100 Greatest Britons (BBC Poll, 2002)
The BBC conducted a poll in 2002 to discover 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 in history. 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. It concluded with a debate. All of the top 10 were dead by the year of broadcast.
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 (the second highest-ranked entertainer, after John Lennon). Diana, Princess of Wales was judged to be a greater historical British figure than William Shakespeare by BBC respondents to the survey.
In addition to the Britons, some notable non-British entrants were listed, including two Irish nationals, the philanthropic musicians Bono and Bob Geldof. Furthermore, many candidates were from an era in which Britishness did not exist. The top 19 entries were people of English origin (though 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 was part of the United Kingdom). The highest-placed Scottish entry was Alexander Fleming in 20th place, with the highest Welsh entry, Owain Glyndŵr, at number 23. Sixty had lived in the twentieth century. The highest-ranked living person was Margaret Thatcher, who placed 16th. Ringo Starr is the only member of The Beatles not on the list. Perhaps the most surprising high entry was Isambard Kingdom Brunel, whose 2nd place was due largely to "students from Brunel University who have been campaigning vigorously for the engineer for weeks."
The opening and closing ceremonies of the 2012 Summer Olympics featured the two greatest Britons, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Winston Churchill as main characters, played by Kenneth Branagh and Timothy Spall, each of them reading a monologue from William Shakespeare's The Tempest. In addition, the ceremony also contained a personal appearance by Tim Berners-Lee, who was placed 99th on the list.
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, several other sources have preserved the original ranked list.
There was some question as to whether the 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.
The following "blocked" profiles should be added to this project
Richard III of England
Henry II, King of England