The 42 most memorable people of 2015

Caitlyn JennerChris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File

2015 has been a wild year.

The continued rise of Islamic State is perhaps the single most dominant story of the last 12 months. ISIS' reign of terror in Syria and Iraq helped trigger the greatest refugee crisis since the end of the World War II.

In the fight to oppose ISIS and restore peace in Syria, tensions between Russia and the West reached a level of tension comparable with the height of the Cold War.

In entertainment, Taylor Swift solidified her place as one of the most successful, and highest earning, entertainers on the planet, as well as picking a fight with Apple. While at the other end of the scale the scandal surrounding Bill Cosby refused to die.

The sporting world was rocked by the corruption crisis in FIFA, which ultimately resulted in Sepp Blatter being forced to declare his intention to stand down, and the Russian doping scandal athletics once again dragged into the mire.

We rounded up the 42 most memorable names from the biggest stories of the last year.

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Donald Trump

Donald Trump

Thanks to Donald Trump, the American presidential primaries have captured the world's attention.

The US Presidential candidate sparked global outrage on multiple occasions, none more so than when he announced a policy to ban all Muslims from entering the US.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

The reclusive leader of the Islamic State saw his fanatical forces consolidate their control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2015, as well as expanding ISIS' reach to parts of Afghanistan, Libya, and Egypt.

The extremist group also carried out terror attacks in several nations around the world, perhaps most infamously the atrocities committed in Paris in November.

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s star continued to rise in 2015. She was nominated for three awards at the 2015 Grammys and also became the youngest woman ever to be included on Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women list.

Swift hit the headlines after withdrawing her 1989 album from Apple’s streaming service. The 25-year-old has a net worth of $280 million (£184 million).

Martin Winterkorn

Martin Winterkorn

Volkswagen admitted in September it had rigged US nitrogen oxides emissions tests. Auto analysts say the company could face a bill as high as €35 billion (£25.3 billion, $38 billion) for fines, lawsuits, and vehicle refits.

Volkswagen has declined to comment on whether the firm's culture or the management style of former chief executive Martin Winterkorn, who resigned in September, had been a factor in the cheating.

Mohammad Emwazi/Jihadi John

Mohammad Emwazi/Jihadi John

The face of many of Islamic State's most brutal execution videos, Mohammed Emwazi, dubbed Jihadi John by some, was reportedly killed in a US-led coalition air strike on ISIS' de-facto capital Raqqa. His death has not been confirmed by ISIS.

Charlie Sheen

Charlie Sheen

Actor Charlie Sheen revealed that he is HIV-positive during a TV interview in November, saying he was diagnosed with HIV about four years ago.

Walter Palmer

Walter Palmer

Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer faced a firestorm of protests in July after he was identified publicly as the big game hunter who had killed the rare black-maned lion, Cecil, a popular tourist attraction in Zimbabwe.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin has been in power, either as president or prime minister, in Russia since 1999.

The former KGB officer remains a critical player in the war against Islamic State but is also a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has been accused of prioritising military strikes on rebel groups opposing Assad rather than ISIS.

Sepp Blatter

Sepp Blatter

It was a nightmare year for FIFA and its president Sepp Blatter. Football's governing body was embroiled in scandal after scandal and Blatter is currently facing corruption allegations.

The 79-year-old is expected to stand down early in 2016 after 17 years at the top of football.

Yanis Varoufakis

Yanis Varoufakis

Yanis Varoufakis was appointed Greece's finance minister in January in the newly-elected government of Alexis Tsipras, which promised to renegotiate Greece's debt and attempt to curtail austerity measures.

Varoufakis resigned his post seven months later when the government agreed to the third Greek bailout agreement over the objections of Varoufakis.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud

Abdelhamid Abaaoud

On November 13, several suicide bombings and shootings were carried out across Paris. An international soccer match and several cafes and the Bataclan concert hall were targeted as Islamic State terrorists slaughtered 130 people and injured many more.

Abdelhamid Abaaoud was the suspected mastermind behind the attack and remains at large despite the best efforts of the world's security and intelligence communities.

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

London Mayor Boris Johnson, seen as a rival to Chancellor George Osborne and Home Secretary Theresa May to lead Britain's Conservative Party, has said he will stand down as mayor in 2016 after being elected as an MP in May's general election.

