25 People You Might Not Know Are Swedish

Posted by , Updated on March 22, 2024

Swedes are notable and skilled figures globally, contributing significantly to various sectors including medicine, art, and computers. Sweden and its inhabitants have been improving our world consistently for centuries, and they continue this undertaking with impressive passion to date. Perhaps due to their comfortable adoption of an international lifestyle or their impressive proficiency in English (topping the chart for non-native speakers), numerous well-known Swedish individuals often get incorrectly identified as Americans, English, or of other nationalities. Our objective with this list is to restore the deserved recognition and esteem for Sweden for gifting us these exceptional individuals.

Maybe you’ve heard of some of the famous Swedes on this list, such as legendary actress Greta Garbo; maybe you haven’t, such as they guys behind The Pirate Bay or the most successful YouTube personality in the world. You’ll likely be surprised to see some of these names – and yes, we purposefully left out ABBA: the standard answer whenever anyone asks if you know someone from Sweden. From entrepreneurs to movie stars to novelists, check out these famous Swedes who have made important contributions to our world (many of who still do) in our list of 25 People You Might Not Know Are Swedish.



PewDiePieSource: The Atlantic, Image: In Queue via Flickr

Born as Felix Kjellberg, PewDiePie is a YouTube personality with over 45 million subscribers and over 12 billion views. Videos of him playing video games have made him the most subscribed YouTuber in the world. He’s also Swedish, born in Gothenburg.


Niklas Zennström

Niklas_Zennström_with_Loic_Le_Meur_emoting_in_the_backgroundSource: Swedish Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Image: PICNIC Network via Flickr

Niklas Zennström is a heavy-hitting Swedish entrepreneur, responsible for both the peer-to-peer file sharing network Kazaa and the peer-to-peer internet telephony company Skype.


John Ericsson

John_Ericsson_Battery_ParkSource: Sverige Tourism, Image: Wikimedia

The North may not have been successful during the American Civil War if it weren’t for Swedish inventor John Ericsson. Famous for inventing the propeller, Ericsson played an important role in American history by constructing the iron-clad, propeller-driven warship the Monitor.


Pirate Bay Founders

Fredrik_Neij_and_Peter_Sunde_during_TPB_trialSource: International Business Times, Image: Wikipedia

Arguably the best-known peer-to-peer file sharing system, The Pirate Bay was founded and operated by Swedes Gottfrid Svartholm, Peter Sunde, Fredrik Neij, and Carl Lundström, all of whom were arrested, imprisoned, and fined for facilitating copyright infringement.


Alfred Nobel

Alfred NobelSource: Stockholm News, Image: Wikimedia

One of the best-known Swedes on this list, Alfred Nobel blessed the world with countless patents – 355 to be exact. Nobel is best known for creating dynamite (a safer form of nitroglycerin) and bequeathing the funds to start the Nobel Prizes.



AviciiSource: Billboard, Image: Wikimedia

Beyond superstar Swedish musicians such as Robyn and Swedish House Mafia, Avicii is as Swedish as they come, born in Stockholm. Avicii has become one of the most popular electronic DJs in the world, producing hits such as “Sunshine,” with David Guetta, and “Levels.”


Magnus Samuelsson

Magnus SamuelssonSource: Critical Bench, Image: Wikimedia

Though the frigid temperatures don’t keep most Swedes locked indoors, Magnus Samuelsson spent a fair part of his life indoors – pumping iron. The son of a Swedish female arm wrestling champion, Samuelsson went on to win the 1998 World’s Strongest Man competition. He also holds the record for most podium places at the competition over his 13 years of competing. Not surprisingly, he married a two-time winner of Sweden’s Strongest Woman competition.


Markus Persson

Markus_Persson_at_GDC_2011Source: The Famous People, Image: Wikimedia

Did you know one of the most popular video games was developed by a Swede? Markus Persson is sometimes called the first superstar computer game developer for his skill in game creation. He’s responsible for the widely popular game Minecraft, becoming one of the youngest billionaires in the world when Microsoft bought its parent company.


Greta Garbo

Greta GarboSource: The Famous People, Image: Wikimedia

One of the most successful early film actresses, Greta Garbo was legendary in both silent movies and the talkies, even ranking 5th on the American Film Institute’s list of the greatest female stars of Classic Hollywood cinema. Her most famous role was as the prostitute Marguerite Gautier in “Camille” (1936).


Erik Wallenberg & Ruben Rausing

Erik_Wallenberg_inventor_of_Tetra_Pak_first_packageSource: Sweden.se, Image: Wikipedia

Anyone who enjoys a nice glass of milk has Erik Wallenberg and Ruben Rausing to thank. The two were champions of the food packaging industry with Rausing building off Wallenberg’s original work with plastic-coated paper carton. The innovation brought us the TetraPak, the go-to for dairy and prepared food packaging.


Carl Linnaeus

CarlLinnaeusWeddingPortraitSource: Swedish Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Image: Wikipedia

The father of natural classification, millions of PhD candidates and professionals around the world have Carl Linnaeus to thank. The Swedish naturalist unified information on the world’s plants, animals, and minerals, creating a central classification system which remains in use today.


