Notable people, though born everywhere, congregate and die in cultural hubs.
This phenomenon is documented in “A network framework of cultural history,” new research led by Maximilian Schich of the University of Texas at Dallas. The paper will appear in this month’s issue of Science — and more than two millenia of this migration is illustrated in two striking videos below.
Using crowdsourced information from databases such as freebase.com, Schich looked at the birth and death locations of more than 150,000 notable individuals, including artists, sports stars, politicians and astronomers.
Though Schich’s research didn’t try to explain the migration of the best and brightest, the pattern is clear: Big is better.
“If you’re a musician, you move to your audience,” Schich told The Washington Post. “You maximize your potential impact. If you’re a good carpenter, you move to a place where you can move a lot of chairs and tables.”
This intuitive explanation explains why, say, the growth of Los Angeles as a cultural center since the dawn of cinema outpaces even the growth of Paris in previous eras.
“You don’t become a film actor in a place where people don’t make film,” Schich said.
Schich is well aware that his data skews white, male and European. Christian churches keep scrupulous records, he points out — other religions or cultural institutions might not.
“If you look at that video and say, ‘That’s too Eurocentric — where’s Africa?’ ” Schich said. “Comparing that with a known stream, we can say we underestimate it.”
He also said the conversation about his research would lead others to improve it.
“There may be records in China and India which can actually put another 100,000 people on the map,” Schich said. “That’s what this is meant for — a start.”
Here’s what the flight of the notables looked like:
h/t Science Daily