The reporter whose persistence led to the MPs' expenses scandal, introducing us to house flipping, duck houses and other fiddles. The happiness came, first, with the delicious details; second with the moral superiority we can now feel over those who legislate and lecture us on how to live.
Science has long had an image problem but Dr Cox – also known as the rockstar physicist – has done the unthinkable and made particle physics cool. When he's not researching, the former D:Ream keyboardist presents programmes on science, enthusing children and adults alike.
TV presenter and wildlife campaigner
Not just a TV face, presenting glimpses into the private lives of our flora and fauna in Springwatch etc, but also committed to getting us all to engage with, and assist, our wildlife. She is an enthusiastic president of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and a keen beekeeper.
Actor and playwright
Kwei-Armah changed his name in his 20s from Ian Roberts after tracing his family tree back through the slave trade to Ghana. The actor and writer has become a passionate advocate for the arts, and has worked to bring issues that affect Britain's black community to West-End audiences.
Campaigner against forced marriage
Ms Sanghera escaped a forced marriage as a teenager and told her story in order to encourage others to seek help. She co-founded Karma Nirvana – a refugee and advice centre for men and women escaping forced marriages and other "honour" based violence.
Archbishop of York
The Uganda-born Archbishop of (or, as he prefers it, for) York is no vacuous token of inclusiveness but a gritty clergyman who served in a remand centre and as an adviser to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry. A thoughtful and provocative contributor to national debate.
Dame Jenny Abramsky
At the BBC, Jenny Abramsky brought education, information and entertainment to millions and was therefore a hate figure for reactionaries, which made the rest of us even happier. Now retired, she was editor of Today, launched 5 Live, News 24 and BBC Online.
Simon Albert and Jeremy Gane
Founders of Charity Challenge
The former brand manager (Simon) and antique clock repairer (Jeremy) met on a charity trek up Kilimanjaro in 1996. The London-based pair set up Charity Challenge after leading fundraising trips together. The organisation has raised around £26m for more than 1,000 charities.
Afghan author and youth campaigner
London-based Zuhra Bahman fled the Taliban to Pakistan where she set up the refugee wing of the Youth and Children Development Programme. She writes non-fiction and fiction – tales about Afghan customs and magical villages – and helps set up libraries for Afghan children.
Chief Executive, UK Youth
Still enthusiastic after 35 years of youth work, John also directs Youth FM, a radio station by and for young people. Nominated by colleague Joanna Birch-Phaure for "his belief in young people that has helped disaffected people raise their aspirations and realise their potential."
Director, End Child Prostitution and Trafficking UK
Through campaigning and research, Beddoe has made the UK a safer place for children who arrive here. She was instrumental in persuading the Government that child trafficking to the UK existed, and pushes for improvements to the legislation and welfare provision for its victims.
In the 1970s this trail-blazing British athlete shot from the hip at the athletics authorities and smashed the 10,000m record at Crystal Palace in 1973. More recently, he has been key to the success of the Virgin London Marathon – as race director of the inspiring event taking place today.
Dame Hilary Sharon Braverman Blume
Made a dame in 2004, ethical gift guru Hilary Blume has worked in charity for more than 40 years. She established the Charities Advisory Trust in 1979 and launched the Good Gift Catalogue in 2003, making goats and chickens for poor communities common presents.
Founder of Bradt travel guides
Since writing her first guidebook while floating down the Amazon in 1973, Bradt's company has exploded in size, publishing guides to more than 130 places. Bradt has kept to its initial ideals by encouraging sustainable travel and pointing thousands along the roads less trudged.
AKA The Hairoine
Born in Haiti, Angie grew up in New York before moving to Europe as an adult and turning a passion for hair care into a successful business. As well as using natural ingredients and making products from scratch, Angie makes YouTube hair advice videos, spreading head happiness.
The misanthrope somehow never fails to bring a (wry) smile with his unique blend of satire, entertainment and abuse. His Screenwipe and Newswipe series are refreshing, compassionate cries of rage, posing as annoying, childish commentaries against media manipulation.
