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15 Photos that Changed the World

Posted by Anuradha Monday, October 20, 2008

9/11 Attacks

In the morning September 11, 2001, two hijacked passenger jets crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. This was no accident, but rather a series of attacks done by suicide bombers engaged with the Al-Qaeda terrorist group.
The attacks killed all the passengers on board the hijacked planes, and took away 2,974 innocent lives at the World Trade Center. More than 90 countries lost citizens in the attack, and the stock market was closed for a week. In response to the attacks, the United States government declared a War on Terror, while many other nations strengthened their law enforcement powers to fight terrorism. However, the suicide attacks done by the Al Qaeda terrorists have forever marked a sense of fear not just in America, but in the whole world.

Afghan Girl

Who would forget these eyes that have seemed to reflect the harshness of the war? This is the famous photo of the Afghan girl taken by Steve McCurry of National Geographic. It is very rare for a man to see faces of Afghan girls mainly because they are well-covered, thus McCurry seized the opportunity when she showed her face for a few moments. Her photograph made it to the cover of the magazine later on.

This Afghan girl, whose identity was revealed in 1992 to be Sharbat Gula, is now married and mother of three girls. She and her family lives in Pushtun, an ethnic region in Afghanistan.

And of course the afghan girl, picture shot by National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry. Sharbat Gula was one of the students in an informal school within the refugee camp; McCurry, rarely given the opportunity to photograph Afghan women, seized the opportunity and captured her image. She was approximately 12 years old at the time. She made it on the cover of National Geographic next year, and her identity was discovered in 1992.

Burning Monk

As a protest to the Diệm slow and unreliable reforms in Vietnam, the Buddhist monks have resorted to immolation, such as this Mahayana Buddhist monk, Thỉch Quảng Đức. Đức burned himself alive across the outskirts of Saigon, mainly because of the harshness done by the South Vietnam government to his fellow Buddhist monks.

Đức was re-cremated after he burned himself; his heart meanwhile remained in one piece, and because of this he was regarded as a Bodhisattva by the other Buddhist monks and followers. His act of self-immolation increased the pressure on the Diệm administration to implement their reform laws in South Vietnam.

More monks followed Đức’s footsteps as well, and later on in November 1963, Diệm was killed by an army coup.

Emmett Before

Emmett Till Travels to the Mississippi Delta

Fourteen-year-old Emmett Till was excited about his trip from his home in Chicago’s south side to the Mississippi, Delta to visit relatives. Prior to his departure, his mother, Mamie Till Bradley, a teacher, had done her best to advise him about how to behave when interacting with Southern white people. Till’s mother understood that in Mississippi race relations were a lot different than in Chicago. In Mississippi, over 500 blacks had been lynched since 1882 and racially motivated murders were not unfamiliar, especially in the Delta where Till was going. Racial tensions were also on the rise; the United States Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which ordered the end of segregation in schools, created dismay throughout many Southern white communities. Furthermore, the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacy groups began working to maintain life as they knew it.

With his mother’s warning and wearing the ring that had belonged to his deceased father, on August 20, 1955, Emmett Till setoff with his cousin Curtis Jones on the train to Mississippi. When Till and Jones arrived on August 21, they stayed at the home of Till’s great-uncle Mose Wright, just on the outskirts of Money, Mississippi.

5 year old Mother (1939)

One of the photographs meanwhile that changed medical history is that of Lina Medina, the youngest mother who gave birth at the age of five. Born in Peru in 1933, Lina was brought to the local hospital by her parents because of an increasingly enlarged belly, which they first thought of a tumor. After a series of tests however, the doctors confirmed that she was seven months pregnant. A month later Lina gave birth to a baby boy whom she named Gerardo, after her doctor.

Lina Medina is the first known case of precocious pregnancy, and based on studies it was shown that she had an advanced menarche development resulting to menstruation at the age of 8 months, prominent breasts upon turning four, and bone maturation at age 5.

