33 Most Famous Left-Handers in History
Some of the world's best guitarists honed their craft with their left hands.
It’s not always easy being a left-handed person in a right-handed world. In fact, only around 10 percent of the population is left-handed, which means that most things are designed for righties, leaving lefties to fend for themselves.
But being left-handed doesn’t have to stand in the way of anyone’s success. Actually, some of the world’s most accomplished people—including guitarist Jimi Hendrix, artist Leonardo da Vinci, and former President Barack Obama—are lefties. Find out who else is in the left-hander’s club with our list of the 33 most famous lefties in history.
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci is probably one of the most famous left-handed artists of all time. According to the Museum of Science, da Vinci was known for his mirror writing, a type of coded script in which he wrote his text backward—something he might’ve done because writing in ink from left to right was too messy as a lefty.
“Historians have suggested that da Vinci’s left-handedness added to his genius because it forced him to think and see in an extraordinary way,” write the editors of Time. However, according to a 2019 study by Italy’s Uffizi Gallery, da Vinci may have actually been ambidextrous. Either way, he definitely preferred to write with his left.
According to Time, left-hander Napoleon “objected to the time-honored military practice of marching on the left side of the road with weapons at the ready in the right hand: it put lefties like him at a strategic disadvantage.”
When he was able to have his way, he had his army switch sides and walk on the right. The same rule went for everyday folks, which apparently led to modern rules of the road and “also explains why the British … still drive on the left.”
When Barack Obama signed his first executive order on January 20, 2009, he joked, “That’s right, I’m a lefty, get used to it.” But having a southpaw in the Oval Office is nothing new. Several former U.S. presidents, including James Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, were all left-handed.
When she’s not leading her media empire, Oprah Winfrey likes to spend her time in the kitchen cooking delicious foods, such as Challah French toast, sweet potatoes gratin, and cranberry sauce. And if you look closely at the photos and videos of her whipping up these tasty treats, you’ll notice that she always uses her left hand!
It turns out, the British royal family produces a lot of lefties. In addition to Prince William, Queen Victoria, King George VI, the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and Prince George are also left-handed.
If you ever run into Academy Award- and Golden Globe Award-winning actress Angelina Jolie, you might find yourself starstruck. But if you manage to pull yourself together enough to request an autograph, you’ll notice that she’ll sign her name with her left hand.
Just as Reeves uses his right hand to play the bass, Lady Gaga uses her right hand when she plays guitar (and keytar) even though she’s naturally a southpaw. However, when the actress and singer signs a contract or applies her makeup, she uses her more dominant left hand.
“There’s a little bit of higher variance of talent, high and low, for left-handers. But it’s never been explained,” said Microsoft founder Bill Gates, according to The Economic Times. And he may have a point, considering that other innovative entrepreneurs like Amar Bose, the founder of Bose, and Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, are left-handed, as was Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
Jimi Hendrix is often recognized as one of the best guitar players of all time—and that’s despite the fact that he refused to use the instrument as it was intended.
“The six-string revolutionary favored a right-handed Fender Stratocaster, slung upside-down across his shoulders, that didn’t even need to be restrung,” according to Time. “Hendrix taught himself how to hit the strings in reverse order, producing a unique sound and allowing him to alternate between left- and right-handed playing if he so desired. (He could play right-handed but generally preferred not to).”
Although Charlie Chaplin was primarily known for his silent film-era comedy, the performer could occasionally be seen onscreen with a violin in his hands. And any fans paying attention probably noticed that he always used his left hand to play. In fact, Stan Laurel, a fellow performer, recalled that during a U.S. tour in 1912, Chaplin had the strings on his violin “reversed so he could play left-handed.”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg continues to create an inspiring and enduring political legacy. In 2018’s RBG, a documentary about her life, viewers can see Ginsberg hard at work, usually with a pen in her left hand.
Hollywood legend Morgan Freeman, who’s played everyone from the chauffeur in Driving Miss Daisy to God himself in Bruce Almighty, is also left-handed naturally.
In 2008, however, he broke his left shoulder, elbow, and arm in a car accident that also paralyzed his left hand. The traumatic event forced Freeman to make some serious changes, including his hobbies of horseback riding, flying jets, and golf, which he now plays one-handed.
Lewis Carroll was the author of several famous novels, such as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, which whisked readers into fictional realms filled with whimsical fantasies. And it turns out, he was crafting each beautifully bizarre story with his left hand. According to Cliffnotes, “Carroll was, seemingly, the archetype of the left-handed man in a right-handed world, like his own White Knight in Through the Looking Glass.”
Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc went down in history as a lefty—and an analysis of her signature found that she most likely was. However, it’s also been suggested that the religious rebel might have been deemed a lefty to pit people against her.
