Hans Rosling 1948-2017 – ‘knight’ who fought truthiness with visualised data

Hans Rosling, medical doctor, academic, statistician, public speaker and sword swallower, died yesterday 7 February. You can read more about his life and work at Wikipedia, but don’t forget to visit gapminder.org, set up by Hans Rosling, his son Ola Rosling and his daughter-in-law Anna Rosling Rönnlund. Gapminder.org models Rosling’s goal of active/ informed citizens/ learners engaging with data and questioning their assumptions.

 Here is a brief video that shows Rosling’s use of visualisation – notice how he unpicks generalisation by pricking the China bubble at the end to show regional differences.

Watch the full video with related content here: http://richannel.org/200-countries-200-years-4-minutes

I heard the news of Rosling’s death on Twitter last night, where some of us were recalling his keynote at ALT-C 2008 , especially the stepladder teaching technology at 9.30.

Here is his explanation for the prevalence of ignorance that seems even more relevant in these days:

Why is there so much ignorance?

Statistical facts don’t come to people naturally. Quite the opposite. Most people understand the world by generalizing personal experiences which are very biased. In the media the “news-worthy” events exaggerate the unusual and put the focus on swift changes. Slow and steady changes in major trends don’t get much attention. Unintentionally, people end-up carrying around a sack of outdated facts that you got in school (including knowledge that often was outdated when acquired in school). The Ignorance Project

The gapminder site is a treasure trove of data, software and other teaching and learning resources and I played with one example of a chart by choosing Iran, UK and USA for comparison over the lifetime of the data (Scroll back to 1995 and press play). Did you see what happened to Iran?

Rosling was not without his critics but I would like to celebrate his contribution on the ground, in the classroom, and on the web. He entertained, he provoked thought and he gave us tools to help us understand and interrogate data.

Thank you Hans!