Johnson is one of the most popular Conservative politicians in Britain and is seen as a far more charismatic alternative to Osborne and May.

Petra Laszlo

Petra Laszlo

Hungarian camerawoman Petra Laszlo was fired after videos of her kicking and tripping up migrants fleeing police, including a man carrying a child, went viral, triggering anger around the world.

Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner

Former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner came out as a trans woman in April 2015, saying she had dealt with gender dysphoria since her youth.

Her new Twitter handle gained over one million followers in just over four hours, breaking the previous record held by President Barack Obama.

Dilma Rousseff

Dilma Rousseff

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, grappling with the deepest economic and political crisis in Brazil in decades, is also facing the prospect of being impeached over her alleged involvement in the Petrobras scandal.

Tayyip Erdogan

Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, accused by critics of an increasingly authoritarian style of government, has argued that the country would be better served by a strong presidential system. Turkey faces conflict on several fronts, battling Islamic State militants, Kurdish rebel fighters and militant leftists

Aung San Suu Kyi

Aung San Suu Kyi

Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent 15 years under house arrest, was handed sweeping powers following her landslide victory in Myanmar's election in November. The ruling party, which was created by the country's former junta and is led by retired military officers, conceded defeat in a major milestone on Myanmar's rocky path from dictatorship to democracy.

Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi

Elected last year on a wave of optimism over economic reforms, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is under fire from members of his nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party over his leadership style after a humiliating election loss in the eastern state of Bihar, home to 104 million people, in November.

Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel

The Time Person of the Year for 2015, the German Chancellor marked her 10-year anniversary in office in November, after seeing her popularity ratings plunge from a gaudy 75% in April to below 50%. Merkel has rebuffed calls from the opposition and members of her own party to impose a ceiling on the number of refugees Germany will accept, saying this would be impossible to enforce. Roughly 7,000 migrants have been entering Germany each day in recent weeks, with roughly a million expected to arrive this year alone.

Aylan Kurdi

Aylan Kurdi

Images of the lifeless body of three-year-old Syrian refugee Aylan Kurdi made global headlines after he drowned in the Mediterranean Sea as his family attempted to enter Europe from Turkey.

Heartbreaking images of the child's body being carried off a beach were credited in some quarters for changing the mood of Britain's public, media, and its political leaders in relation to the world's refugee crisis.

Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II

Britain's Queen Elizabeth, who ascended the throne aged just 25 as her exhausted country struggled to recover from the ravages of World War Two, made history in September when she became Britain's longest-reigning monarch.

Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby

More than 50 women have come forward to accuse comedian Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting them after plying them with drugs or alcohol, allegations Cosby has denied.

The comedian has never been criminally charged and many of the alleged incidents date back decades so the statute of limitations for prosecution has long run out.

Kim Jong-un

Kim Jong-un

North Korea's Kim Jon-un, who became leader after his father's death in December 2011, has promised to introduce "people-first" politics. But it remains unclear how committed he and his Workers Party — not to mention the powerful military — are to reforms.

In December, there were unconfirmed reports out of North Korea that the country had developed a hydrogen bomb.

Jack Ma

Jack Ma

Alibaba, despite having been down more than a third of its value at one point this year as fears of slowing growth in China unnerved investors, is looking to make inroads into foreign markets, including the United States.

Founder Jack Ma is estimated to have a net worth of around $23.4 billion according to Forbes.

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence

Actress Jennifer Lawrence was ranked the most valuable movie star for the second year in a row by Vulture.com soon after Forbes named Lawrence the highest-paid actress with an estimated $52 million in earnings.

In October, Lawrence unleashed a highly publicised attack on male-female pay discrimination in Hollywood in an open letter published in Lena Dunham's Lenny newsletter.

John Stewart

John Stewart

Jon Stewart signed off from "The Daily Show" in August after racking up 18 Primetime Emmy awards over 16 years spent satirizing the eccentricities of American politics.

South African comedian Trevor Noah took over as host in September.

Marion Marechal-Le Pen

Marion Marechal-Le Pen

Marion Marechal-Le Pen, the 25-year-old rising star in France's far-right National Front, is bringing a younger touch that could be key to the anti-immigration, anti-Europe party's quest for power ahead of France's 2017 presidential vote.

