Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, composer, and writer. His political philosophy influenced aspects of the French Revolution. He also helped develop modern economic, political, and educational thought. His writing inspired a transformation in French drama and poetry. His works also influenced such writers around the world as Tolstoy. His works as a composer were acknowledged by composers like Mozart.
German-born Swiss poet, novelist, and painter Hermann Hesse received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1946. He explored individuals’ search for authenticity, self-knowledge, and spirituality in his works. An intense and headstrong person from childhood, he developed an early interest in reading. He started writing as a young man and became an influential author in the German-speaking world.
Best known for his History Channel show Ancient Aliens, Swiss ufologist Giorgio A. Tsoukalos is a major supporter of the Ancient Astronaut Theory. One of the few people to have conducted alien-related expeditions to remote areas of the Earth, he was, surprisingly, a bodybuilding promoter in his early days.
Initially a hotel operator, Erich von Däniken is now known for his bestselling books such as Chariots of the Gods? and Twilight of the Gods. He has also co-founded AAS RA, a research organization, and has appeared on shows such as Ancient Aliens, propagating the Ancient Astronaut theory.
Swiss-born British philosopher and author, Alain de Botto,n is best known for his work, Essays in Love, which has sold millions of copies worldwide. He is one of the founders of the educational company, The School of Life, launched in 2008. He is a recipient of "The Fellowship of Schopenhauer", an annual writers' award from the Melbourne Writers Festival.
Sean Hepburn Ferrer is an American author and film producer who has worked on films, such as Inchon and Blood In Blood Out. Also known for his charity work, Sean established the Audrey Hepburn Children's Fund a year after Audrey Hepburn's death. In 2020, he published a children's book, with the proceeds benefitting the European Organisation for Rare Diseases.
Swiss academic Tariq Ramadan made headlines when he was accused of raping several women, including a disabled lady. He was also fined for revealing the name of one of his alleged victims in a book and an interview. The former Oxford professor had previously established Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.
Better known as Carl Jung’s wife, Emma Jung was the daughter of one of the most affluent businessmen in Switzerland. Though she initially wished to study natural sciences, being a woman in her time, she couldn’t. Later a co-owner of a luxury watch company, she helped her husband financially in his career.
Initially an academic who studied subjects such as philology, literature, and natural sciences, Friedrich Dürrenmatt later decided to start a career as a full-time author. Part of the post-war revival of German theater, his tragicomic plays, such as The Physicists and The Visit, had a satiric flavor.
Johanna Spyri made a significant contribution to children’s literature with her novel Heidi. After the death of her husband and her child, the Swiss author focused on charitable causes. A professor later claimed Heidi had been plagiarized by Spyri, though later studies proved the claim was baseless.
Swiss-French activist and author Benjamin Constant is best remembered for penning the classic French novel Adolphe, which was one of the earliest psychological novels. Initially the chamberlain to the duke of Brunswick, he later supported the French Revolution and became a Member of the Chamber of Deputies.
Jerusalem Prize-winning Swiss playwright and novelist Max Frisch had initially quit his studies in literature to become a journalist. He later also worked as an architect, before taking to writing full-time. He is known for his works such as Andorra and Santa Cruz and his frequent use of irony.
One of the most significant 20th-century typographers from Switzerland, Adrian Frutiger is best remembered for creating the Univers typeface, among other sans-serif typefaces. He later also worked with ECMA to create the machine-readable typeface OCR-B, a standard for barcodes and ISBN numbers worldwide, including codes in Swiss ID cards.
Apart from being a renowned psychologist, Alice Miller became an international sensation with her debut book, The Drama of the Gifted Child, a bestseller. A Holocaust survivor, who had lost her father in a Jewish ghetto, she analyzed child abuse, including education, violence, and parental abuse.
Swiss-born German philosopher and metaphysician Frithjof Schuon was a major figure of the Traditionalist School of thought. He also propagated Religio Perennis and wrote extensively about his belief in God, the absolute principle. Most of his work was penned in French and very few in his mother tongue, German.
Swiss-born Cuban author Alejo Carpentier is regarded as one of the greatest Latin American literary personalities. The Cervantes Prize-winning writer was one of the pioneers of magic realism. Known for novels such as The Lost Steps, he also contributed to the Afro-Cuban movement and was the Cuban ambassador to France.
Though a qualified lawyer, Joel Dicker soared to fame with his French thriller novel La Vérité sur l’Affaire Harry Quebert, which became a bestseller and was translated into over 30 languages. The novel later won him awards such as the Grand Prix du Roman and was made into a TV mini-series.