Actress and smoker
Almost inseparable in the public mind from the chain-puffing crone-with-a-heart-of-gold Dot Cotton, in EastEnders, June, 83, has been bringing smiles to audiences for decades in countless roles. When in Calendar Girls in the West End recently, she stole the show.
Liz has been the face of the Girl Guides since 2006, representing tens of thousands of guiding volunteers. Burnley, who works in human resources, joined Guiding as a Brownie, and was then a Girl Guide. She spends some 2,000 hours a year volunteering for the Guides.
Director of the Museum of East Anglian Life
Focusing on people rather than collections, Tony has made the museum an experiment in happiness. Visitors are invited to look back at "happier times". The museum helps the community by creating jobs for the unemployed and taking in homeless people as volunteers.
Citizens Advice Bureau
Set up at the outbreak of the Second World War, the CAB helped people trace missing servicemen and advised on areas as diverse as evacuations and pensions. Today, it helps thousands every year navigate the complexities of anything from debt management to housing.
Emily Cleaver and Nadia Finer
Founders of More to Life Than Shoes
The web has long been awash with women's sites, but when it came to helping them reach their dream career there was precious little. That was until this Hertfordshire-based pair came along. Their support and advice network has inspired hundreds of women to aim higher.
Head of Beatbullying
While other charities have tried to tackle bullying by telling kids what not to do, Emma-Jane Cross encouraged young people to set up their own help groups. She revolutionised the way the problem was dealt with in schools and has helped thousands face their fears.
A great chuckler, and causer of chuckling. Known for appearing on I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, he is a prolific scriptwriter, dreaming up jokes for almost every top comedy act of the past 50 years, including Morecambe & Wise, Tommy Cooper, Bob Hope and Frankie Howerd.
Russell T Davies
Television producer and writer
Russell rescued an obsolete format from the corner of an abandoned studio in Lime Grove with wit, style and a touch of madness – the Saturday night family TV drama. Doctor Who is now better than the original, a surprise that brought a smile to millions of faces, of all ages.
Chair of the Florence Institute Trust, Liverpool
An example of just what can be achieved by heritage campaigners. The Trust has secured funding to rescue "The Florrie", a derelict listed building, which was a club for working and unemployed youth in the dock-side area of Liverpool for 100 years.
Dr Patrick Dixon
Founder of Aids Care Education and Training
A physician-turned-business consultant. Dixon had established a medical software company by the time he graduated. He has written books demystifying and de-stigmatising Aids. In 1988, he founded the Aids charity Acet, which co-ordinates Aids care and education.
Founder of The Forum venue, Tunbridge Wells
Royal Tunbridge Wells might seem an unlikely home for a rock venue, especially when that venue is a former public toilet. But when Dormon and some friends bought the facility in 1993, it was soon staging the likes of Oasis, Coldplay and The Libertines. It continues to thrive.
On a November evening in 2007, 17-year-old Carl rescued a woman who had collapsed and fallen on to a railway line. The trainee stonemason picked up the woman inches from the live rail at East Worthing station, lifting her to safety seconds before a train passed at 100mph.
Professor Robert Edwards
The father of IVF persisted in the laboratory for almost 15 years before the first "test tube" baby – Louise Brown – was born in 1978. He ignored scepticism to join forces with Professor Patrick Steptoe. Together, they made breakthroughs that have brought joy to millions.
This former brewery delivery man has always helped others. As a teenager, John delivered vegetables to poor families during the war. Now retired, he has worked as a volunteer at Barnardo's for the past four years, distributing campaign leaflets all across the West Midlands.
Fern Gore Residents' Association
Fern Gore Residents' Association has transformed a disused piece of land on an estate in Accrington, Lancashire, into a community wildlife area. At the heart of a true community, residents hold fun days in the local park, lads vs dads football, and holiday sporting activities.
Tynemouth pensioner Ylana First curates The Bridge gallery that spans Tynemouth Station. Ylana was awarded an MBE for her efforts to save the Victorian station building from ruin and transform it into a community and arts venue.
Actor and campaigner
Some stars wear the badge of good works because they are this era's fashion. Not Firth. He has used his success in Pride and Prejudice, Bridget Jones and A Single Man to campaign and fund-raise for Survival International, Amnesty, Oxfam and fair trade.
