The Info List - 100 Greatest Britons

The 100 Greatest Britons
100 Greatest Britons
was broadcast in 2002 by the BBC. The programme was based on a television poll conducted to determine whom the United Kingdom public considered the greatest British people
British people
in history.[1][2] The series, Great Britons, included individual programmes featuring the individuals who featured in the top ten, with viewers having further opportunities to vote after each programme.[3] It concluded with a debate. All of the top 10 were dead by the year of broadcast.


1 The Poll 2 Top 10 on the list 3 Full list 4 See also 5 References 6 External links

The Poll[edit] The poll resulted in nominees including Guy Fawkes, who was executed for trying to blow up the Parliament of England; Oliver Cromwell, who created a republican England; Richard III, suspected of murdering his nephews; James Connolly, an Irish nationalist and socialist who was executed by the Crown in 1916; and a surprisingly high ranking of 17th for actor and singer Michael Crawford
Michael Crawford
(the second highest-ranked entertainer, after John Lennon). Diana, Princess of Wales
Diana, Princess of Wales
was judged to be a greater historical British figure than William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
by BBC
respondents to the survey. One of the more controversial figures to be included on the list was occultist Aleister Crowley. His works had a direct influence on the rise in popular occultism and some forms of neopaganism in the 20th century. In addition to the Britons, some notable non-British entrants were listed, including two Irish nationals, the philanthropic musicians Bono
and Bob Geldof. The top 19 entries were people of English origin (though Sir Ernest Shackleton
Sir Ernest Shackleton
and Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, were both born into Anglo-Irish families when what is now the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
was part of the United Kingdom). The highest-placed Scottish entry was Alexander Fleming
Alexander Fleming
in 20th place, and the highest Welsh entry was Owain Glyndŵr
Owain Glyndŵr
in 23rd place.[4] Sixty had lived in the 20th century. The highest-ranked living person was Margaret Thatcher, placed 16th.[5] Ringo Starr
Ringo Starr
is the only member of The Beatles
The Beatles
not on the list. Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
occupied the top spot in the polls for some time thanks largely to "students from Brunel University who have been campaigning vigorously for the engineer for weeks."[6] However, a late surge in the final week of voting put Churchill over the top.[6] Of the top 100, 13 are women. The opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics featured the two greatest Britons, Isambard Kingdom Brunel
Isambard Kingdom Brunel
and Winston Churchill as main characters, played by Kenneth Branagh
Kenneth Branagh
and Timothy Spall, each of them reading a monologue from William Shakespeare's The Tempest.[7][8] The ceremony also included a personal appearance by Tim Berners-Lee,[9] who was placed 99th on the list. There were no black Britons on the list, prompting a separate three-month survey to find the 100 greatest black Britons.[10][11] Top 10 on the list[edit] Due to the nature of the poll used to select and rank the Britons, the results do not claim to be an objective assessment. They are as follows:

Rank Name Notability Nomination defended by Ref.

1 Sir Winston Churchill

Prime Minister (1940–1945, 1951–1955). Historically ranked as one of the greatest British prime ministers. Kept the nation's spirit up during World War II, when the country had to defend itself against Hitler's attempts to invade. He was an important figure in post-war international and national politics as well. Received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953. Mo Mowlam, British politician.[12] [13]

2 Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Designer of the Great Western Railway, Clifton Suspension Bridge, SS Great Britain and numerous significant ships, tunnels and bridges. A prominent figure during the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
which began in Britain, he revolutionised public transport and modern engineering.[14] Jeremy Clarkson, TV presenter.[12] [13]

3 Diana, Princess of Wales

First wife of Charles, Prince of Wales
Charles, Prince of Wales
(marriage 1981–1996), and mother of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Prince Harry. Admired for her philanthropic deeds. Rosie Boycott, journalist and feminist activist.[12] [13]

4 Charles Darwin

Biologist. Originator of the theory of evolution through natural selection and author of On the Origin of Species. Andrew Marr, journalist and TV presenter.[12] [13]

5 William Shakespeare

Poet and playwright. Creator of Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and many more. Thought of by many as the greatest of all English writers. He is still an internationally admired and influential figure in the field of theatre. Fiona Shaw, actress and theatre and opera director.[12] [13]