A Swiss cultural icon, journalist and photographer Annemarie Schwarzenbach was raised by a bisexual mother, who was an Olympic equestrian. Known for her signature androgynous style of dressing up, Annemarie was herself openly lesbian. She traveled the world, clicking major events but died in a bicycle accident at 34.
French-speaking Swiss poet Blaise Cendrars was a regular at the artists’ colony known as The Beehive. Remembered for his novels such as Bourlinguer and his poems such as Pâques à New York, he mostly included autobiographical elements in his works, such as his experiences at the front lines for the French army.
Swiss reformer Heinrich Bullinger is remembered for his role in the spread of Zwinglianism, or the teachings of reformer Huldrych Zwingli. He later succeeded Zwingli in Zurich. He also played a major role in the First and Second Helvetic Confession and in bringing about the Reformed tradition.
Best known for his classic The Swiss Family Robinson, originally written in German, Swiss author and pastor Johann David Wyss was apparently inspired by Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and decided to write a tale for his sons. The book was later edited and illustrated by 2 of his sons.
Best known for his research on physiognomy, Johann Kaspar Lavater was also a theologian and an author. He had penned books such as Aussichten in die Ewigkeit and several epic and lyric poems. He died of a grenade wound during the French occupation of Switzerland.
Born to a father who worked for a publishing company, Christian Kracht grew up to become a journalist. His work took him to places such as India and Thailand, and he later included the theme of travel in his books such as Faserland. He is married to German director Frauke Finsterwalder.
Not many know that people who stammer and stutter have a patron saint, too, and he is Notker Balbulus, or Notker the Stammerer, a Benedictine monk of the Early Middle Ages. A musician, a poet, and a scholar, he had a prominent stutter. He is also remembered for writing Liber Hymnorum.
Best known for his popular Journal Intime, Henri Frédéric Amiel was orphaned at an early age and traveled with various European intellectuals to gain knowledge. Apart from teaching aesthetics and moral philosophy, he also wrote volumes of philosophy and poetry, apart from criticism of major philosophers.
Swiss-American theologian Philip Schaff is remembered for his works such as The Creeds of Christendom. He believed that the positive aspects of both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism could be blended into an ecumenical form of spirituality. He later founded and headed the American Society of Church History.
The youngest daughter of the Egyptian king Farouk I, Princess Fadia escaped to Italy and then to Switzerland after his father was deposed in the 1952 Egyptian Revolution. She later established herself as a talented painter and an equestrian. Well-versed in multiple languages, she also worked as a translator.
Swiss author and poet Gottfried Keller remains one of the most significant contributors to German literature. After devoting his initial years to landscape painting, he focused on poetry and eventually became a pioneer of poetic realism. He also penned novels such as Green Henry and several short story collections.
Though he initially studied law, German-Swiss author Emil Ludwig later devoted himself to writing biographies, mostly of historical personalities, such as Cleopatra, Hitler, and Napoleon. He had also been a journalist in Germany. He later theorized that Hitler may have survived by having someone else killed in his place.
One of the best-known authors of Iran from the 20th century, Muhammad ʿAli Jamalzadah was born to a Muslim cleric and had initially studied law in France. He also taught Persian and was associated with the ILO, but is best remembered for his Persian short stories.
A professor of ecological economics and industrial ecology, Julia Steinberger had been associated with the universities of Leeds and Zurich before joining the University of Lausanne. The daughter of Nobel-winning physicist Jack Steinberger, Julia has also led the award-winning research project Living Well Within Limits and supports Greta Thunberg’s climate activism.
Swiss cartoonist Rodolphe Topffer is remembered as the pioneer of comic strips. The son of a caricaturist, he initially taught at and ran a boarding school, where he first began drawing caricatures to attract his students’ attention. He also taught literature at the University of Geneva.
Isabelle de Charrière was born to a Dutch noble family but later married her brother’s Swiss teacher and settled in Switzerland. A fine novelist, known for works such as Trois Femmes and Caliste; ou, lettres écrites de Lausanne, she critiqued social conventions and aristocratic privilege.
Swiss author Albert Bitzius, best known by his pseudonym, Jeremias Gotthelf, initially followed in his father’s footsteps to become a pastor. He later came to be known for his semi-allegorical short novel The Black Spider and for his depictions of the poor rural masses of his country.