Sister Frances Dominica Ritchie
As a nurse, Sister Frances met a two-year-old girl, left comatose after an operation for a cerebral tumour. She occasionally cared for the girl to give her parents a rest, and was inspired to set up the Helen House in Oxford, opened in 1982, the world's first hospice for children.
Founding Director of Historic Chapels Trust
Architectural writer and historian Jenny Freeman encourages people to get involved with non-conformist and Catholic chapels in need of restoration. Established in 1993, the Historic Chapels Trust has worked to preserve and restore exceptional chapels across the UK.
Co-ordinator for Medical Justice
Emma gave up a City career to work with asylum seekers. She has written for The Independent and regularly comments on human rights abuses in Britain's immigration prisons. She started out by sheltering asylum seekers at her home near Yarl's Wood, Bedfordshire.
Tilly, 10, from Cheddleton, Staffordshire, was given a state-of-the-art wheelchair by the charity Caudwell Children that transformed her life, after being diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy. To say thank you, Tilly and her sister auctioned two of their paintings, raising £1.2m.
Cancer Research UK supporter
Kristin, of Daventry, Northamptonshire, has become a dedicated campaigner since being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 23 last year. Her CoppaFeel campaign is saving other young women by explaining the importance of checking their breasts.
Founder of Home-Start
In the 1970s in Leicester, Margaret, a voluntary family worker, recognised that when parents go short of support, children are badly affected. She set up Home-Start in 1973, a charity that now provides parent-to-parent support through more than 300 community branches.
Known as "MC Protractor", maths teacher Jonathan uses doughnuts to teach probability, football results to discuss maths problems and invents maths raps. As head of maths at Rawthorpe High School in Huddersfield, he has raised the GCSE pass rate from 12 to 55 per cent.
Since joining the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford in 1990, art and design lecturer Amanda has brought confidence to students through lunchtime drama and dance. The sessions are now a part of the curriculum and past students have gone professional.
Ian Hislop and Paul Merton
The funniest TV double act since Morecambe and Wise. One has a face like a sneering squashed tomato; the other an air of injured innocence. Together, they have been making mock of the week's events in Have I Got News For You, a series that has run now for 20 years.
Pianist, band leader and presenter
With 6 Music facing the axe and John Peel no longer with us, Later... with Jools Holland has been dubbed "the only outlet for good music" left. The 36th series of Later ... started this month. Jools continues to host and entertain with all the vigour of his first TV show 28 years ago.
InterAct reading service
This service places professional actors in hospitals to read to stroke patients in London and other major cities. Established by theatre director Caroline Smith in 2000 to help unemployed actors work in the therapeutic arts, the group helps those at risk of depression.
Comedian and actor
As one of our finer comics, Izzard had already won over many British living rooms when he decided to take on an extraordinary challenge for Sport Relief. He chose to run 43 marathons in 51 days. Unhinged he may be, but in raising £1,152,510 for good causes he gets our vote.
Former NHS addictions specialist Chris started the happiness lectures in Bristol in 2006 as a free service, part of his positive psychology programme at Bristol University. In the NHS, he challenged the long hours of junior doctors, and now teaches holistic thinking to medical students.
In a force-seven gale, volunteer coastguard Robert Jones plunged into stormy waters off Anglesey to save a man from drowning. The 46-year-old swam 200ft, and waited with the man, clinging to rocks for more than 45 minutes until a lifeboat could rescue them.
A US-based psychologist who has studied happiness, Tim has found that getting involved in politics or local community activity, even in the smallest way, boosts well-being. His studies also show that less materialistic people are happier than those who highly value material things.
Nurse and fundraiser
This nurse, originally from Fife, is relentless in her support for good causes. She has the ability to charm anyone into anything and lends her support to less glamorous campaigns that often go neglected – from Camden School for Girls to churches and cat sanctuaries.
In the words of IoS reader Julie Jones who nominated him, Kay is "a pure tonic. He should be available on the NHS". Not only is he a brilliant stand-up (his new tour starts this week), but he also works hard raising laughs and money for Children in Need.
