Referencing Figures from History

I am currently working on research for a future writing project, a steampunk story (not sure yet if if will manifest as a novel or screenplay).  For those unfamiliar with this speculative fiction sub-genre, the general premise is to set the work within an era where steam power is widely used (such as Victorian era England), but with the addition of technological advances both real (such as an accelerated invention of the computer) or imagined.

Since the work is, at its core, historical fiction, one of my notes is “other historical figures to include” followed by a list of possibles.  After some contemplation, I have decided to forgo loading up the story with such notable people.  The story itself requires inclusion of two historical figures, they are central to the plot; but the others would just have been extraneous and likely would offer no true advancement of the story.  Since we tend to view history in the context of the notable people and events, it can be easy to fall into the idea that they would interact, but I am crafting a story of events tucked away in the corner involving a group which by its very nature would not be mentioned in mainstream history.