By Johan Ahlander and Niklas Pollard
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Swedish academic Hans Rosling, a doctor and statistician who captured a worldwide audience with his witty style and original thinking on topics like population growth and development, has died at the age of 68.
With humor, lively graphics and an impassioned rhetorical style, Rosling used forums like online TED talks to influence public debate. In one typical example, he deployed a set of brightly colored plastic boxes from furniture store IKEA to illustrate demographic trends in the richest and poorest countries.
The Gapminder foundation, a self-styled "fact tank" he co-founded to fight misconceptions about global development, said in a statement that Rosling had died on Tuesday, a year after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
A health professor at Sweden's Karolinska Institute, Rosling was known for highlighting progress in the developing world, including declines in child mortality and poverty, and the advance of democracy in Africa.
"Hans Rosling was a good friend and a brilliant teacher. He managed to bring life to facts and he helped people to see the progress we often overlooked. We are deeply saddened by the loss," philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates told Swedish news agency TT.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg wrote on Twitter: "A giant has passed away. Hans Rosling made change possible by sharing his extraordinary knowledge. A friend that will be missed by many."
In 2014, at the height of the Ebola epidemic, Rosling packed his bags and went to Liberia to offer his services.
"He went straight into the Health Ministry and said, 'Hi there, here I am. Professor Hans Rosling. Can I help you?'," Helena Nordenstedt, doctor and scientist at Karolinska, told Swedish daily Expressen.
In the past decade, Rosling had cut back on his work at Karolinska to devote more time to work as a public educator for Gapminder, where he liked to refer to his role as an "Edutainer".
"We know that many will be saddened by this message. Hans is no longer alive, but he will always be with us and his dream of a fact-based world view, we will never let die," the foundation said.
(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)