Journalist, broadcaster and author
His in-depth TV interviews have gently encouraged names such as Mike Leigh, Richard Wilson, and Marguerite Patten to reveal more than in a month of chat shows. It's not the third-degree, but it's the best we've got. Immortalised in Viz as "The Artful Podger".
Before Layard, economics was apt to be known as "the dismal science". But drawing on his experience as an employment specialist, Richard has changed that. He is an advocate of policy being directed towards not just wealth-creation, but also happiness and a better work-life balance.
Writer and director
Odd, perhaps, to include a man whose works are notoriously dark. But within them is a spirit of not being defeated. His inventiveness has brought pleasure to millions with such classics as Vera Drake and Abigail's Party. Happy-Go-Lucky was positively cheerful.
Christmas is normally a time for being at home with family, but Jim, 83, hasn't had a Christmas Day at home in 35 years. Instead, he lays on a free dinner for homeless people in Coventry with the charity Cyrenians, serving hundreds of people every year.
World's oldest abseiler
Taking up new hobbies in retirement is not unusual, but Doris astonished on-lookers with her abseiling debut in 1999, aged 85. A lifelong fundraiser, she has raised more than £15,000 for charities. Now 95, she holds the record as the world's oldest abseiler.
Promising dancer Ricky's dreams were shattered when he was shot during an attempted carjacking and left partially disabled. Just months later, the 27-year-old set up Frosted Ice Inc in south London to mentor young people in the music industry and counter-act gang membership.
Trade unionist and human rights activist
Trade unionist McCormack worked for years for better economic and social rights for poor families in Belfast. She played a critical role in the Good Friday agreement, and spoke up against human rights abuses during the Troubles. Meryl Streep portrayed her on stage.
Principal educational psychologist, Dumfries and Galloway
Nominated by IoS reader "Kerry", who says Ian fights "for countless families to get what their children need, not what the bureaucrats are willing to give. His eloquence, intelligence, humour and empathy help him work for the good of all the kids he comes into contact with."
Born in Jamaica, Eunice came to Britain in 1957, and is now a leading activist in Birmingham. After the 1985 Handsworth riots, set up Shades of Black to improve family life. One project – teaching kids to grow food – has led to her being dubbed "First Lady of Allotments".
A beacon of hope in the over-paid world of council executives. He was the boss of now-defunct Penwith District Council in Cornwall, and he decided that the right thing to do with his £100,000 redundancy pay was to give it away – to community schemes on his old patch.
Britain's most consistently funny cartoonist. Born, bred, and still living in Leicestershire, he sold his first cartoon to Punch in 1961 for seven guineas. His dry humour and frenetic but careful drawings – most often seen in Private Eye and the Spectator– are still making us laugh.
Sir Peter Mansfield
Nobel Prize winner
He left school without any qualifications, but this printer-turned-physicist was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for discoveries that led to the development of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) – a scanning technology now widely used to diagnose a multitude of diseases.
Stroud's deputy mayor
John has represented the Green Party on Stroud council for 20 years, as a councillor, deputy mayor and mayor. He has campaigned to increase access to allotments and regulate the incineration of rubbish. Does not own a mobile phone, for environmental reasons.
Taking cricket from village greens to the inner cities, Moody's initiative has helped combat gang culture in Lambeth, south London. The former security guard teaches anyone who turns up on Saturdays at Brixton Rec. One young cricketer has gone on to play for Surrey's youth team.
Foodbank charity volunteer
After losing his home, facing bullying at work, and being made redundant, Peter, from Salisbury, Wiltshire, refused to give in. Despite suffering from cerebral palsy, Peter works with the Trussell Trust to organise emergency food boxes for local people in crisis.
A believer in the principle "think global, act local", primary teacher Julie has set up an eco-council at her school in Staffordshire, involving pupils, teachers, parents and members of the community. The group composts, grows veg, runs a car-sharing scheme and clears litter.
Chief executive of Barnardo's
After running the prison service, Narey has turned his talent to children's rights. Under his watch Barnardo's has enjoyed sustained growth – returning to its position as the UK's largest children's charity – and leading the way in the campaign to end child poverty.
