Liz Stinson in Wired: “…Last week in the journal Science, the researchers (led by University of Texas art historian Maximilian Schich) published a study that looked at the cultural history of Europe and North America by mapping the birth and deaths of more than 150,000 notable figures—including everyone from Leonardo Da Vinci to Ernest Hemingway. That data was turned into an amazing animated infographic that looks strikingly similar to the illustrated flight paths you find in the back of your inflight magazine. Blue dots indicate a birth, red ones means death.
The researchers used data from Freebase, which touts itself as a “community curated database of people, places and things.” This gives the data a strong western-bent. You’ll notice that many parts of Asia and the Middle East (not to mention pre-colonized North America), are almost wholly ignored in this video. But to be fair, the abstract did acknowledge that the study was focused mainly on Europe and North America.
Still, mapping the geography of cultural migration does gives you some insight about how the kind of culture we value has shifted over the centuries. It’s also a novel lens through which to view our more general history, as those migration trends likely illuminate bigger historical happenings like wars and the building of cross-country infrastructure.