Most people will agree that every country in the world has shaped history in some way. Why is it then that the majority of people I meet seem to be of the opinion that Belgium is the exception to this rule? Nothing is more likely to get my blood boiling than someone asking me "I bet you can't name me 10 famous Belgians". Yet, this tends to be the first question most Belgians get asked when they venture abroad.
What is behind this world-wide perception that there are no famous Belgians ? In most cases, people have heard of the names but will swear to you that they are either French or Dutch.
Other people remain convinced that Belgium has never produced anyone significant. They will tell you that Belgium is famous for its products, rather than its people, and therefore they will tend to be more enthusiastic about Belgian beer, waffles and chocolates.
We probably could have survived without Hercule Poirot but what about the saxophone, the internal combustion engine, the stroboscope, bakelite, road asphalt or the Big Bang? These are all Belgian inventions / discoveries which have had a very significant impact on civilisation over the years.
Belgians have been shaping the world in many areas. The Nobel Prize for Peace has been won by Belgians three times. Albert Claude was the first scientist to isolate a cancer cell and Georges Lemaitre provided us with the Big Bang theory. Father Damien is well-known in America for his work in a leper colony on the island of Molokai in Hawaii, the Vatican has confirmed that he will be made a Saint.
Since Belgium's independence in 1830 and before, Belgians have been influencing and promoting the arts, science, sport, religion, peace, music, literature and industry. For a small country that has only been around since 1830, I think you'll agree, we haven't made a bad start. So next time someone asks you "the question", send them on a Famous Belgian refresher course and refer them to our website.
We need your help
We want all visitors to this website to feel they can participate in the development of the site and we welcome all sensible comments and debate, positive or negative. If you have thought of a famous Belgian that is not on the list or simply want to share your views with us and visitors to this website, please Contact Us.
With your help, the list can be improved and expanded for all the world to see. The best comments and suggestions from visitors will be published weekly in our Blog. You can now also follow us on Twitter.
This week, you can vote for the following people to be added to the list. Which of them are worthy? Before voting, go to our Latest Additions page to read background information on each of them.
If you have enjoyed browsing through our website and would like to help financially, all donations no matter how large or small are gratefully received. They will help pay for the costs of maintaining this website. All donations of $5 or more will get a mention in our Blog, unless you tell us you wish to remain anonymous.