Lots of prominent men in history excelled enough in their accomplishments that posterity has acknowledged them as “Great.” This obviously includes rulers such as Alexander the Great, Peter the Great, or lesser-known kings like Alfred and Darius. But even in modern times, non-royals who have risen to prominence in their fields have been known as Great Ones — just ask hockey legend Wayne Gretzky or classic TV funnyman Jackie Gleason.
Meanwhile, it seems a shame that almost no famous or powerful women have earned such an appellation throughout history. But Russia’s Catherine the Great sure did.
Although her name and legacy have been somewhat tarnished by salacious and slanderous rumors, and further clouded by popular comedic shows such as The Great, history rightly remembers this extraordinary empress as a largely enlightened ruler for the time. And although she had her faults, she also was a supporter and ally of the most advanced science of her age. Here’s what we know about Catherine the Great.