Personal injury lawyer
He has dedicated more than 30 years of his career to getting compensation for dying asbestos victims. He is known for his tireless work in getting victims and their families the money they deserve. His victories have paved the way for many others to get compensation.
Consultant vascular and general surgeon
The surgeon from Chelsea and Westminster Hospital has worked in conflict and disaster zones around the world. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nott performed a complex procedure he had never done before, relying on instructions via text message.
Harborough FM DJ
Richard hosts the daily "Drive" show for community radio station Harborough FM. In addition to his work as a broadcaster, Oliff is a major supporter of the Lakelands Hospice in Corby, Northamptonshire, and is involved with their fundraising efforts.
Major Phil Packer
After he was paralysed from the waist down in Iraq, Phil decided to raise money for injured comrades through the London Marathon. After regaining slight mobility, he ditched his wheelchair for crutches, raising more than £700,000 on his 13-day conquest of the 26.2-mile course.
Founder of the Gesar Foundation for Children
Kelsang founded the Gesar children's charity after spending much of his adult life walking the world to spread his message of Buddhist kindness. Kelsang, from Islington, is hoping to recruit Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger to help publicise the foundation.
Keaton, 10, has sent more than 400 care parcels to British forces in Afghanistan. Keaton, from Bexhill, received a Woman's Own Children of Courage Award for his efforts on behalf of the Thank the Forces charity. He'd like to be a dog handler in the armed forces when he is older.
Musical director of Camborne Youth Band
The band, under Alan's inspiring leadership, has won the National Championship for the fifth year. Starting with seven youngsters in 1999, membership of the Cornish band quickly swelled to more than 80. The group loans instruments to young people so anyone can learn.
He is not only one of the best golfers in the world, but one of the few who looks as if he is actually enjoying himself. Bouncy and blokish, this son of a former Dorothy Perkins manageress has a dress sense so distinctive that he now has his own clothing company.
Head teacher and campaigner
One of Britain's most inventive teachers, whether it's dressing as a tennis player to promote sport, or turning her school into an imaginary airport "flying" students to Bastille Day in France, Pepe pioneers creative learning at Trinity Primary School in Radstock, near Bath.
RNLI Crew, Torbay, North Devon
In a January storm in 2008, Coxswain Mark Criddle led his team to rescue the stricken ship, Ice Prince. Repositioning the lifeboat 50 times over the course of two hours in a 25ft swell, all eight men left on the ship were helped to jump safely into the lifeboat.
Founder of We Are What We Do
Robinson, a former community worker in east London, set up WAWWD, the organisation that brought you the hit book Change the World for a Fiver, in 2004. The creative bunch have compiled a list of 131 simple actions you can take to make the world a better place.
Roebuck kept her deafness a secret until 2007, even while singing with the Paris Conservatoire and the National Opera Studio in London. The mezzo-soprano relies on sensation and her technique. Janine is a trustee for the RNID, helping other deaf people enjoy music.
Founded by Lincoln vicar Chad Varah in 1953, the charity offers emotional support to all through 17,000 volunteers, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Samaritans give a confidential listening service to people in crisis, the depressed, or those considering suicide.
Founder of Green & Black's chocolate
Thanks in part to Sams and his wife, Josephine Fairley, shelves of chocolate across the country are peppered with the Fair Trade logo. Having sold his chocolate brand to Cadbury, Sams launched Carbon Gold last month, a charcoal-based fertiliser that captures carbon.
After battling drug addiction as a teenager, and receiving numerous convictions, Saunders reassessed his life from prison, aged 26, when a friend died of a heroin overdose. Now 33, he manages Ovis Farm, the housing rehabilitation centre which helped him set up as a handyman.
Arsenal FC's Head of Community
In his 25 years at the club, Arsenal's resident head of good deeds has overseen the creation of a charitable trust that has raised more than £2m. He has overseen the introduction of Arsenal's Charity of the Season, and the expansion of his department to 20 full-time staff.
Wendy has worked with children's charity Barnardo's for 15 years, during which she has set up a pioneering scheme to help sexually exploited children on the streets of Middlesbrough. Wendy's team has faced abusive pimps and the aftermath of sexual assaults.
