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Denmark doesn’t look very big on a world map, and the country has only 5.5 million inhabitants. Yet what it might lack in square kilometres, Denmark makes up for in the number of Danes that have made a name for themselves on the global stage.

These ‘Great Danes’ include writers, physicists, philosophers, athletes, designers, architects, film directors, politicians and even kings.

The old and great…

Probably everyone at some point has been told the fairy tale of the ugly duckling who grew into a beautiful swan. Undoubtedly, Hans Christian Andersen is the most famous Dane of all time, thanks to his magical fairy tales, which are loved by children and adults around the world. His poetry and stories have been translated into more than 150 languages worldwide.

Other truly great Danes include physicist Niels Bohr, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1922, and the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard, who has become known as the godfather of existentialism.

Danish design, as exemplified by for instance Arne Jacobsen, has also gained considerable international respect and approval. Danish architects are internationally acclaimed, the most famous probably being Jørn Utzon – the man who designed the Sydney Opera House.

…and the new and great

Denmark also has some strong and noteworthy film traditions. From the 1980s onwards, directors like Lars von Trier and Gabriel Axel have been synonymous with cutting-edge filmmaking. They have won a number of international prizes for films that challenge and explore the traditional boundaries of film production and genre classifications. And as late as 2011, Danish director Susanne Bier received an Oscar for "In a Better World".

In recent years, a new generation of Great Danes has made headlines around the world. In particular, Bjarke Ingels, the acclaimed architect, and Rene Redzepi, the head chef at the world´s best restaurant, Noma, often draw attention to their new and unique ways of rethinking architecture and gastronomy.

The lives and achievements of all these Great Danes and many more are outlined in biographies of varying lengths on these pages.