According to Right, Left, Right, Wrong!, “at that time witches and heretics were usually depicted as left-handed—considered by the church to be the mark of the devil—whether they were or not.” And that might have been what happened to Joan of Arc.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a musical genius who also happened to be left-handed. According to Concordia University-Portland, “The prolific Austrian artist and composer whose operas, concertos, symphonies, and sonatas profoundly shaped classical music did it all with a dominant left hand.”
“Blind, deaf, and left-handed, literally nothing could hold Helen Keller back,” according to Concordia University. Despite facing major obstacles during her lifetime, Keller is another lefty whose story will remain an enduring inspiration.
Some of the most famous baseball players of all time, including Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Sandy Koufax, and Barry Bonds, were left-handed. So it’s no surprise that Babe Ruth, one of the top sluggers to ever hit homers in the MLB, was also a lefty.
Marie and Pierre Curie
Nobel Prize-winning scientists and married couple Marie and Pierre Curie were not only incredibly smart, but they were also both left-handed. According to Time, their daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, who earned her own Nobel Prize for her studies in artificial radioactivity, was also thought to be left-handed, as was her husband, Frédéric Joliot-Curie.
Leonardo da Vinci wasn’t the only famous artist who was born a lefty. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Although there is no doubt that almost all of [Michelangelo Buonarroti’s] well-attributed drawings were drawn with the right hand … it has been often neglected in the literature that he was an innate left-hander.” According to their research, the artist “trained himself from a young age to become right-handed.” He apparently only used his dominant left hand while working with mediums that required force, “such as hammering, carving, and chiseling marble.”
Aristotle lived between 384 B.C. and 322 B.C.—and during that time, the Greek thinker wrote his mind-bending and perspective-piquing philosophical ideas with his left hand, according to Concordia University.
Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission—and, like many other astronauts at the time, he was left-handed. According to NASA, among the Apollo astronauts, “over twice what the percentages would predict” were left-handed—which, they note, is particularly unexpected due to the fact that “it is more convenient for test pilots to be right-handed.”
British superstar Annie Lennox brought the world beloved songs like “No More ‘I Love You’s’” and “Walking on Broken Glass.” She’s also another famous singer who uses her left hand, whether she’s autographing a poster or writing on a guitar.
Director, producer, and writer Spike Lee is responsible for groundbreaking films, including 1986’s She’s Gotta Have It, 1991’s Jungle Fever, 1992’s Malcolm X, and 2018’s BlacKkKlansman.
When putting his name on a DVD version of 1989’s Do the Right Thing, he jotted down his signature with his left hand, proving that he’s just a lefty, doing the left thing.
Early 20th century comedian Harpo Marx had a rather apt professional name. Fans, of course, know he often performed on the harp (thus, Harpo). But what some might not have noticed is that he used a left-handed instrument, which he taught himself to play even though he couldn’t read music.
Back in September 1939, Wizard of Oz actress Judy Garland and fellow star Mickey Rooney signed their names in cement following the first Screen Guild Theatre broadcast at the Earl Carroll Theatre in Hollywood, California. When Garland added her signature, she was photographed using her left hand.
According to The New York Times, Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator, politician, and military general who lived from 100 B.C. to 44 B.C., was left-handed.
Celine Dion—the voice behind beloved ballads like “The Power of Love,” “Because You Loved Me,” “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” and “My Heart Will Go On”—is one of the most legendary singers of all time. And each time she belts out one of her hits, the left-handed singer holds the mic in her left hand.
In addition to Hendrix, more of the best guitar players out there are lefties, including Paul McCartney. The Beatles’ Ringo Starr is also left-handed but played on a right-handed drum kit.
When the media chastised Kurt Cobain for using low-end instruments, the Nirvana frontman fired back and explained that his choices were motivated by the fact that he was a lefty, according to The Complete History of Guitar World.
“I’m left-handed, and it’s not very easy to find reasonably priced, high-quality left-handed guitars,” he told Guitar World.
According to Penn State, 50 percent of left-handers play the guitar in the right-handed position. And that was certainly true of David Bowie, who wrote timeless tunes like “Heroes,” “Rebel Rebel,” and “Ziggy Stardust” with his non-dominant hand.
Roman Catholic nun Mother Teresa is known for many things, one of which is being left-handed. In photographs of her signing documents (like this one), she can be seen using her left hand.
Gordon Ramsay is one of the most famous celebrity chefs around. And if you’ve ever seen him work his culinary magic, you might have noticed that while he’s slicing and dicing, he’s using his left (and more dominant) hand. And while some lefties who work in restaurants say it can be a challenge, Ramsay seems to be doing just fine. And for more people who’ve had an impact on the world, check out these 40 World-Famous A-Listers Who Didn’t Become Famous Until After 40.
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