Special Sub-Topic: The 100 Greatest
|In 2002, the BBC launched "100 Great Britons" inviting the public to choose their favourite ever British citizen. The top 10 included greats from the arenas of science, entertainment, literature, politics, engineering and royalty. Who was chosen from these final ten as the finest Briton of them all?|
Winston Churchill. After the voting for the top 100 was completed, documentaries were made about each of the top ten personalities presented by their individual champion. After all ten had been broadcast a live studio debate was conducted between the ten advocates whilst a fresh vote establishing the final order of the top ten was conducted.
Churchill's champion was Labour MP and former minister, Mo Mowlam. Despite the controversies over Churchill's role in the Dardenelles Campaign (Gallipoli), he came out comfortably on top of the final poll. A concerted effort by students at Brunel University saw their man take the second spot and the remainder of the top ten were, in order, Diana - Princess of Wales, Charles Darwin, William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, Elizabeth I, John Lennon, Admiral Nelson and Oliver Cromwell.
|There was outrage that the BBC's list of "100 Great Britons" was almost exclusively white, with Freddie Mercury the only non-white making the top 100. In response, the BBC launched a second poll; "Great Black Britons". Who topped this poll?|
Mary Seacole. It was felt by members of the black community that this second poll was necessary because too many people were unaware of the contributions made to Britain's culture and heritage by its black population.
Jamaican-born Mary Seacole was one such person whose monumental achievements had perhaps been overlooked in favour of her better-known contemporary, Florence Nightingale (who appeared in the 100 Great Britons list at number 52). Seacole, like Nightingale, is best remembered for her work in assisting the sick during the Crimean War.
Mary Seacole was an expert in tropical diseases and offered her services to the British War Office when cholera and other diseases decimated the troops of the British and their allies. Her offer was turned down, almost certainly on the grounds of her race, and she was not included in the band of nurses assembled by Florence Nightingale to travel to the Crimea in 1854.
Seacole was not deterred and decided to fund her own journey to the Crimea to set up the "British Hotel". Without resources, Seacole collected scrap wood and metal to provide the materials for the construction of the hotel and eventually in March 1855 it opened; providing a mess, from where pretty much anything could be bought, and comfortable convalescence for injured and ill officers.
Because the hotel charged for its services, served alcohol and was open to non-military visitors it was frowned upon by officialdom and by Nightingale herself, who considered it little more than a brothel. However, her establishment and her care were very much appreciated by those who had call for it. Furthermore, Seacole made no profit from her ventures; returning to England destitute and virtually penniless.
The "Greatest Black Britons" programme was successful in bringing the achievements of Mary Seacole and many of the other members on the list to the attention of the wider British public.
|The first country to repeat the format of the British show was Germany who broadcast "Unsere Besten" (Our Best) in November 2003. The show caused great controversy, not least because of the arguments over who could and could not be counted as German. Which giant of German history topped the final poll?|
Konrad Adenauer. The shortlist of over 300 from which the final 100 were chosen was pre-selected by a panel of experts. This controversial decision was taken for two primary reasons; to establish who could rightly be considered German, and to remove from the list controversial characters who might attract uncomfortably large support, such as Adolf Hitler and East German Communist leader, Erich Honecker.
Even with this pre-selection, there were some controversial choices amongst the top 100, with Austrians upset that Mozart and Sigmund Freud had been included and the Poles furious that Nikolaus Kopernikus was claimed as a German.
The final list contained some impressive names and giants of culture and history but as with Great Britain it was a politician who topped the list. Konrad Adenauer had been in politics from the early years of the twentieth century but it was the period following World War II for which his high standing was earned.
