Muammar al-Qaddafi was born in the Libyan desert near the city of Sirte in 1942. He graduated with honors from the University of Libya before, like many of his children after him, pursuing a European education and doing some army training in Britain, where he first began plotting to overthrow the Libyan government. In 1969, he organized a coup that removed King Idris I. After taking power, Qaddafi launched a cultural upheaval and eventually a "people's revolution," creating a unique government system known as the "Jamahiriya"-state of the masses. Though he wields absolute power over the Libyan government, Qaddafi technically holds no formal office. He defended the system in New York on March 2006, saying, "There is no state with a democracy except Libya on the whole planet."
Here, Qaddafi makes one of his infamously long and rambling speeches to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Sept. 23, 2009.Getty Images