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Original photo by Philip Reeve/ Shutterstock
7 Famous Lefties in History
Read Time: 5m
Article image
Original photo by Philip Reeve/ Shutterstock

At only about 10% of the global population, left-handed people are definitely in the minority. But even though left-handers are few and far between, some of society's most notable figures have written, thrown a ball, or played an instrument with their left hand. There are even some famous fictional characters who are avowed southpaws, including Ned Flanders from The Simpsons, who runs a store, the Leftorium, catering to left-handed people. As we celebrate International Left Handers Day — a holiday that falls each August 13 — let's get to know a little more about some of the most prominent lefties throughout history.

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Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci statue in Firenze, Italia.
Credit: IPGG/ Shutterstock

Though there's some argument over whether Leonardo da Vinci was exclusively a lefty or actually ambidextrous, his peers referred to him by the term "mancino," which is Italian slang for a left-hander. Leonardo was known for a unique style of taking notes, referred to as "mirror writing," in which he wrote from right to left. (One theory is that the method was meant to avoid ink smudges with his left hand.) His left-handedness also now plays a key role in authenticating his drawings, as experts often look for signs of left-handed strokes and slants in order to confirm whether a piece is a genuine Leonardo da Vinci work. While the Renaissance polymath embraced being a lefty, one of his contemporaries defied it — Michelangelo actually retrained himself to write and draw with his right hand instead of accepting his natural left-handedness.

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Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth smacks pout a few homers in practice before game.
Credit: Bettmann via Getty Images

Known for being arguably the greatest baseball slugger of all time, the left-handed-hitting Babe Ruth began his career as one of the most dominant southpaw pitchers of the 1910s. Ruth switched to the outfield after being sold from the Boston Red Sox to the New York Yankees, where his lefty power stroke earned him nicknames like the "Great Bambino" and "Sultan of Swat." All told, Ruth socked 714 homers during his illustrious career, good enough for third place behind the scandal-plagued Barry Bonds and legendary Hank Aaron. On rare occasions, Ruth would experiment with batting right-handed, though his success from that side was limited.

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Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix (1942 - 1970) caught mid guitar-break during his performance.
Credit: Evening Standard/ Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Revered as one of the greatest guitar virtuosos in rock history, Hendrix made the unique choice to play a right-handed guitar upside down in order to accommodate his left-handed proclivities (although he also performed some tasks with his right hand). His father, Al, forced Jimi to play guitar right-handed, because he believed that left-handedness had sinister connotations (a belief that was once common — the word “sinister” comes from Latin meaning “on the left side”). While Jimi did his best to oblige his father when Al was present, he would flip the guitar as soon as his dad left the room, and he also had it restrung to more easily be played left-handed. Hendrix isn't the only legendary lefty rocker: Paul McCartney of the Beatles and Nirvana's Kurt Cobain also strummed their guitars with their left hands.

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Marie Curie

Marie Curie (1867-1934), Polish-French physicist who won two Nobel Prizes.
Credit: Everett Collection/ Shutterstock

Given the fact that men are more likely to be left-handed than women, this list has been sorely lacking thus far in terms of famous females. One of history's greatest left-handers, however, was none other than the groundbreaking scientist Marie Curie. A Nobel Prize winner, Curie helped to discover the principles of radioactivity and was the matriarch of a family full of lefty scientists; her husband Pierre and daughter Irene also possessed the trait. Left-handedness is surprisingly common among well-known scientists even outside of the Curie family — Sir Isaac Newton and computer scientist Alan Turing were southpaws too.

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Neil Armstrong

Astronaut Neil Armstrong smiles inside the Lunar Module.
Credit: NASA/ Hulton Archive via Getty Images

According to NASA, more than 20% of Apollo astronauts were lefties, which makes them more than twice as likely to be left-handed compared to the average person. Neil Armstrong was no exception to this statistical oddity — the first man to walk on the moon was indeed left-handed. Needless to say, Armstrong's left-handedness was truly out of this world.

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Barack Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama waves after he spoke to the American people.
Credit: Alex Wong/ Getty Images News via Getty Images

The 44th President of the United States was the eighth left-handed individual to hold said office, though prior to the 20th century, only President James Garfield is known to have been a lefty. Lefties were elected to the presidency more frequently beginning in 1929 with Herbert Hoover: Six Presidents since have been left-handed, including a run of three straight with Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. While signing his first executive order in 2009, Obama quipped: "That's right. I'm a lefty. Get used to it." Presidential left-handedness may not be a coincidence — some experts believe that lefties have a stronger penchant for language skills, which could help their rhetoric on the campaign trail.

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Queen Victoria (And Other Members of the Royal Family)

Statue of Queen Victoria.
Credit: Philip Reeve/ Shutterstock

England's great monarch Queen Victoria (who ruled 1837-1901) was known for her left-handedness. Though she was trained to write with her right hand, she would often paint with her natural left. She's just one of a few members of the royal family with the trait. Victoria's great-grandson, King George VI — as well as George's wife, Elizabeth — were also regal lefties, and George's left-handedness was often prominently on display while playing tennis, one of his favorite hobbies. Two current heirs to the throne and presumed future kings are also proud lefties: Prince William has joked that "left-handers have better brains," and his young son George has shown a penchant for using his left hand while doing everything from clutching toys to waving at adoring fans.