The 95yr.old former South African President and anti-apartheid revolutionary hero had battled a series of lung infections and respiratory illnesses in the past few years.
Mandela spent 27yrs in prison after being found guilty in 1962 of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow his country's government before being released in 1990. He became South Africa's first democratically elected president, holding office from 1994-1999.
One of the world's most famous people, the Nobel laureate has long been a figurehead for racial unification, following his efforts to heal his own country after centuries of division. Mandela was one of the most revered leaders of the 20th century and his legacy will forever be the abolition of apartheid in South Africa.
As the ANC party under Mandela began to dismantle the racial divide, his attention turned to the issue of HIV/AIDS which, according to the World Health Organisation, affects about 6.5 million people in South Africa.
After his departure from politics, the man endearingly known throughout South Africa as Madiba - his Xhosa clan name, which literally translates to grandfather - also sought to step away from the public eye with appearances in recent years becoming fewer and farther between. His last public appearance was in 2010 when South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup.
News of his death prompted outpourings of grief from all over the world.