6 Sir Isaac Newton

Physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher. Originator of universal gravitation and laws of classical mechanics and laws of motion. His Principia is one of the most influential works in the history of science. Tristram Hunt, historian.[12] [13]

7 Elizabeth I

Queen of England and Ireland. (1558–1603). Brought a period of relative internal stability. She is associated with the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Her reign is known as the Elizabethan era. Michael Portillo, journalist and politician.[12] [13]

8 John Lennon

Pop/rock singer-songwriter, musician, activist and member of music quartet The Beatles. One of the most famous, successful, influential, covered and admired pop artists of all time. Hailed for his peace activism. Alan Davies, comedian and actor.[12] [13]

9 Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson

Naval commander, famous for his service in the Royal Navy, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. His victory during the Battle of Trafalgar was significant in preventing an invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte's army. Lucy Moore, historian.[12] [13]

10 Oliver Cromwell

1st Lord Protector
Lord Protector
of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland (1653–1658). Commander of the New Model Army
New Model Army
during the English Civil War
English Civil War
against King Charles I. Admired for moving the country to a more democratic stateform, though his nomination was controversial due genocide in Ireland. Richard Holmes, military historian.[12] [13]

Full list[edit]

Winston Churchill Isambard Kingdom Brunel Diana, Princess of Wales Charles Darwin William Shakespeare Sir Isaac Newton Elizabeth I John Lennon Horatio Nelson, 1st Viscount Nelson Oliver Cromwell Sir Ernest Shackleton, explorer. Made important contributions to the exploration of Antarctica. Captain James Cook, explorer. Made maps of Newfoundland prior to making three voyages to the Pacific Ocean, during which he achieved the first recorded European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, and the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand. Robert Baden-Powell, soldier and activist. Founder of Scouting. Alfred the Great, king of Wessex (871–899). Successfully stopped the Viking advance in England, encouraged education, proposing that primary education be taught in English, and improved his kingdom's legal system, military structure and people's quality of life. Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, general during the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
(defeated Napoleon at Waterloo) and Prime Minister (1828–1830, 1834). Margaret Thatcher, Prime Minister (1979–1990). First woman to have held the office. Michael Crawford, TV, film and theatre actor (Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em on television, and originated the title role in The Phantom of the Opera on the West End). Queen Victoria, queen (1837–1901). Her reign is known as the Victorian era. Sir Paul McCartney, musician (The Beatles). Sir Alexander Fleming, physician and chemist. Discovered penicillin. Received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
in 1945. Alan Turing, mathematician and pioneering computer scientist. Invented the Turing Test
Turing Test
and devised cryptanalytical techniques, including those which cracked the Enigma machine. Michael Faraday, physicist. Discovered electromagnetic induction, diamagnetism and electrolysis. Owain Glyndŵr, Welsh ruler, the last native "prince of Wales" Elizabeth II, queen (1952–). Stephen Hawking, astrophysicist. Achieved groundbreaking work in the field of quantum gravity and theoretical cosmology. Author of A Brief History of Time. William Tyndale, scholar. Translated the Bible into English. Emmeline Pankhurst, activist for women's rights. Helped achieve women's right to vote in the United Kingdom. William Wilberforce, politician and activist. Led the anti-slavery movement. David Bowie, musician (Space Oddity, Ziggy Stardust, Heroes, Let's Dance) Guy Fawkes, member of the Gunpowder Plot. Tried but failed to blow up the English Parliament. The event is the origin of the annual Bonfire Night. Leonard Cheshire, military pilot and philanthropist. Eric Morecambe, comedian and actor (Morecambe and Wise). David Beckham, association football player. Thomas Paine, philosopher (The Age of Reason). Boudica, Celtic queen of Britannia. Led resistance against the Roman army. Sir Steve Redgrave, rower. Won gold medals at five consecutive Olympic Games (1984–2000). Sir Thomas More, author and philosopher (Utopia). William Blake, poet and painter (Songs of Innocence and Experience, Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant Albion, Milton: A Poem in Two Books). John Harrison, inventor of