Hans Rosling

Global health expert; data visionary
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.

Why you should listen

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.


What others say

“Rosling believes that making information more accessible has the potential to change the quality of the information itself.” — Business Week Online

More news and ideas from Hans Rosling

In Brief

How small lies turn into big lies, what everyday objects tell us about inequality, and robots that lend a helping hand during disasters

November 4, 2016

Just a few of the intriguing headlines involving members of the TED community this week: The cascading effect of small lies. Tali Sharot is the senior author on a paper published in Nature Neuroscience that sheds light on the possible slippery-slope effect of telling small, self-serving lies. Using an fMRI scanning device to monitor the […]

Continue reading
Fanfare

Gallery: Watercolor sketchnotes from TEDSalon Berlin

August 11, 2014

The animal you see in this watercolor-washed illustration is not a camel. This is, technically, a dromedary. Anja Kantowsky, a communications consultant who lives in Germany, created this image at the TEDSalon Berlin in June as she watched a talk from nine-time TED speaker Hans Rosling and his son Ola Rosling that used the differences […]

Continue reading