Philosopher, eco-feminist and women's rights activist
Author of more than 300 academic papers on genetic engineering, biodiversity and globalisation, Dr Shiva has helped establish credible, influential green movements in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Ireland. She has advised governments about the role of women in green issues.
Stuart joined Leeds council in 1979. The former YMCA volunteer and community worker in Ghana has run the Osmondthorpe Resource Centre in Leeds for 15 years, helping more than 400 disabled people overcome trauma, and return to life and work in the community.
SOS Gangs Project Manager
Junior started mentoring young people while still in prison and has headed up an anti-gang project for the St Giles Trust since his release in 2006. The South London Press named him the Hero of South London for 2008.
With Britons marooned on the continent because UK air space was closed, he took five speedboats across the Channel to affect a Dunkirk-style evacuation. He rescued a few people and would have helped more, but for the intransigence of French authorities.
In 2008, road sweeper Snowdon averted a major disaster while on his rounds in Warsop, Nottinghamshire. Seeing a highways lorry on fire, parked by a petrol station and full of flammable gas bottles, the 41-year-old rushed to grab an extinguisher and put out the flames.
Chief Executive of MyHealthnet
Clara founded the sexual health charity now known as MyHealthnet in 1998, hoping to reach the ethnic minority and low-income youths most affected by sexual health problems. The charity offers free sexual health workshops and seminars, all of which Clara funds herself.
Winnie Ssanyu Sseruma
HIV/Aids awareness campaigner, Christian Aid
Winnie has lived with HIV for 21 years, and for the past 12 she has been a leading voice challenging the stigma of the disease. UK-born Winnie set up information and support groups in her parents' home village in Uganda. She also promotes friends' jewellery designs.
Dame Barbara Stocking
Chief executive, Oxfam
The first woman in Oxfam's top job has applied a business savvy that has reinvigorated the charity. Under her, turnover has exceeded £300m and the organisation has become a major player in the financial world, pioneering the idea of a Robin Hood tax on banks' transactions.
Swimming instructor, Inverness Swimming Club
A founding member of the swimming club in 1937, Mr Sutherland was awarded an MBE in 2009 for volunteering for more than 60 years. His only break was during the Second World War. At one time, his were the only swimming lessons available in Inverness.
On Christmas Day 2008, Sally-Ann, 56, threw herself in front of a friend's baby, as a Rottweiler attacked. The child was uninjured, but Sally-Ann suffered horrendous injuries and nearly lost her arm. She now campaigns for dangerous dogs to be muzzled in public.
Samina has worked with young disabled people in the Bradford area for five years, helping them to develop skills and raising awareness of the issues facing the handicapped. Before her current role, Samina was a leader at the Asian Young Women's and Girls' Project.
Head gardener at Anglesey Abbey, Cambridge
Todd has worked at the Abbey for 37 years, leading community gardening projects. Richard has worked with students, retired people, people recovering from illness and those who fancy a career change to create its famous winter garden, brightening the darkest time of year.
One of the most enduring talents in light entertainment. She started in 1953, playing Eth in radio's Take It From Here, and has not stopped since, from Hancock (as the nurse in "The Blood Donor"), to Carry On films, Terry and June, Absolutely Fabulous and Coronation Street.
Stuart and Hilary Williams
Stuart Williams earned his fortune at Topps Tiles before passing the business to his son. Together with his wife, Hilary, he now supports numerous theatres and drama projects including the Donmar Warehouse, Camden's Roundhouse, and the Unicorn theatre for children.
Professor Richard Wiseman
Psychologist and magician
An interest in the quirkier sides of life is probably explained by the psychologist's previous profession: as a magician. Professor Wiseman has studied subjects such as luck, deception and humour. More than a million people have taken part in his mass participation experiments.
Comedian and writer
Wood continues to write, produce and appear in comedy that manages to be satirical and laugh-out-loud funny without being unkind. Her success in realising her wish to "stay normal" has ensured her portrayal of everyday British life is still relevant and witty.
Additional contributions by Emily Dugan, Nina Lakhani, Marc Padgett, David Randall, John Rentoul, Simon Turnbull and Greg Walton