Hans Rosling, the man behind Gapminder, visits GU

Hans Rosling, an international health scholar and co-founder of the Gapminder Foundation, spoke to a crowd of more than 200 on Monday night in Copley Formal Lounge.

Provost James O’Donnell invited Rosling to speak on campus seeing the Karolinska Institute professor speak in Sweden this summer. O’Donnell was not surprised to see the size of the audience, which spilled into the corridor outside of the lounge.

“We got the largest room available tonight,” O’Donnell said during his introduction. “You’ll be glad you came.”

Rosling, who founded Gapminder in 2005 with his son and daughter-in-law, used his hour-long speech to dispel the assumption that today’s world should be divided between “the West and the rest.”

“There is no dichotomy anymore,” he said. “It’s all a mindset.”

During the speech, Rosling made frequent use of Gapminder’s Trendanalyzer software, which was developed to illustrate statistics as interactive bubbles and acquired by Google in 2007. He referenced an animated graph that plotted life expectancy against income, for example, which illustrated a divide between countries that disappeared over time.

“When you animate statistics, it becomes so much more interesting, so much easier to understand,” he explained. “The idea here was to display the world in bubbles.”

To continue the trend towards more wealth and health, Rosling added, world leaders need to recognize that international power has expanded beyond outdated political standards.

“I would like to honor George W. Bush and its very rare that Swedish professors do that,” he joked. “[Bush] did a very, very important thing when he needed money and there was no tax money … he supported the G20. As I tell everyone in the world, Bush did it and you can do it.”

During a question-and-answer period, Becca Brown (SFS ’14) asked Rosling to clarify differences between Africa and the rest of the world.

“We need to stop looking at sub-Saharan Africa as one place,” Rosling, who spent 20 years researching in rural Africa, answered. “Look at the separate countries … You stand at the flat land and see a car far off, you can’t tell if it’s coming towards you. You have to get closer.”

Video: BBC

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