|Alexander paying respects at the tomb of Achilles, Panini|
There are many varieties of fame. ... Pantheon, a new project from the Macro Connections group in M.I.T.’s Media Lab, is giving that a stab. It has collected and analyzed data on cultural production from 4,000 B.C. to 2010. ...
For now, you are legitimately famous, the M.I.T. team has decided, if a Wikipedia page under your name exists in more than 25 languages. We have taken a smattering of the most famous, according to Pantheon data and classifications, and wandered down rabbit holes of fame. There are many ghosts in the machine — spirits that César Hidalgo, the project’s director, likes to tend. (The ranking system takes longevity into account, which helps explain why many of its most famous people have been dead for at least 1,500 years.)
“Poetically, we can say that Isaac Newton’s ghost — understood as information — lives reincarnated in the hard drives that populate server farms,” he says. And these ghosts gather to make a point. Even in an era of Kardashians, actually making things matters. “Tangible achievements,” Hidalgo says, “whether these are songs, books, works of art or scientific discoveries, are better tickets to long-term immortality than the accumulation of material wealth.”
Most Famous People of the Last 6,000 Years
3. Jesus Christ
5. Alexander the Great
6. Leonardo Da Vinci
8. Julius Caesar
It's hard to see how Mohammed and Buddha don't make the Top Ten, but the point I want to make is:
In contrast, when I flip around on the UHF dial here in L.A., I've noticed from all the historical costume dramas on the Korean language stations that Korea has, evidently, had a whole lot of history. Indeed, there's no a priori reason to assume that Korea has had significantly less history than Greece. But my pathetic base of knowledge of Korean history -- "There have been a bunch of guys named Kim" (rather like my knowledge of contemporary Ukrainian affairs of state: There are a bunch of politicians with Ys and Ts in their names) -- doesn't conveniently facilitate my learning more about Korean history.
For example, Anne Boleyn makes the MIT top 100. She was an interesting person, but she's there for her relationship to two other people in a fascinating story. Ann was the second wife of Henry VIII, for whom Henry broke England away from Roman Catholicism, and the mother of Elizabeth I (who was the monarch of Shakespeare, who is pretty famous himself). Anne is a central figure in a gaudy story. And fame has much to do with coherent narratives.