Map visualization of where the world's most well-known engineers were born. Click to view full-size.
Map visualization of where the world’s most well-known engineers were born. Click to view full-size.

France has produced the most famous mathematicians, Italy the most famous architects, and the US the most famous computer scientists and economists. These are just a few of the results found in Pantheon, an interactive visualization engine developed at the MIT Media Lab that analyzes cultural production.

César Hidalgo, the Asahi Broadcast Corporation Career Development Assistant Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, leads the Macro Connections group that created Pantheon. This team of designers, engineers, and scientists set out to quantify, analyze, and visualize historical cultural production. The result: a site that will have you comparing chemists, game designers, and even tennis players throughout history and throughout the world.

Organized in a matrix of birthplaces and domains, Pantheon analyzes data from 4,000 B.C.E. through 2010 on more than 11,000 people who have contributed to global culture. The key criterion for inclusion is those whose Wikipedia pages have been translated into more than 25 languages.

For example, Pantheon ranks one figure that looms large in the history of MIT’s faculty—the late Nobel laureate and father of modern economics Paul Samuelson—as #22 out of 103 economists in history, #14 of 41 important figures born in 1915, with more than 2 million page views on Wikipedia.

Which leads us to ponder, who ranks as the #1 linguist?

Learn more about Pantheon in a recent New York Times story.

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