However, the party failed to win any region in the local elections which took place in early December.

Bashar al-Assad

Bashar al-Assad

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in September blamed Europe's refugee crisis on Western support for "terrorists," as people fleeing his country's civil war stream towards the European Union. The Syrian president dismissed suggestions that his government's actions in the war had fueled the spread of such groups, most notably Islamic State.

Over 200,000 Syrians have been killed in over four years of civil war, with 11.5 million driven from their homes.

Tom Brady

Tom Brady

The NFL suspended Tom Brady, one of the league's biggest stars, for four games for his alleged role in a scheme to lessen the air pressure in the balls used in the New England Patriots' victory over the Indianapolis Colts in January's AFC championship game, which was dubbed Deflategate.

The Patriots then went on to win Super Bowl XLIX. Brady appealed the suspension through the players association, though the league upheld the decision, citing Brady's destruction of his cell phone as a factor. Brady's suspension was overturned by a Manhattan judge, allowing him to start the 2015 season.

Kim Davis

Kim Davis

In Kentucky, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis was jailed for five days in September after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, making Kentucky a focal point in the debate over gay marriage in the United States.

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana

Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana

Fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana aroused controversy over comments about in vitro fertilisation during an interview with an Italian magazine in March.

"You are born and you have a father and a mother. Or at least it should be like this, that's why I am not convinced by chemical children, synthetic babies, wombs for rent," Dolce said.

Outraged celebrities tore into the designers with Elton John leading the chorus of criticism, calling for a boycott of the brand.

Serena Williams

Serena Williams

Not many people could win three out of four of tennis' Majors and consider the year a failure but Serena Williams' shock loss in the US Open semi-final meant she missed out on the chance to complete the fabled Grand Slam — the feat of winning the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open in a calendar year.

Regardless it was still an incredible season for the 34-year-old who remains the top female player on the planet.

James Obergefell

James Obergefell

The Supreme Court ruled in June that the US Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry, handing a historic triumph to the American gay rights movement. The lead petitioner was James Obergefell, who wanted his home state of Ohio, which bans gay marriage, to recognise his Maryland marriage to John Arthur as Arthur was dying from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Obergefell sought to have his name on Arthur's death certificate as the surviving spouse.

Ronda Roussey

Ronda Roussey

Ronda Rousey, the UFC's most recognisable female fighter, elevated her celebrity profile outside the octagon with movie roles in "Furious 7" and "Entourage", and her empowering, viral catchphrase "do-nothing b----", before being knocked out by Holly Holm in her first UFC loss in November.

Mohamed Fahmy

Mohamed Fahmy

Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy, who spent 400 days in jail after being sentenced to three years in prison for operating without a press license and broadcasting material harmful to Egypt, was pardoned by Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in September.

Justin Trudeau

Justin Trudeau

Canada's newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau toppled Stephen Harper's Conservatives in Canada's October elections, with a promise of change and returning a touch of glamor, youth and charisma to Ottawa.

Floyd Mayweather, Jr and Manny Pacquiao

Floyd Mayweather, Jr and Manny Pacquiao

Dubbed the 'Fight of the Century' the superclash between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquio became the richest fight in boxing history, with Mayweather alone estimated to have earned over $200 million dollars for one night's work. Millions tuned in around the globe to see Mayweather produce a tactical masterclass and win the superfight by unanimous decision.

Millions tuned in around the globe to see Mayweather produce a tactical masterclass and win the superfight by unanimous decision.

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

Pope Francis made several high-profile visits to Asia, Cuba and the United States, South America and Africa, and in papal messages to the faithful, drew attention to issues including climate change, poverty, human trafficking, modern slavery, and gay marriage.

In June, the Vatican signed a treaty recognising the state of Palestine.

Charlie Hebdo's new editor-in-chief Gerard Briard (L) and columnist Patrick Pelloux comfort cartoonist Luz (C).

Charlie Hebdo's new editor-in-chief Gerard Briard (L) and columnist Patrick Pelloux comfort cartoonist Luz (C).

Islamist gunmen attacked the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo in January, opening fire in revenge for the paper's past publication of satirical images of Mohammad. In total, 17 people were killed over three days of violence that included a hostage-taking in a kosher supermarket in Paris.

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