In Hans Rosling’s hands, data sings. Global trends in health and economics come to vivid life. And the big picture of global development—with some surprisingly good news—snaps into sharp focus.
Even the most worldly and well-traveled among us will have their perspectives shifted by Hans Rosling. A professor of global health at Sweden's Karolinska Institute, his current work focuses on dispelling common myths about the so-called developing world, which (he points out) is no longer worlds away from the West. In fact, most of the Third World is on the same trajectory toward health and prosperity, and many countries are moving twice as fast as the west did.
What sets Rosling apart isn't just his apt observations of broad social and economic trends, but the stunning way he presents them. Guaranteed: You've never seen data presented like this. By any logic, a presentation that tracks global health and poverty trends should be, in a word: boring. But in Rosling's hands, data sings. Trends come to life. And the big picture — usually hazy at best — snaps into sharp focus.
Rosling's presentations are grounded in solid statistics (often drawn from United Nations data), illustrated by the visualization software he developed. The animations transform development statistics into moving bubbles and flowing curves that make global trends clear, intuitive and even playful. During his legendary presentations, Rosling takes this one step farther, narrating the animations with a sportscaster's flair.
Rosling developed the breakthrough software behind his visualizations through his nonprofit Gapminder, founded with his son and daughter-in-law. The free software — which can be loaded with any data — was purchased by Google in March 2007. (Rosling met the Google founders at TED.)
Rosling began his wide-ranging career as a physician, spending many years in rural Africa tracking a rare paralytic disease (which he named konzo) and discovering its cause: hunger and badly processed cassava. He co-founded Médecins sans Frontièrs (Doctors without Borders) Sweden, wrote a textbook on global health, and as a professor at the Karolinska Institut in Stockholm initiated key international research collaborations. He's also personally argued with many heads of state, including Fidel Castro.
As if all this weren't enough, the irrepressible Rosling is also an accomplished sword-swallower — a skill he demonstrated at TED2007.
"Rosling believes that making information more accessible has the potential to change the quality of the information itself."Business Week Online
“Health cannot be bought at the supermarket. You have to invest in health. You have to get kids into schooling. You have to train health staff. You have to educate the population.”
“I have shown that Swedish top students know statistically significantly less about the world than the chimpanzees.”
“My experience from 20 years of Africa is that the seemingly impossible is possible.”
“I have a neighbor who knows 200 types of wine. … I only know two types of wine — red and white. But my neighbor only knows two types of countries — industrialized and developing. And I know 200.”
“Eighteen fifty-eight was a year of great technological advancement in the West. That was the year when Queen Victoria was able, for the first time, to communicate with President Buchanan, through the Transatlantic Telegraphic Cable. And they were the first to ‘Twitter’ transatlantically.”
“What I’m really worried about is war. Will the former rich countries really accept a completely changed world economy, and a shift of power away from where it has been the last 50 to 100 to 150 years, back to Asia?”
“Avoid war, because that always pushes human beings backward.”
“If your economy grows [by] 4 percent, you ought to reduce child mortality 4 percent.”
“Half of the energy is used by one seventh of the world’s population.”
“If you have democracy, people will vote for washing machines. They love them!”
“There are two billion fellow human beings who live on less than $2 a day.”
“The number of children is not growing any longer in the world. We are still debating peak oil, but we have definitely reached peak child.”
“You don't have to get rich to have [fewer] children. It has happened across the world.”
“Religion has very little to do with the number of babies per woman. All the religions in the world are fully [able] to maintain their values and adapt to this new world.”