Sigmund Freud tops poll of refugees who have contributed most to British life

Last updated June 17, 2013Press release

A national Refugee Week survey has found Sigmund Freud to be the refugee who has had the most significant contribution to British life.

The father of psychoanalysis, who fled to the UK to escape Nazi persecution, was voted overwhelmingly as the nation’s favourite with half of votes (50 %) saying that he had contributed the most to British life.

He was followed by German Physicist, Max Born (21%), who was awarded a Nobel Prize for his contribution to the development of quantum mechanics.

One in ten respondents (10%) cited the French refugee and writer of Les Misérables, Victor Hugo, who settled in the UK after fleeing persecution from Napoleon, as their first choice from a list of prominent refugees who have made a contribution to science and technology, the arts, culture and sport over the years.

The Britain Thinks poll coincides with the launch of Refugee Week 2013, a nationwide festival of events to celebrate the positive contribution that refugees have made to British society over the centuries under the theme ‘Our History and Heritage’ from 17-23 June 2013.

More than 2000 people who took part in the survey also thought that Radar, developed in part by the Austrian scientist and refugee Hermann Bondi, was one of the 20th century inventions that had made the greatest contribution to British life.

The nation’s long standing affection for fish and chips as a popular national dish, first introduced to the UK by French Protestant refugees and Jewish settlers from Portugal, received 17 per cent of the vote. This was followed closely by the high street department store M&S, co-founded by Russian refugee Michael Marks (11%).

And an overwhelming majority (94%) believed that the full history of Britian including the role the country has played in protecting refugees should be taught in schools.

Chair of Refugee Week, Maurice Wren, commented on the findings:

“From as early as the arrival of the Armenians who settled in this country during the 12th century, the UK has enjoyed a proud tradition of welcome for those seeking sanctuary.

“The results of the survey show the valuable contribution that refugees have made to British history and heritage. It is interesting to see that the great British public consistently rank science and technology inventions more highly than the equally positive contributions to British cultural and sporting life made more recently by refugees.”

Contemporary refugee figures such as Fabrice Muamba, the former Bolton Wanderer’s footballer who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo as a child and Rita Ora, the Kosovan singer-songwriter managed by rapper Jay-Z who moved to the UK with her family during the 1990s Balkan conflict, also featured in the survey, polling six and four per cent respectively.

Maurice Wren added:

“Throughout the centuries, refugees have brought a wealth of talent, skills and knowledge with them to help make the UK the rich, diverse, and vibrant nation it is today.”

Now in its 15th year, Refugee Week has launched an online interactive timeline which charts refugee movements to the UK throughout the centuries.

Refugee Action is a partner in Refugee Week. Find out about events happening near you.