Her son Gerardo was first raised knowing that Lina was his sister, but eventually he found out that she was his mother at the age of 10. In 1972, Lina married and gave birth to her second son, 33 years after Gerardo was born. Gerardo soon died seven years later at the age of 40, due to a bone marrow disease. Lina, who is now aged 74, continues to live with her husband in Chicago, Chico, in Lima, Peru.

The Power of One

Settler woman struggling with Israeli security officers at Amona outpost in the West Bank February 1, 2006. Oded Balilty, Israel, The Associated Press.World Press Photo Contest. The prize-winning entries were announced on February 9, 2007. REUTERS/Oded Balilty/the Associated Press/Handout

Man walks on the Moon

In one of the most famous photographs of the 20th Century, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin walks on the surface of the moon near the leg of the lunar module Eagle. Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong took this photograph with a 70mm lunar surface camera. Armstrong and Aldrin explored the Sea of Tranquility for two and a half hours while crewmate Michael Collins orbited above in the command module Columbia.

As the world remembers the thrilling Apollo 11 mission 35 years later, NASA’s newVision calls for a return to the moon, followed by journeys of discovery to Mars and beyond.

Mouse with Human Ear

Back in 1997, a rather bizarre photograph suddenly became very famous. It showed a totally hairless mouse, with what appeared to be a human ear growing out of its back. That photograph prompted a wave of protest against genetic engineering, which continues today. But there was absolutely no genetic engineering involved in getting that ear to cover almost all of the mouse’s back.

Nagasaki Mushroom Cloud

This is the picture of the “mushroom cloud” showing the enormous quantity of energy. The first atomic bomb was released on August 6 in Hiroshima (Japan) and killed about 80,000 people. On August 9 another bomb was released above Nagasaki. The effects of the second bomb were even more devastating - 150,000 people were killed or injured. But the powerful wind, the extremely high temperature and radiation caused enormous long term damage.

Starving Child Vulture

One photograph that has helped awaken the world about the effects of poverty in Africa is the one above showing a Sudanese child being stalked by a vulture nearby. It is quite obvious that the child was starving to death, while the vulture was patiently waiting for the toddler to die so he can have a good meal.

Nobody knows what happened to the child, who crawled his way to a United Nations food camp. Photographer Kevin Carter won a Pulitzer Prize for this shocking picture, but he eventually committed suicide three months after he took the shot.

Saddam Hussein execution

Starving boy and missionary

World Press Photo of the Year: 1980 Mike Wells, United Kingdom. Karamoja district, Uganda, April 1980. Starving boy and a missionary. About the image Wells felt indignant that the same publication that sat on his picture for five months without publishing it, while people were dying, entered it into a competition. He was embarrassed to win as he never entered the competition himself, and was against winning prizes with pictures of people starving to death.

The Baby Hand

Some of us may be familiar with a picture called “The Baby Hand,” taken on Aug. 19, 1999, by photojournalist Michael Clancy for USA Today, which first published the picture. Clancy was assigned to document a spina bifida operation performed in utero on a 21-week unborn baby named Samuel Armas by Dr. Joseph Bruner, a surgeon at Nashville’s Vanderbuilt University Medical Center.

The First X-ray

In 1901 Wilhelm Konrad Roentgen was the first recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics, and he truly deserves his place in history because his discovery revolutionized the medical world. A series of experiments helped him notice that barium platinocyanide emits a fluorescent glow. Combining his observation with a photographic plate and his wife’s hand, he made the first X-ray photo, and thus, made it possible to look inside the human body without surgical intervention.

Tsunami Floating Bodies

The Boxing Day Tsunami that struck Thailand in 2004 caused approximately 350,000 deaths and many more injuries.


  1. Eric Says:
  2. all good but what about that one i think during the vietnam war where that dude is shot in the head at point blank range....

  3. Goran Says:
  4. they sure changed it

  5. James Says:
  6. Here are 50 facts worth knowing concerning our world, will they make us want to change it? 50 Facts that Should Change the World


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