Famous people from Brussels


A native of Brussels, Vesalius was an author of the first complete textbook on the structure of the human body, 'De Humani Corporis Fabrica' (On the Workings of the Human Body), and he’s often called the father of human anatomy. Born to a family of physicians who served the Holy Roman Emperor at the time, he studied medicine in Paris, then at the University of Louvain, and eventually received his doctorate from the University of Padua in 1537,
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If I were to write a biography, it would start like this: I was born in Brussels, Belgium, on May 4, 1929... and I died six weeks later.

The graceful actress and much loved humanitarian won a name for herself in 'Roman Holiday' (1953), her first Hollywood film. For her performance as Princess Ann she received the Best Actress Academy Award. Hepburn continued to adorn the screen with her inimitable charm in 'Sabrina' (1954),
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This French sculptor is especially famous for such works as 'The Thinker' (1904), 'The Kiss' (1898) and many statues of renowned people of his time, including Balzac. Born, raised and educated in Paris, in 1866 he set out his first sculpture for exhibition. At that time, he also joined Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, a mass producer of objects d'art, and worked as a chief assistant in his studio until 1870. During the Franco-Prussian War, Rodin served briefly in the National Guard.
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This famous Belgian musicologist of the 19th Century served as the chapelmaster for King Leopold I. He was born in Mons in the province of Hainaut, and showed musical talent from his early years, becoming an organist for the local church at the age of nine. From 1800, he studied at the Paris Conservatory under such famous names as Boïeldieu and Jean-Baptiste Rey. In 1821, he was appointed professor there. François-Joseph Fétis revised the Roman liturgical chants,
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Born Georges Prosper Remi, though widely recognised by his pen name, Hergé, he devoted many years of his life to 'The Adventures of Tintin', a series of Belgian comic books that he illustrated. He spent his childhood, which was interrupted by World War I, in the municipality of Etterbeek, in Brussels, showing a talent for drawing from his early years. His first pictures were regularly published in the early 1920s in a Scout magazine, as Hergé was a Scout himself,
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In my eyes Brussels has always been a tramway. I used to have to ride the tram for one hour and a half every morning and night. And it was always raining.

Brel is hailed as one of the most superb modern French-language singers and songwriters, and a passionate live performer. He got his first hit 'Quand on n'a que l'amour' in 1956 and throughout the rest of the 1950s and 1960s pursued successful recording and touring career.
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I was running my karate school and weight gym in Brussels in 1983, and I decided that it was time for me to put into action all the philosophy, confidence and faith I had in myself, that I had learned through training in the dojo.

Called by his fans “The Muscles from Brussels,” this internationally known actor in action films was born and raised in the capital city of Belgium. When he turned 10,
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Famous as the Singing Nun, Sister Luc Gabriel of the Dominican Convent had a musical career, reaching the top of the charts in the USA. She was born in Wavre, near Brussels, as Jeanne-Paule Marie Deckers, and not much is known about her younger years, before she joined the convent. There, she came to be known for singing and playing the guitar, and the other nuns encouraged her to record an album. Released in 1963, it featured the hit 'Dominique',
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This Flemish mathematician is world-famous to this day for the Body Mass Index that he developed, though he also had much influence upon criminology and statistics. Born in Ghent, he studied mathematics and, after receiving a doctorate in 1819 from the University of Ghent, he went to Brussels, where he convinced local officials to build an astronomical observatory, of which he became the director in 1832. Quetelet was also deeply interested in sociology, and in his work 'Treatise on Man',
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Known as the first king of the Belgians, Leopold ruled between 1831 and 1865. He was born in Coburg, Bavaria, and became a prince of the two German duchies of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha early in his life. He was only a five-year-old child when he was appointed colonel of the Izmailovski Imperial Regiment in Russia. He could have started a military career with Napoleon, who offered him the position of adjutant in Paris in 1806, but young Leopold chose to serve in the Imperial Russian cavalry instead,
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Born in Brussels as Elisabeth Claiborne Ortenberg, she’s a popular fashion designer and owner of an extremely successful apparel manufacturing company. In 1939, her family immigrated to the USA and settled in New Orleans, where Liz attended a Catholic school. Later, her father sent her back to Europe to study art in Belgium and France. In 1949, as a winner of the Jacques Heim National Design Contest for the best sketch of a woman's coat, she moved to New York City to work at the Tina Leser sportswear house.
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This dancer, choreographer and artist was born in the Brussels-Capital Region as Marguerite Acarin, though throughout her life she was recognised by her stage name, Akarova, not to mention other titles such as ‘the Belgian Isadora Duncan’; she was often compared to this American mother of Modern Dance. After studying music and dance, Akarova went to Antwerp to join the ballet. The turning point in her professional and private life came in 1922, when at a meeting organised by Isadora Duncan's brother Raymond,
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The passion and snobbery to acquire a name and a title flourishes here [in Brussels] like nowhere else.

An admired French language writer of international renown, Yourcenar was born Marguerite de Crayencour in Brussels. She wrote many novels and short stories, several plays, poetry, critical essays as well as three volumes of memoirs. Her first novel was 'Alexis' (1929). In 1951 she published one of her better known historical novels, 'Memoirs of Hadrian', which was an instant success.
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I was always getting kicked out of schools, so I lived with various relatives from time to time, including my grandfather in the Bauchau chateau.

Patrick Bauchau is a popular actor who started his career in French New Wave cinema. Born and raised in Brussels, he also spent some time in Switzerland and later in the UK, when he attended Oxford University on an academic scholarship. He studied Modern Languages, and is a true polyglot,
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Pierre Culliford, widely known under his artistic nickname Peyo, was born in Brussels. He was a cartoonist famed for creating the 'Smurfs' comic strip. The little blue dwarves first came on screen in 1958 as “side characters” in one of the episodes of Peyo's early cartoon J'ohan & Pirlouit'. Their first solo appearance was a year later. From then on, Smurfs' triumphal success was unstoppable. The American Hanna-Barbera Studios produced 250 animated cartoons that were telecast throughout the world and gained enormous popularity.
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This native of Brussels was a renowned cyclist and three-time champion of the Tour de France. It was in 1910 that Thys first won the national cycle-cross championship for Belgium. At the age of 22, he won the Tour de France for the first time, which makes him one of the youngest winners of this race ever. His second victory came a year later, as Thys wanted to defend his title. His great career was brutally interrupted by World War I,
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This native of Brussels is a race driver, and was a famous member of a couple of Formula One teams. Thierry Boutsen started his racing career in 1977, when he entered the Formula Ford and scored 15 victories in 18 races until 1979, when he moved to the Formula 3. Two years later, he raced in the Formula 2. In 1983, Boutsen made his debut in the Formula 1. All in all, he spent 10 years racing in a Formula 1 cockpit for the Arrows,
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I was born in 1922, on the 29th of April, on Hoogstraat in Brussels. My mother was born in Antwerp, and the Thielemans family lived at the Zavel (Sablon), the old part of Brussels. At that time I wasn't Toots, I was 'Jeanke'.

Jean Toots Thielemans is a Belgian jazz musician, a virtuoso harmonica player known in many corners of the world. Born in Brussels, where his parents ran a pub, he’s said to have played the accordion since the age of three.
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Horta was a crucial Belgian architect, being a great representative of European Art Nouveau. He was born in Ghent, where he studied architecture, drawing and textiles at the Ghent Academie des Beaux Arts. After graduating, he left for Paris to work as an interior designer. Upon his return to Belgium, he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts and worked for classical architect Alphons Balat, until he started his own practice. In 1885, he designed his first three houses,
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