In 1948 Adenauer formed a new political party, the Christian Democratic Union, which stressed the importance of the individual above the collective and above political systems, in deliberate contrast to what Adenauer considered the twin evils of Nazism and Communism. In his role as party leader he became the first chancellor of the newly-formed Federal Republic of Germany (or West Germany) in 1949; a position he held for the next fourteen years. In his time as chancellor, he moved West Germany from a fledgeling state struggling to recover from years of war to a stable democracy and a successful economy.
|In January 2005, the process to find "The Greatest American" was begun. When the list was whittled down to a top five for the final show in the series, "The Great Debate", the list was completely dominated by major political figures. But, which one did the American public choose as their all-time number one?|
Ronald Reagan. Reagan pipped Lincoln by just half a percentage point. From the outside this seems a surprising choice - some have argued that Reagan cleaned up the popular vote whilst the intellectual vote was split between the four other candidates (Lincoln, Washington, King and Benjamin Franklin). This seems very harsh on Reagan who was responsible for many of the initiatives that brought the end of the Cold War (despite initially escalating it in his early presidency), establishing an economic policy that stimulated growth of the economy and was the more talented half of one of the greatest human/chimp film partnerships of all time.
In the final poll, Lincoln came in second place, King third, Washington fourth and Franklin fifth.
|In addition to the overall list to find "The Greatest American", the show also had a number of secondary awards including Greatest Living American, Greatest African American and Greatest American Woman. But, who was named "The Greatest American Immigrant"?|
Albert Einstein. Albert Einstein was born in Germany in 1879. He moved to Italy at the age of 15 with his family after his father's business failed and then to Switzerland to attend technical college, assuming Swiss citizenship on reaching the age of 17. He published the works for which he is best remembered whilst working in a patent office in Berne, Switzerland in 1905. These papers covered the topics of the photoelectric effect, atomic theory, special relativity and mass-energy equivalence.
Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics for this and subsequent work in 1921 and later that same year, he travelled to the United States for the first time. When he visited again in late 1932 it was to be a more permanent stay. Einstein had been spending his winters at the California Institute of Technology and with the election of Hitler as Chancellor of Germany in 1933, he stayed on in the US beyond the winter period. In 1940 he became a US citizen and stayed in the country until his death.
Einstein came fourteenth in the overall poll and topped the list of American immigrants. He also was named Greatest American Scientist and Greatest Jewish American. Bob Hope came second amongst the immigrants in seventeenth spot overall, whilst Schwarzenegger and Bell both placed outside the top 25.
George W Bush was voted Greatest Living American, coming in sixth place in the overall poll. Greatest African American was Martin Luther King Jr, third placed overall and Greatest American Woman was Oprah Winfrey who came ninth.
|In 2003 Channel 4 responded to the BBC's "100 Greatest Britons" poll with a poll for the "100 Worst Britons". Who was the highest ranked of the 100 Greatest Britons to also make the Worst Britons list?|
Margaret Thatcher. It is perhaps inevitable that a politician should cause the greatest divide in opinion and Margaret Thatcher always had the magical ability to do exactly that. Her supporters lifted her to 16th place in the BBC's poll of Great Britons but her detractors dumped her in 3rd place in the Channel 4 poll of "Worst Britons".
Broadcast at the height of public disquiet over the invasion of Iraq, Tony Blair suffered the indignity of topping the list of "Worst Britons" to offset any pride he may have felt at reaching number 57 in the list of Great Britons.
David Beckham and Cliff Richard also graced both surveys. Beckham was 33rd Greatest Briton and 91st Worst with Richard achieving 56th place amongst Great Britons and 29th place amongst the Worst Britons
|"Le Plus Grand Français de tous les temps" (The Greatest Frenchman of all time) was aired in 2005. Again the show proved controversial, due as much to who was missing from the list as to who was on it. But the winner was undoubtedly a person who was hugely influential in their time. Who was it?|
Charles de Gaulle. Historians criticised the list for concentrating too heavily on modern times and ignoring figures from earlier in French history with none of King Philip II, King Louis IX or Jean d'Arc making the final 100.
Charles de Gaulle was the organiser and leader of the Free French forces during World War II, who became prime minister of the provisional French government following liberation from Nazi German occupation in 1944. He left the post after disagreements over the form of the constitution of the Fourth Republic that was drawn up in 1946 and spent twelve years in the political wilderness.
The collapse of the Fourth Republic came in 1958 due to crisis in the French colony of Algeria, which was fighting for independence. The willingness of the leadership to negotiate with Algerian nationalists brought things to a head, provoking the military into taking action. The French Army took power in Algeria and insisted that De Gaulle was installed as President of France. De Gaulle agreed on the proviso that a new constitution was drawn up, creating a presidential system with terms of seven years in power.
