gaining independence.

He is particularly known for his austere lifestyle, usually dressed only in a loincloth and a shawl—the simple clothes of a villager. He also fasted for personal purification and for hunger strikes.

After India and Pakistan were divided in 1947, Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist.