mandela's love letter

Nelson Mandela voted as the most influential leader of the 20th century

The late Nelson Mandela has beaten Margaret Thatcher to clinch the most inspirational leader in the 20th century according to a BBC show ‘Icons’

The  public has whittled down a list of the ‘greatest’ people of the 20th century to seven finalists – all of whom are men.

The BBC show Icons initially picked seven categories with four inspirational characters included in each field.

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The categories were leaders, explorers, scientists, entertainers, activists, sports stars, and artists/writers.

The public has been voting for which individual in each field most deserved to reach the programme finale next Tuesday.

But despite 12 women being included on the longlist of 28 ‘greats’ of the last century, selected by a ‘panel of experts’, none won in their category.

The BBC offered the public a choice of four 20th Century ‘Icons’ in each of seven categories. In the ‘Leader’ category, above, Mrs Thatcher, FDR, and Sir winston Churchill all lost out to Nelson Mandela

Pablo Picasso beat Alfred Hitchcock, Andy Warhol and Virginia Woolf to be named the best artist in the X-factor style history show, completing the line-up of finalists.

Margaret Thatcher had lost out to Nelson Mandela in the leader category, while physicist Marie Curie and pharmaceutical chemist Tu Youyou – who developed medicine to treat malaria – were beaten by Alan Turing for the best scientist.

The late David Bowie pipped Billie Holiday and Marilyn Monroe to be named the greatest entertainer. They will be pitted against Ernest Shackleton, Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali in the live hour-long final.

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The late Nelson Mandela

The programme, hosted by Claudia Winkleman and Nick Robinson, will see seven celebrity advocates give a speech to convince viewers to vote for the icon in their category.

The late David Bowie pipped Billie Holiday and Marilyn Monroe to be named the greatest entertainer

Model Lily Cole, during her episode on artists and writers, said: ‘Pablo Picasso was a pioneer of modern art. He wasn’t afraid to use his status to shout loudly about the horror of war, and his iconic work is as relevant today as it was then.’

In his episode, naturalist Chris Packham praised Turing – who is thought to have had Asperger’s – for being an example of why it is ‘worth putting up with’ people who have Autism.

Packham, who was diagnosed with Asperger’s in 2005, said: ‘We know that as a child he was ostracised by his peers, again this is something which I experienced, we find it difficult to integrate and to understand the social norms of that group of people.’

The other advocates set to go head-to-head in the final include actress Kathleen Turner (for entertainers), comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar (for activists), Clare Balding (for sports stars), Sir Trevor McDonald (for leaders) and Dermot O’Leary (for explorers).

The Corporation has billed the show as ‘the most ambitious BBC history series in a decade’ which ‘has told the definitive story of the 20th century through the people who had the most impact on it.’

The Icons final airs on Tuesday at 9pm on BBC Two.

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