5 Inspirational People Whose Careers Changed the World
“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future,” Galadriel tells Frodo in Lord of the Rings.
But Galadriel’s wisdom doesn’t just apply to Frodo Baggins, as British history is teeming with inspirational people who have single handedly changed the world.
Prepare to be impressed as we share five of our favourite household names.
1.Tim Berners- Lee
40% of the world’s population is now connected to the World Wide Web, thanks to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, whose invention has transformed the twentieth century. While he was working at CERN in 1980, the English software engineer observed that many scientists were using incompatible computer systems. This made it hard for them to share important data.
In response, Sir Tim came up with the idea of a global system that would enable researchers to share information more easily. He even built a prototype called Enquire. In 1989, Tim published a paper called “Information Management, a proposal”, which describes a “universally linked information system.” This led to the creation of HTTP (the HyperText Transfer Protocol), HTML (HyperText Markup Language) and the first ever web browser, which was initially called “Mesh.”
In 1990, Sir Tim renamed his browser and it became known as the World Wide Web. CERN allowed the new technology to be freely used by everyone in 1993 and within a few years, the world was hooked. There are now over 600 million websites worldwide!
2. Florence Nightingale
From the age of 17, Florence Nightingale was convinced that God had called her to become a nurse. Having gained some experience, she and other 38 nurses travelled to a military hospital in Turkey during the Crimean War.
Florence was appalled by the soldiers’ filthy surroundings and the lack of medical resources, so her team of nurses cleaned the hospital and made sure that the men were washed, fed and clothed. Florence’s work was praised by the public and press, who published a portrait of her carrying a lamp as she cared for the soldiers.
With the backing of Queen Victoria, Florence persuaded the government to set up a Royal Commission into the health of the army. Working with a leading statistician, she analysed huge amounts of data and discovered that 16,000 of the war’s 18,000 deaths had been caused by poor sanitation and preventable diseases.
During the Sanitary Commission’s first year, army fatalities fell by staggering 99% and Florence’s work inspired the government to set up new army medical, sanitary science and statistics departments.
In 1859 Florence published her book Notes on Nursing, which became a training textbook for nurses worldwide. A hospital was founded in Florence’s name and she worked hard to establish nursing as respectable career for women. If you’re interested in women in science, check out our article exploring why it’s difficult for women to get into STEM.
Florence Nightingale’s’ research led to England’s public health acts of 1874 and 1875, which prevented the dumping of human waste in the street and gave control of public health to local authorities. These reforms contributed to the increasing lifespan of British citizens, which rose by 20 years between 1891 and the mid-1930s.
3. Emma Watson
Emma Watson became famous when she played Hermione in the Harry Potter films. However, more recently, she has used her celebrity status to campaign for global equality and human rights.
In 2014, the UN launched their HeForShe campaign, which aims to unite men and women in the battle for gender equality. On behalf of the UN, Emma made a heartfelt speech in which she asked men to stand up for “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”
Emma’s speech transformed the way that feminism is perceived, by focusing on how inequality has affected men as well as women:
“The human race is like a bird and it needs both its wings to be able to fly. And, at the moment, one of its wings is clipped and we’re never going to be able to fly as high…unless we (women and men) are both in support of each other.”
This plea for equality led to an outpouring of support from celebrities, politicians and ordinary people. A supporter from Zimbabwe was inspired to start a “husband school” in his village, where he persuades other men to stop treating women abusively. In India, a group of male friends began cycling around villages explaining how men can empower women. Large corporations including Unilever and Accor have also promised to promote institutional change.
What was the effect of Emma’s speech?
Prominent campaign supporters include:
4. Charles Darwin
Born in 1869, Charles Darwin was studying divinity at Cambridge when he developed a passion for natural history. After graduation, he joined HMS Beagle as the ship’s naturalist and went on a five year voyage around south America. Having observed the variation of similar species on the Galapagos Islands, he noticed that many plants and animals seemed to have adapted to suit their local environments. The seeds of the theory of evolution had been sown!
Darwin spent 23 years testing his theory before he published The Origin of Species. Evolutionary theories before this time were based on the idea that humankind was moving towards greater perfection. Darwin’s ideas challenged this theory in a way that took away the need for a purposeful creator.
Darwin’s Theory of Evolution explained
The offspring of plants and animals vary from their parents by random mutation. Those variations are then passed
down through the generations.
Any individual with a genetic variation that gives them an advantage in the struggle for resources is likely to pass that variation on. This will eventually lead to a new species. Darwin called this natural selection.
Darwin’s theory sparked huge international interest and despite opposition from some church leaders, many people believed his findings were huge step forward. He was eventually buried in Westminster Abbey and his belief that living creatures descend from common ancestors was vindicated when the structure of DNA was discovered.
5. J.K Rowling
It’s been an incredible 21 years since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was published in the UK. While initial sales were fairly healthy, everything changed when Scholastic bought the US publication rights for a whopping $105,000.
When American Newspapers and reviewers began to get excited about the first Harry Potter novel, Scholastic produced a beautifully designed hardcover edition to be displayed at the front of bookshops. The rest is history. The best selling books have now sold over 500 million copies worldwide, sparking a worldwide industry including Hollywood films, merchandise and a theme park.
However, Harry Potter’s achievements don’t stop there, as JK Rowling’s young hero has also transformed the world of children’s publishing. The fact that 55% of YA novels are bought by adults is partly down to the success of the Harry Potter novels, which were a surprise crossover hit. The series has also made it possible to publish longer books for children, as the final four volumes exceed 700 pages.
According to teachers, the Harry potter books have also had a positive impact on literacy.
of teachers say the Harry Potter
books have improved pupils’ reading abilities
have been surprised by some of the children who have managed to read Harry Potter
of teachers say that Potter has helped turn non-readers into readers
So what’s the message we’re trying to convey? It’s simple really. Whether you choose to become a nurse, a scientist, a writer or anything else, your career could really could make a difference and change the world.