Obituaries

Hans Rosling

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j888 (Published 20 February 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j888
  1. Ned Stafford
  1. Hamburg
  1. ns{at}europefn.de

“Edutainer” who preached for a “fact based view of the world”

Jörgen Hildebrandt

In February 2006 Hans Rosling—a relatively unknown professor of international health at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute—stepped on to a stage in Monterey, California, to address some of the most influential people in the world. The event was the annual TED (technology, entertainment, design) conference, and Rosling’s talk was entitled “Debunking third world myths with the best stats you’ve ever seen.”1

Wearing a brown pullover and yellowish rust coloured corduroy trousers, Rosling, in his opening remarks, quipped: “I have shown that Swedish top students know statistically significantly less about the world than the chimpanzees.” The audience, of course, chuckled. After a few more jokes Rosling proceeded to outline his “fact based view of the world,” which he had designed to dispel what he felt were common misconceptions about global population growth and development. His tools were wry humour, stunning movable visual graphs, and—most of all—statistical facts, facts, and more facts.

Rosling described as anachronistic the belief that the world was divided in two halves between developed and developing nations, a topic he had written about as early as 1993.2 He contended that between the top income nations of the developed world and the impoverished and suffering developing world, there was a much larger group of middle income nations, such as Turkey and nations in Asia, where health and other measures of human progress are improving more rapidly than in western Europe. He felt strongly that global health policies should be adjusted accordingly.

“The situation in the very poorest countries should not be portrayed as …

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