Skip to main content
Skip to search
Ideas worth spreading
Browse the library of TED talks and speakers
Get TED Talks picked just for you
100+ collections of TED Talks, for curious minds
Go deeper into fascinating topics with original video series from TED
Watch, share and create lessons with TED-Ed
Talks from independently organized local events
Explore TED offerings by topic
Explore the TED Audio Collective
Our daily coverage of the world of ideas
Inspiration delivered straight to your inbox
Take part in our events: TED, TEDGlobal and more
Find and attend local, independently organized events
TED on Screen
Experience TED from home
Recommend speakers, TED Prize recipients, Fellows and more
Organize a local TEDx Event
Rules and resources to help you plan a local TEDx event
Bring TED to the non-English speaking world
Join or support innovators from around the globe
Our mission, history, team, and more
TED Conferences, past, present, and future
Programs & Initiatives
Details about TED's world-changing initiatives
Partner with TED
Learn how you can partner with us
Updates from TED and highlights from our global community
Type to search
Be transported through the centuries with these talks for your inner (and outer) history buff.
Add to list
The history of our world in 18 minutes
17 minutes 40 seconds
Backed by stunning illustrations, David Christian narrates a complete history of the universe, from the Big Bang to the Internet, in a riveting 18 minutes. This is "Big History": an enlightening, wide-angle look at complexity, life and humanity, set against our slim share of the cosmic timeline.
Genevieve von Petzinger
Why are these 32 symbols found in ancient caves all over Europe?
12 minutes 5 seconds
Written language, the hallmark of human civilization, didn't just suddenly appear one day. Thousands of years before the first fully developed writing systems, our ancestors scrawled geometric signs across the walls of the caves they sheltered in. Paleoanthropologist, rock art researcher and TED Senior Fellow Genevieve von Petzinger has studied and codified these ancient markings in caves across Europe. The uniformity of her findings suggest that graphic communication, and the ability to preserve and transmit messages beyond a single moment in time, may be much older than we think.
The amazing story of the man who gave us modern pain relief
13 minutes 51 seconds
For the longest time, doctors basically ignored the most basic and frustrating part of being sick -- pain. In this lyrical, informative talk, Latif Nasser tells the extraordinary story of wrestler and doctor John J. Bonica, who persuaded the medical profession to take pain seriously -- and transformed the lives of millions.
The forgotten history of autism
13 minutes 48 seconds
Decades ago, few pediatricians had heard of autism. In 1975, 1 in 5,000 kids was estimated to have it. Today, 1 in 68 is on the autism spectrum. What caused this steep rise? Steve Silberman points to “a perfect storm of autism awareness” — a pair of psychologists with an accepting view, an unexpected pop culture moment and a new clinical test. But to really understand, we have to go back further to an Austrian doctor by the name of Hans Asperger, who published a pioneering paper in 1944. Because it was buried in time, autism has been shrouded in misunderstanding ever since. (This talk was part of a TED2015 session curated by Pop-Up Magazine: popupmagazine.com or @popupmag on Twitter.)
Jennifer 8. Lee
The hunt for General Tso
16 minutes 38 seconds
Reporter Jennifer 8. Lee talks about her hunt for the origins of familiar Chinese-American dishes -- exploring the hidden spots where these two cultures have (so tastily) combined to form a new cuisine.
A Rosetta Stone for a lost language
17 minutes 1 second
Rajesh Rao is fascinated by "the mother of all crossword puzzles": how to decipher the 4000-year-old Indus script. He's enlisting modern computation to try to read this lost language, the key to understanding this ancient civilization.
The greatest machine that never was
12 minutes 14 seconds
Computer science began in the '30s ... the 1830s. John Graham-Cumming tells the story of Charles Babbage's mechanical, steam-powered "analytical engine" and how Ada Lovelace, mathematician and daughter of Lord Byron, saw beyond its simple computational abilities to imagine the future of computers.
Why public beheadings get millions of views
15 minutes 57 seconds
In a disturbing — but fascinating — walk through history, Frances Larson examines humanity's strange relationship with public executions … and specifically beheadings. As she shows us, they have always drawn a crowd, first in the public square and now on YouTube. What makes them horrific and compelling in equal measure?
How we discovered DNA
20 minutes 11 seconds
Nobel laureate James Watson opens TED2005 with the frank and funny story of how he and his research partner, Francis Crick, discovered the structure of DNA.
3 minutes 50 seconds
Filmmaker David Hoffman shares footage from his feature-length documentary Sputnik Mania, which shows how the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik in 1957 led to both the space race and the arms race -- and jump-started science and math education around the world.
2600 years of history in one object
19 minutes 37 seconds
A clay cylinder covered in Akkadian cuneiform script, damaged and broken, the Cyrus Cylinder is a powerful symbol of religious tolerance and multi-culturalism. In this enthralling talk Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, traces 2600 years of Middle Eastern history through this single object.