The scholar and opera singer who sneaked into Tibet in the 1920s was also an anarchist, ran a casino and adopted a Buddhist monk
Place and date of birth Paris, 24 October 1868
Claim to fame
Undoubtedly most famous for being the first European woman to visit Lhasa in Tibet, Alexandra David-Néel was also a runaway, an anarchist, an opera singer, a Buddhist scholar, a pioneering traveller and a prolific author. Her extraordinary life lasted more than a century. One of her earliest memories was the bloody aftermath of the Paris Commune in 1871; she died just a few weeks after Jimi Hendrix played Woodstock, living long enough to see her unconventional personal philosophy – “No commandments! Live your life! Live your instinct!” – enter the cultural bloodstream of the west in the 1960s.