De Gaulle won a clear victory in the 1958 Presidential election and shortly afterwards in a referendum on the Fifth Republic's new constitution. He remained as President until 1969 when he proposed further reforms in the French political system but was defeated in a referendum upon them.
Louis Pasteur was runner-up to De Gaulle in the top 100, Marie Curie came fourth and Jacques Cousteau ninth.
|A difficult challenge often thrown at people is to name a famous Belgian. The Belgians themselves met the challenge on two occasions when rival French and Flemish speaking stations each ran a poll to crown the Greatest Belgian. The two lists were radically different with only three people making the top ten of both lists. Which of the following did not achieve this feat?
Rene Magritte. So, now you know some famous Belgians. Rene Magritte, the influential surrealist painter, famous for works such as "The Son of Man" and "The Treachery of Images" (or "Ceci n'est pas un pipe"), reached number nine in the French poll ("Le plus grand Belge") but only came eighteenth in the Flemish list ("De Grootste Belg").
Singer Jacques Brel topped the French poll and placed seventh in the Flemish poll, whereas missionary Father Damien, who is revered for his willingness to treat lepers at a time when they were shunned, topped the Flemish poll whilst placing third in the French poll. Eddie Merckx, the five-times Tour de France winner, placed third in the Flemish poll and fourth in the French poll.
|More than a dozen countries have followed the initial British model and conducted votes to discover their most popular citizen in their history. Which of the following people did not win the poll in their respective country?|
Christopher Columbus - Spain. Though the nationality of Columbus was disputed, the Spanish had no hesitation in declaring him one of their own when they undertook the task of discovering "El Español De La Historia" (The Spaniard of History) in 2007. But despite his extraordinary achievements, Columbus (or Colón as he is known to the Spanish) only reached third place when the votes were counted. He lost out to second-placed author Miguel de Cervantes and the eventual winner, King Juan Carlos I, whose role in the transition in Spain from Franco's dictatorship to full parliamentary democracy has made him a hugely popular figure in the country.
Nelson Mandela, the first post-apartheid President, was an unsurprising choice as the ultimate "Great South African" in a 2004 poll. Even though the series of programmes devised to decided the final placings was cancelled before completion due to controversy over some of the people chosen in the top 100 (such as Hendrik Verwoerd, the "Architect of Apartheid" in 19th place), Mandela was declared in first place. None of the other members of the top ten was given a final placing. Mandela was also later chosen as the greatest ever African in "New African" magazine.
Antonio Salazar was chosen as "Os Grandes Portugueses" (Greatest Portuguese) in 2007. Salazar was the dictatorial leader of Portugal from 1932 to 1968. He was a comfortable winner of the contest, polling more than double the amount of votes of the man in second place, Álvaro Cunhal, the former leader of the Communist Party in Portugal.
In New Zealand, an appointed panel chose the "Top 100 History Makers", with the top ten being decided by a public vote. Ernest Rutherford, the Nobel prize-winning father of nuclear physics, was the public choice as the nation's greatest history maker, edging out suffragette, Kate Shephard, and explorer, Edmund Hillary.
|On occasion, more than one country laid claim to a person, with several appearing on the top 100 list of two nations. But one person has achieved the unique feat of gracing three top 100 lists - "100 Great Britons", "The Greatest American" and "The Greatest Canadian". Who was this remarkable pioneer?|
Alexander Graham Bell. Bell is claimed by all three countries as one of their own. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1847 and educated there and in London. In 1870, Bell's family moved to Ontario, Canada where Bell set up his workshop. A year later, Bell was invited to Boston, Massachusetts to take up a training position at a school for the deaf. Over the next few years, Bell alternated between working at his workshop in Ontario (from where he made the first telephone call in 1876) and establishing his business concerns in Boston where he set up home in 1873.
In 1882, Bell took up citizenship of the United States and renounced his other nationalities. Although he was a US citizen and mainly based there, Bell always maintained a home in Canada and when he died in 1922, he was buried there.
Both Britain and Canada voted the Unknown Soldier (known as "The Unknown Warrior" in the UK) into a place in their respective top 100s. Bob Hope and Andrew Carnegie both qualified for the UK and US lists but only featured in the latter.
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