Monday, December 9, 2013


This week marked the passing of Nelson Mandela, the South African leader who was a beacon for the world.   An article by Paul Brill in the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant included a discussion of our book to ask the question, "How big was Mandela?"

Our methods rank Nelson Mandela at 356, which puts him as the preeminent African leader in history.   We rank him in the same neighborhood of other important nation builders, like Mustafa Kemal Atatürk [360] of Turkey and Giuseppe Garibaldi [352] of Italy, and these seem like proper comparisons to me.

I am fortunate to be able to say I once laid eyes on this man.  During a trip to London, my attempt to visit a cathedral was blocked by a large crowd, waiting patiently.   Mandela was inside, they told me. When he emerged, I was really struck by his presence, his height and erect bearing.   He looked every inch the giant that he was.