Gro Harlem Brundtland was born on 20 April 1939 in Oslo. She studied medicine at Oslo University, and obtained her MD degree in 1963. She received the degree of Master of Public Health from Harvard University in 1965.

From 1965 to 1967 Dr Brundtland served as medical officer in the Norwegian directorate of health. From 1968 to 1974 she was assistant medical director of the Oslo board of health's department of school services. In 1974 she was appointed environment minister, a position she held for five years. Appointed prime minister for the first time in 1981, she held this position three times, the last time from 1990 to 1996. Altogether she was head of government for over 10 years.

Dr Brundtland also chaired the World Commission on Environment and Development, which coined the concept of 'sustainable development' and made recommendations which led to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.