the marine chronometer. Henry VIII, king (1509–1547). Charles Dickens, novelist (Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, David Copperfield). Sir Frank Whittle, engineer and inventor. Invented the turbojet engine. John Peel, radio presenter. John Logie Baird, engineer and inventor. Invented the television. Aneurin Bevan, politician. Minister of Health (1945–1951). Spearheaded the establishment of the National Health Service, providing medical care to all UK citizens regardless of wealth. Boy George, pop singer (Culture Club). Sir Douglas Bader, military aviator. Sir William Wallace, knight and resistance leader during the Wars of Scottish Independence. Sir Francis Drake, explorer and admiral. Defeated the Spanish Armada. John Wesley, religious activist. Founder of Methodism. King Arthur, mythical king. Florence Nightingale, humanitarian activist and founder of modern nursing. Nursed wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. T. E. Lawrence, better known as "Lawrence of Arabia", soldier and author of Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Robert Falcon Scott, explorer. Failed to reach the South Pole before Roald Amundsen
Roald Amundsen
and died on the way back. Became a national hero to the British because of his perseverance. Enoch Powell, politician. Sir Cliff Richard, pop singer. Alexander Graham Bell, inventor. Invented the telephone. Freddie Mercury, rock singer (Queen). Dame Julie Andrews, film actress (Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music). Sir Edward Elgar, composer (Pomp and Circumstance Marches). Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, queen during WWII. George Harrison, rock guitarist (The Beatles). Sir David Attenborough, biologist and TV documentary presenter. James Connolly, activist, politician and Marxist insurgent leader. George Stephenson, civil engineer. "Father of the Railways". Invented the first practical steam locomotive and built the first public railway. Sir Charlie Chaplin, comedian, actor and film director (The Kid, The Gold Rush, City Lights, The Great Dictator, Modern Times) Tony Blair, Prime Minister (1997–2007). William Caxton, printer. Introduced the printing press in England. Bobby Moore, association football player. Captain of the England team that won the 1966 World Cup Jane Austen, novelist (Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility). William Booth, humanitarian activist. Founder of the Salvation Army. Henry V, king (1413–1422). Against all odds defeated the French at the Battle of Agincourt. Aleister Crowley, poet, novelist and occultist. Robert the Bruce, king of the Scots (1306–1329). Bob Geldof, pop singer (The Boomtown Rats) and humanitarian activist (Live Aid, Live 8). Born in Dún Laoghaire
Dún Laoghaire
and thus technically an Irishman. The Unknown Warrior, soldier whose remains are buried at Westminster Abbey. Robbie Williams, pop singer (Take That). Edward Jenner, physician. Inventor of the smallpox vaccine. David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd George of Dwyfor, Prime Minister (1916–1922). Charles Babbage, mathematician, philosopher, mechanical engineer and inventor. Invented the first programmable mechanical computer. Geoffrey Chaucer, poet (The Canterbury Tales). Richard III, king (1483–1485). J. K. Rowling, novelist (Harry Potter). James Watt, inventor. Improved the steam engine, making it economical for use in factories, which was fundamental to the Industrial Revolution which originated in Great Britain Sir Richard Branson, businessman (Virgin). Bono, rock singer (U2). Born in Dublin, Ireland, so is an Irishman. John Lydon
John Lydon
(Johnny Rotten), rock/punk singer (The Sex Pistols, Public Image Ltd.) Bernard Law
Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein ('Monty'), WWII general. Donald Campbell, speed record breaker. Only person to set both world land and water speed records in the same year (1964). Henry II, king (1154–1189). James Clerk Maxwell, physicist. Developed the theory of electromagnetic radiation. J. R. R. Tolkien, novelist (The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings). Sir Walter Raleigh, explorer. Explored North America. Edward I, king (1272–1307). The "Hammer of the Scots". Edward turned the longbow into England's most deadly weapon against the Scottish and French with devastating results most notably at the Battle of Falkirk. Sir Barnes Wallis, engineer and inventor. Invented the bouncing bomb, earthquake bomb and geodetic airframe. Richard Burton, theatre and film actor. Tony Benn, politician. David Livingstone, explorer. Discovered the origins of the Nile. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, computer scientist. Inventor of the World Wide Web. Marie Stopes, eugenicist and campaigner for women's rights. Pioneer in the field of birth control.

