Monday 24 November 2014


The invention of the World Wide Web has been judged to be the most significant moment in world history over the last eighty years, according to an online survey of almost 10,000 people around the world, conducted by the British Council.

The British Council has produced a new list of the top 80 moments and trends across global politics, culture, science and education, that reflects the view of between 749 and 1,249 adults aged 18 to 65 with a minimum level of secondary education in Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, South Africa, the UK and USA.

The list, produced from polling by YouGov, found that more than twice as many people judged the invention of the World Wide Web in 1989 to be the most important single moment than the discovery of a method of mass production of penicillin in 1943, which was second in the overall list. The widespread availability of home computers was judged to be third.

The British Council gathered a panel of 25 eminent scientists, technologists, academics, artists, writers, broadcasters and world leaders – from Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas – to name their ‘80 Moments’ which shaped our world, and then asked people to vote to rank the final list. The study was commissioned to mark the British Council’s 80th anniversary year.

John Worne, British Council Director of Strategy, said “We wanted to see how the world sees itself and its history – eighty years is a lifetime’s worth of moments, but an international panel and almost 10,000 people from around the world have selected a fascinating range of eighty which have changed our world in very different ways since 1934. There is a clear winner though: the invention of the World Wide Web is judged to have changed the world more than anything else – and that tells us just how much being connected matters to us all.”

The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington DC were the fourth and fifth most significant moments respectively.

Due to the diversity of the nominating panel, the list reflects a broad spread of influential events, and the survey revealed that there were cultural differences in how significant they were deemed to be. For example, older respondents are more likely to think that internet based developments and trends have been influential, while women were twice as likely as men to select the rise in global awareness of the importance of environmental protection and conservation.

The British Council works with millions of young people around the world each year, helping them to learn English, gain UK-backed qualifications, access educational opportunities and to study, visit, work or do business with the UK as well as helping UK young people learn languages, study overseas and develop their careers and creativity internationally. The British Council will be sharing its publication ’80 Moments’ widely around the world, through social media (itself voted #12 in the list) with the hashtag #80Moments.

John Worne commented “These 80 Moments cover every aspect of human life over the last eighty years, from the discovery of DNA to the development of the instant noodle. I think the overarching finding is the world has got better when we have shared knowledge and ideas and opened up to each other’s cultures. That was the founding idea of the British Council - and it is as true of today’s world it was in the days of our founding in 1934.”

Notes to Editor

The full list of moments can be found here:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 9576 adults aged 18-65 who have a minimum of secondary education in UK, US, Brazil, Germany, Japan, China, Russia, South Africa, Egypt, India. Fieldwork was undertaken between 19th August - 8th September 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures for each market have been weighted and are representative of all adults (aged 18+).

Top Five:

The invention of the World Wide Web in 1989-90

The discovery of a method of mass production of penicillin, 1943

The widespread availability of home computers

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

The terrorist attacks of 11th September 2001 on New York (the World Trade Center) and Washington DC; and the emergence of terrorism as a major international phenomeno

The international panellists that nominated moments to be included in the survey are:

·         Assia Besalah Alaqui, Ambassador at large for HM the King of Morocco

·         Nadia Al-Sakkaf, Editor in Chief of the Yemen Times

·         Ayo Bamgbose, Professor Emeritus at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria

·         Dr Tian Belawati, Rector of the Indonesia Open University

·         Dame Claire Bertschinger, Director of Tropical Nursing Studies, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

·         Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, current Deputy Chair of The Elders

·         Professor Tony Chan, President of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

·         Dr Heesun Chung, President of the International Association of Forensic Sciences

·         Ariel Dorfman, Professor of Literature and Latin American Studies at Duke University, USA

·         Dr Lykke Friis, Pro-Rector of Copenhagen University and President of the Danish Foreign Policy Society

·         Dr Seungsoo Han, former Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea

·         Dr Nirmalya Kumar, member of the Group Executive Council of Tata Sons

·         Dr Atia Lawgali, Chairman of the Libyan National Commission on Civic Education

·         Dr Paul Kan Man-Lok, Chairman of the Hong Kong Information Industry Council

·         Joseph V Melillo, Executive Producer of the Brooklyn Academy of Music

·         Bruce Onobrakpeya, Nigerian printmaker, painter and sculptor

·         Rita Payne, President of the Commonwealth Journalists Association

·         Sanjoy Roy, Founder of Teamwork Productions and Producer of the Jaipur Literature Festival

·         Dr Dorothea Rüland, Secretary General of the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD)

·         HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand, Head of Department of History of the Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy

·         Bongani Tembe, Chief Executive and Artistic Director of the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra

·         Dr Paul Thompson, Rector of the Royal College of Art

·         Xu Tongwu, Academician of the Chinese Academy of Social Science

·         Yu Minhong, Founder and Chief Executive of New Oriental Education & Technology Group Inc.

·         Maung Thura (‘Zarganar’), Burmese comedian, film actor and director, political activist

For More Information, please contact Tim Sowula, British Council at or 07771 718 135 or 0207 389 4871

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

We work in more than 100 countries and our 7,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the Arts and delivering education and society programmes.

We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publically-funded grant provides less than 25 per cent of our turnover which  was £781m in 2012/13. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally.

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