Peter Smith

Publications, Lectures and Other Stuff

A Failed Attempt to Measure Historical Significance?

Steven Skiena and Charles Ward have attempted to measure fame (= gravitas + celebrity) by using various metrics based on Wikipedia. They then calculate ‘significance’ (= lasting fame?) by factoring in a time factor based on Google’s Ngram. Unsurprisingly, the results have a strong American/Anglophone bias (Their Top 20 includes 3 US Presidents).

Apparently the most significant economists were Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Thomas Malthus, John Maynard Keynes, and David Ricardo; the leading.military leaders were Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, and Oliver Cromwell; and the literary giants Shakespeare, Dickens, Mark Twain, Edgar Allan Poe, and Voltaire. It reminds me of the popularity of lists and the problems of ranks.

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/115669/ranking-historical-figures-skiena-and-wards-whos-bigger-reviewed

BTW, I saw an interesting reference to ‘Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books’: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/331/6014/176

Advertisements

One comment on “A Failed Attempt to Measure Historical Significance?

  1. petussing
    December 5, 2013

    I’d be inclined to substitute Milton Friedman for JS Mill, but otherwise it seems a good list — Marx is not an economist, he is a social theorist, who is anyway an honorary Brit. but economics is a bit of an outlier — it really was fundamentally formed in the UK and then the US, primarily. The literature list is obviously ridiculous, as if no other culture produced such writers, which is manifestly false.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on December 5, 2013 by in History and tagged , , .
%d bloggers like this: