Greatest Achievements of Mankind

A list of great achievements by mankind.

Declaration of Human Rights

After centuries of religious persecution, injustice and disregard for human rights, the acceptance of human rights enshrined in law is one of the great achievements of modern history. Some of the earliest declarations can be seen in the US constitution, drafted by Thomas Jefferson.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

US Declaration of Human Rights, July 4, 1776

In the Twentieth Century, the United Nations declaration of human rights cemented its importance for modern history.

“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” (continue reading at UN)

United Nations, Declaration of Human Rights (1948)


From Greek city states to fully fledged modern library democracy. Democracy gives everyone the right to participate in how they are governed. Churchill once remarked that democracy was the ‘least worst form of government invented’


The alternatives to democracy are putting power in the hands of a small number of people, who inevitably abuse this power.

“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.”

— Abraham Lincoln

People who helped shape democracy

Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa


A work of art that has captured the imagination of humanity. The mysterious smile, the penetrating eyes. The air of mystique surrounding the Mona Lisa cannot easily be explained but, it is more than just a supreme example of renaissance art, it encapsulates a unique spirit.

The Works of William Shakespeare

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. “

Despite producing one of the earliest body of works in English, few have come close to matching William Shakespeare’s mastery of English in articulating the poetic range of human emotion and experience.

United Nations

united-nationsThe United Nations is a global body aiming to secure international friendship and co-operation in the pursuit of human rights, democracy and world peace. It’s predecessor, the League of Nations, was born out of the devastation of the First World War. The United Nations was founded in 1945 at the end of the Second World War. Outwardly, the UN may have many imperfections, but it still remains an globally important body for the promotion of the ideals of a oneness-world.

Ave Maria – Schubert / Bach

It is music which has the greatest capacity to lift humanity from the ordinary earth bound thoughts and emotions. The loftiest music can touch the psychic core of man and expand the consciousness of man. We could have chosen from the works of Beethoven, Mozart, or countless other musicians, but, Ave Maria remains one of the loftiest pieces in the pantheon of music.

The First Flight

The Wright brothers finally achieved man’s eternal quest to achieve a powered flight. The short flight in 1901 revolutionised air travel in the twentieth century and remains one of the great technical achievements.

The Development of Vaccines

For many centuries, the life expectancy of man was very low. Life was hard, short and painful. The great advances of medical science in the nineteenth and twentieth century have allowed people in many developed countries to have a much greater life expectancy. Some of the most important discoveries included the first vaccines developed by Louis Pasteur and the advent of Penicillin in the twentieth century. Perhaps our next greatest achievement would be ensuring access to this knowledge is widespread amongst all people on the planet.

See also: Greatest modern inventions

Man on the Moon

It was a great scientific achievement to put man in space and then land on the thin atmosphere of the moon. It shows the horizons of man are not limited to this physical earth.

Four Minute Mile

Any great sporting achievement could have been used here. To run a marathon in close to 2 hours, is perhaps an even greater athletic achievement. Alternatively, we could have chosen the fastest 100 metre time of Usain bolts in under 9.6 seconds. Yet, no sporting record is more iconic than the first mile run under 4 minutes by British athlete Roger Bannister. For many decades doctors and learned people had suggested it was physically impossible for man to run a mile under 4 minutes. But, once Roger Bannister had broken the psychological barrier many others soon followed. It showed the spirit of self-transcendence intrinsic to man.

Climbing Mount Everest

On May 29th, 1953 Edmund Hilary and Sherpa Tensing Norgay finally conquered the crown of the world reaching the top of Mount Everest. At 8,848 Metres, Mount Everest is the highest peak in the Himalayas, the Nepalese name it Sagarmatha – meaning Mother Goddess of the world.

The Great Pyramids

Conventional wisdom suggests these were built with slaves, but, this view has become increasingly challenged. The truth is that there are many ancient structures such as Stonehenge which defy modern science even centuries later. The Great Pyramids remain a mystery but, they stand as a colossal and imposing figure in the sands of Egypt.

Michelangelo’s Pieta


It is a work of art which captures the beauty, poignancy, poise and emotion of the greatest human dramas – love divine and love human.

The Olympics

olympicsThe Olympics is one of mankind’s greatest achievements. It can bring people together from all over the world, and promote international friendship and individual achievement. Although it has been marred by political protests in the past, recent Olympics have shown the capacity to unite the world. At the 2012 London Olympics, a woman represented every country for the first time. The Olympics has the capacity to fill newspapers with positive news.

Greatest achievement of mankind in past few decades

1. Fall of the Berlin Wall (1989)


The fall of the Berlin wall (1989) was symbolic of removing the barriers that existed between East and West. On a practical level, the fall of the Berlin Wall enabled Germany to be re-united and the free movement of people across the ‘Iron Curtain’. The fall of the Berlin wall also symbolised the end of Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Eastern European countries have been able to pursue their own democratic futures, independently of the Soviet Communist party. Many people were involved in dismantling this barrier, but it was Mikhail Gorbachev who began the process of perestroika, which enabled the gradual process of political freedom in Eastern Europe.

Ending of Segregation and Apartheid


In the 1960s, many black Americans still faced widespread discrimination – politically, socially and economically. The civil rights movement, led by Martin Luther King, helped to pass legislation outlawing various types of racial discrimination. A key moment in US history was the March for Jobs and Freedom on Washington, 1963, when Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech

In South Africa, Nelson Mandela led the movement to end the system of apartheid in South Africa. Mandela is credited with enabling a smooth transition which focused on integrating black and white people in the post-apartheid South Africa.

Environmental movement

wwfIn the past century, there has been increased awareness that man needs to care for the planet and other living creatures. Rather than seeing the earth as something to be exploited, recent ideas see the earth as a holistic entity, in which we are interdependent with the environment and living creatures. Although there is increased awareness about the importance of looking after the environment in which we live, this still needs to be translated into improved action.

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 Further Reading

Around the World in 80 Treasures: A Quest for Mankind’s Greatest Achievements

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