Although the BBC's original ranked list has been removed from their web server and what remains is only an alphabetical list of the Top 100,[15] several other sources have preserved the original ranked list.[16][17][18] There was some question as to whether the Richard Burton
Richard Burton
listed at #96 is the actor or the explorer. A BBC
press release makes it clear that they intended it to be the actor.[19] See also[edit]

Historical rankings of Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom


^ "100 great British heroes". BBC
News. 21 August 2002.  (contains the top 100, sorted alphabetically) ^ " BBC
reveals 100 great British heroes". BBC
News. 22 August 2002.  ^ "Ten greatest Britons chosen". BBC
News. 20 October 2002.  ^ Bloomfield, Steve (29 February 2004). "Rebel 'plot' to topple greatest Welshman". The Independent. Retrieved 11 January 2018.  ^ Winnett, Robert (20 October 2002). "Three lead race to be greatest Briton". The Times. Retrieved 11 January 2018.  ^ a b "Churchill leads great Britons poll". Daily Mail. 23 November 2002. Retrieved 13 March 2013.  ^ "Brunel reads from Shakespeare's The Tempest". ITV News. 27 July 2012. Retrieved 24 August 2012.  ^ " Timothy Spall
Timothy Spall
plays Churchill at closing ceremony". BBC
News. 16 January 2013. Retrieved 24 August 2012.  ^ Friar, Karen (28 July 2012). "Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee
Tim Berners-Lee
stars in Olympics opening ceremony". ZDNet. Retrieved 10 April 2013.  ^ "Nurse named greatest black Briton". BBC
News. 10 February 2004. Retrieved 23 March 2015.  ^ Solambey F. "The 100 greatest Black Britons". Afrokanlife. Archived from the original on 30 March 2015. Retrieved 27 March 2015.  ^ a b c d e f g h i j " BBC
TWO reveals the ten greatest Britons of all time" (Press release). BBC. 19 October 2002. Retrieved 11 October 2015.  ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Great Britons". BBC
History. Archived from the original on 4 February 2004. Retrieved 11 October 2015.  ^ "Why the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
Happened Here". BBC. 10 July 2017.  ^ "The complete list of the top 100 in alphabetical order" (Press release). BBC. 21 August 2002.  ^ " 100 Greatest Britons
100 Greatest Britons
Poll, 2002)". Alchemipedia. 8 December 2009.  ^ "Great Britons 1-10". BBC. Archived from the original on 2004-02-04. Retrieved 1 August 2012.  ^ "Great Britons 11-100". BBC. Archived from the original on 2002-12-04. Retrieved 1 August 2012.  ^ " BBC
TWO reveals the nation's top 100 Greatest Britons
100 Greatest Britons
of all time" (Press release). BBC. 21 August 2002. 

External links[edit]

Great Britons on IMDb Churchill memorial press release BBC
Great Britons press release BBC
Great Britons book and links at National Portrait Gallery The Top 100 Great Britons - places 11 to 100 by rank — BBC
(via web archive)

v t e

Countries' greatest people TV series and media polls

Argentina: El Gen Argentino Australia: The Greatest of All - Our 50 Top Australians Belgium: Belg der Belgen / De Grootste Belg
De Grootste Belg
/ Les plus grands Belges Brazil: O Maior Brasileiro de Todos os Tempos Bulgaria: Velikite Balgari Canada: The Greatest Canadian Catalonia: El Favorit Chile: Grandes Chilenos de Nuestra Historia Croatia: Greatest Croatian Czech Republic: Největší Čech Estonia: 100 great Estonians of the 20th century Finland: Suuret suomalaiset France: Le Plus Grand Français Germany: Unsere Besten Greece: Great Greeks India: The Greatest Indian Ireland: Ireland's Greatest Italy: Il più grande italiano di tutti i tempi Japan: The Top 100 Historical Persons in Japan Netherlands: De Grootste Nederlander New Zealand: New Zealand's Top 100 History Makers Portugal: Os Grandes Portugueses Romania: 100 Greatest Romanians Russia: Name of Russia South Africa: Great South Africans Spain: El Español de la Historia Ukraine: Velyki Ukraïntsi United Kingdom: 100 Greatest Britons United States: The Greatest American Wales: 100