The world of Espionage is one of the most fascinating and exciting things in the world. Spies might spend almost their entire lives pretending to be someone else, just waiting for an opportunity to provide information to their country. Since spies live their entire lives in secret, for one to become famous something has to go really badly or really well. Famous spies are often famous because they managed to provide important information for their country by pretending to be one of the enemy. Some are even prasied as heroes by the people they were spying on. Although some of the most famous spies are famous for something going very wrong, or for being caught betraying their country. This is a list of the 10 most famous spies of all time.


Eddie Chapman

eddie_chapman_agent_zigzag_double Famous Spies

Chapman was originally a criminal in Germany. He was an explosives expert, and a robber. Eventually he was caught and taken to prison. He spent two years in prison, but during that time was contacted by the Nazi Government. They were convinced he would make a capable spy, and began to train him. Chapman was ordered to blow up an aircraft factory in England. The british knew about the plan beforehand and quickly caught him. While being interrogated he agreed to become a double agent. Together they managed to fake the destruction of the factory, and Chapman became a German hero, and was even awarded the Iron Cross.



casanova_ritratto Famous Spies

Casanova is one of the most famous spies of all time, partly known by his nickname “The Great Lover”. His autobiography is one of the best sources of information on life in the 18 century. He engaged in numerous, elaborate affairs with women, and was a prolific gambler. He even lost 1 million Euros while gambling once. Casanova used to work for the church but ended up becoming the scapegoat for someone else and losing his job. From the years of 1774 and 1782 he became a spy working for the Venetian inquisitors of the state. In 1782 he was exiled for libel. Casanova spen most of his live getting into affairs with women said to resemble operatic plots.


The Cambridge Five

kim_philby famous spies

The Cambridge Five were a group of Cambridge students recruited by the Soviet Union to become spies who would pass misinformation onto the Germans during world war two. The group were originally known as the Cambridge four, but new evidence revealed that there were actually five members. The fifth was never discovered but believed to be the leader of the group. All of the group members were studying communism at Cambridge. Nobody knows whether they were recruited while studying at Cambridge or after they graduated. There are multiple suspects who might be the ring leader, but it’s likely that we’ll never find out.


Nathan Hale


Nathan Hale was the first American spy. He was a Captain during the American Revolutionary war in 1775. He was only 21 years old but bravely volunteered to become a spy, and attempt to gather intelligence from behind enemy lines. He disguised himself as a Dutch teacher so he would blend in, but eventually he was caught by the British and executed. His last words before being hanged were “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” He was hanged as a spy, but remembered as a hero by his home country. Hale was caught in a tavern, when Major Robert Rogers of the Queens Rangers spotted him, and instantly recognised him. Rogers tricked Hale into thinking that he was also a patriot and tricked him into betraying himself.


Mata Hari

mata_hari_museum famous spies

Mata Hari was a Dutch spy, who would seduce German, and French officers into bed with her exotic dancing, and then extract information from them. Hari fell deeply in live with a young Russian pilot during world war I. Her lover, Maslov, was shot during a dogfight, and lost sight in his eyes. Hari was desperate to see her wounded lover but was told she would only be allowed to see him if she were willing to spy on the Germans, she agreed. She was asked to seduce Crown Prince Wilhelm, who was the heir to the throne of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Hari was discovered when the French caught a German radio signal. She was shot by firing squad in 1917.


Richard Sorge

Richard Sorge was a German communist who spied for the Soviet Union during world war two. He worked as an undercover Nazi journalist, in Germany, and Japan. Sorge is one of Russia’s most famous spies because he managed to gain, and successfully send information about the Hitler’s planned invasion of the Soviet Union back to Russia. Because of the vital information he passed on, that Japan was not going to attack the Soviet Union in the near future, Russia was able to transport troops to defend against the Nazi invasion, which helped them defend against the battle for Moscow. Only a month later he was caught by the Japanese, and arrested. After torturing him for information he was hanged as a spy.


Julius and Ethel Rosenberg


Some of the most hated and famous spies in America, the Rosenbergs sent information, including nuclear secrets to the KGB. This information speeded up development of Stalin’s first nuclear bomb. The Rosenbergs were communists who were tried and executed for espionage in 1953. Julius sent information about many different types of technology to the Soviets. Julius started recruiting other people to become spies, and eventually became the spy master of his own ring of spies.


Elizabeth Van Lew

elizabethvanlew famous spies

Van Lew was opposed to slavery, but pretended to be a Confederate to the cause. During the civil war she worked as a spy, and wasn’t even given a wage but her contributions helped many prisoners escape. She also helped pass information onto Ulysses S. Grant, the General in charge of the Union army. Because of her high social status she was able to freely enter prisons, and talk to the prisoners. She did this to gain information from the prisoner which she passed onto General Grant. Van Lew set up a spy ring during the war, and they were so efficient that she regularly sent General Grant flowers and newspapers.


Aldrich Ames

aldrich_ames_mugshot Famous Spies

Aldrich Ames became one of America’s most famous double agents when he beat the lie detector test twice. Ames worked for the CIA, but found himself with a huge debt, and marital problems. Ames had gotten himself into a desperate situation, and he decided to solve it by becoming a double agent, and providing information to the Soviet Union. Ames compromised the second largest number of CIA in history. Once he was caught he was arrested and is now serving time in a high security prison, never to be released. Ames originally only offered the soviets information that was essentially valueless, and only wanted enough money to pay off his debt. He soon found that once he had crossed that line he couldn’t stop. He continued to provide information to the KGB, and made a lot of money doing it. His extravagant lifestyle is the reason he was eventually caught.


Juan Pujol Garcia

joan_pujol_garcia famous spies

No one made Hitler look like more of an idiot than Juan Pujol Garcia. Through his elaborate lies he managed to con the Nazi into making a spree of terrible decisions that helped the Allies win the war. Garcia first approached intelligence agencies in both Britain, and the US but was denied by both, so he decided he didn’t need their help. He went directly to the Germans and convinced them he was a Nazi sympathiser. They believed him completely, and decided to send him to England as a spy. Instead he went to Lisbon, Portugal. He simply sent post cards to the Germans, and made up information to make them think he was in Germany, they completely bought it. He eventually became one of the Germans most trusted spies, even though he never reported anything factual. He eventually caught the attention of the British Intelligence who learnt that he had been lying to the Germans all this time. Together they managed to foil several of Hitler’s plans and helped win the war. Garcia is the only person in history to have won both the highest medal the Nazi’s, and the British could give out.

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