18 Nepo Babies from History

These days, the term nepo baby—short for nepotism baby—is most often levied against a famous entertainer descended from another famous entertainer or affluent family of some kind. More loosely, though, a nepo baby could be anyone whose forebears paved the way for their success, whether via helpful connections in a given industry or just because familial wealth freed them up to pursue their passions.

Charlie Chaplin, for example, is such a household name that you probably assumed he was the origin point of his own nepo baby chain. But Chaplin’s backstory has notes of nepotism in it, too. His parents, Charles Chaplin Sr. and Hannah Chaplin—stage name Lily Harley—were both comic performers in 19th century British musical halls.

Charles Darwin wasn’t the first scientific smartypants in the Darwin family. His paternal grandfather was Erasmus Darwin, a poet, physician, botanist, and naturalist who wrote a theory of evolution in his 1794 book Zoonomia; Or, the Laws of Organic Life.

Some celebrated writers were born into the world of academia. T.S. Eliot’s grandfather was the co-founder of Washington University in St. Louis; and Emily Dickinson’s grandfather helped finance the establishment of Amherst College in the early 1820s. Ursula K. Le Guin’s father was Alfred Kroeber, an acclaimed social scientist who helped popularize anthropology as an academic and professional field of study in the U.S.

For more famous people in history who descended from … famous people in history, check out this episode of The List Show. Subscribe to Mental Floss on YouTube for new videos every week.

Ellen Gutoskey

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