Ronnie Peterson

Ronnie_Peterson_21-06-1970Source: Motor Sport, Image: Wikipedia

Known as the “Super Swede,” Ronnie Peterson was one of Sweden’s most successful and famous racing drivers. Out of 123 Grand Prix races, Peterson won 10 before passing away from injuries sustained during the 1978 Italian Grand Prix at Monza.


Henrik Lundqvist

Henrik LundqvistSource: MSNBC, Image: Wikipedia

Swede Henrik Lundqvist is one of the most skilled professional ice hockey goalies in the world, even nicknamed “King Henrik” by his current team, the New York Rangers. The handsome Lundqvist even helped Sweden win their second Olympic gold medal in ice hockey during the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics.


Erling Persson

H&M logoSource: H&M, Image: Wikimedia

Erling Persson started the widely popular Swedish clothing store H&M. Originally titled Hennes (“hers” in Swedish), it only sold women’s clothes. In 1968, Persson bought hunting equipment store Mauritz Widforss and expanded the name and collection to include menswear. Today, H&M is the second largest global clothing retailer.


Alexander Skarsgård

Alexander_SkarsgardSource: IMDb, Image: Wikimedia

Besides gaining notoriety for his role as lead vampire Eric Northman in the series “True Blood,” Alexander Skarsgård has also been cast in the upcoming film “The Legend of Tarzan,” where millions of fans are excited to see him shirtless throughout the entire movie.


Astrid Lindgren

Lindgren_1960Source: Stockholm News, Image: Wikipedia

Many baby boomers will easily recognize the widely popular stories of Pippi Longstocking, written by Swedish author Astrid Lindgren. Pippi is a playful girl, often making fun of pompous and unreasonable adults while trying to stay a kid forever, much like Peter Pan.


Ingrid Bergman

Ingrid_Bergman_-_1954Source: The Famous People, Image: Wikipedia

Anybody who knows film will have seen “Casablanca,” one of the greatest films in history. The film’s female lead was a popular Swedish actress by the name of Ingrid Bergman. During her career, which also included Alfred Hitchcock’s film “Notorious,” Bergman won two Emmy Awards, three Academy Awards, and four Golden Globe Awards.


Lars Magnus Ericsson

Lars_Magnus_Ericsson_1926Source: Sverige Turism, Image: Wikimedia

Remember Ericsson, the popular cell phone manufacturer from the 90’s? It was started by a Swede, Lars Magnus Ericsson, though the cell phone branch was spun off in 2001 as Sony Ericsson. The company was also responsible for creating the first telephone receiver with a built-in speaker and microphone, as we use today.


Stieg Larsson

a girl with a dragon tattooSource: New York Times, Image: kaybee07 via Flickr

Stieg Larsson was an avid writer but mostly wrote for his own pleasure, not seeking to publish his novels until shortly before his death. Later adapted into a film, his most famous novel, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is a top international best-selling crime novel which takes places in Sweden.


Anders Celsius

Anders_CelsiusSource: Swedish Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Image: Wikipedia

Did you know a Swede created our most important temperature scale? Anders Celsius developed a new thermometer which measured exactly 100 degrees between water’s freezing and boiling point, becoming the standard worldwide.


Ingvar Kamprad

ingvar kampradSource: The Famous People, Image: Haparanda via Flickr

Possibly the most successful Swedish entrepreneur in history, Ingvar Kamprad transformed his startup IKEA into one of the biggest furniture companies in the world. Kamprad began IKEA as a mail-order business when he was 17 years-old and revolutionized the furniture industry with his flat-box furniture.


Zlatan Ibrahimović

Zlatan_Ibrahimović_Euro_2012_vs_UkraineSource: ESPN, Image: Wikipedia

Sweden’s leading goalscorer, Zlatan Ibrahimović is also captain of the Swedish national soccer team. He has played for famous clubs throughout Europe, including Juventus, FC Barcelona, and Paris Saint-Germain.


Birgit Nilsson

Birgit NilssonSource: The Famous People, Image: Wikimedia

A legend in the opera world, Birgit Nilsson was a soprano whose high notes seemed to last forever. Nilsson was a clever businesswoman and became one of the highest-paid opera singers of all time, widely known for her renditions of the works of Wagner and others such as Strauss, Verdi, and Puccini.


Alexander Samuelsson

Coca_Cola_ad_ca._1943Source: Coca-Cola Company, Image: Wikipedia

Alexander Samuelsson may not be known on the global stage but his product is. This Swede was responsible for designing the iconic Coca-Cola bottle from which spawned comparisons such as Coke-bottle glasses and a Coke-bottle figure.


Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman_Sjostrom_1957Source: The Famous People, Image: Wikipedia

Ingmar Bergman is one of the most successful film directors in history, even being called, “probably the greatest film artist since the invention of the motion picture camera” by Woody Allen. Bergman won three Academy Awards and directed over 40 films, often filming in Sweden and skillfully dealing with the human pathos.

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