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Who's Bigger?
Where Historical Figures Really Rank

$31.95 (G)

  • Date Published: October 2013
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781107041370

$ 31.95 (G)

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About the Authors
  • Is Hitler bigger than Napoleon? Washington bigger than Lincoln? Picasso bigger than Einstein? Quantitative analysts are rapidly finding homes in social and cultural domains, from finance to politics. What about history? In this fascinating book, Steve Skiena and Charles Ward bring quantitative analysis to bear on ranking and comparing historical reputations. They evaluate each person by aggregating the traces of millions of opinions, just as Google ranks webpages. The book includes a technical discussion for readers interested in the details of the methods, but no mathematical or computational background is necessary to understand the rankings or conclusions. Did you know: – Got a spare billion dollars, and want to be remembered forever? Your best investment is to get a university named after you. – Women remain significantly underrepresented in the historical record compared to men and have long required substantially greater achievement levels to get equally noted for posterity. – The long-term prominence of Elvis Presley rivals that of the most famous classical composers. Roll over Beethoven, and tell Tchaikovsky the news! Along the way, the authors present the rankings of more than one thousand of history's most significant people in science, politics, entertainment, and all areas of human endeavor. Anyone interested in history or biography can see where their favorite figures place in the grand scheme of things. While revisiting old historical friends and making new ones, you will come to understand the forces that shape historical recognition in a whole new light.

    • Lists of rankings for more than 1,000 of history's most significant figures
    • Presents a unique data-driven approach to looking at history
    • Explains why certain historical figures persist in the public consciousness, while others are forgotten
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "Skiena and Ward provide a numerical ranking for the every Wikipedia resident who's ever lived. What a great idea! This book is a guaranteed argument-starter. I found something to argue with on nearly every page."
    Andrew Gelman, author of Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do

    "Absolutely groundbreaking: the first fullscale, data driven undertaking to weigh the historical and cultural impact of persons. This work injects a much needed dose of quantitative rigor into the field of history itself. How do the greatest legacies of yesteryear stack up, not only against one another, but against the power of today's celebrity royalty? This thorough treatment illuminates, validates, and even augments history as a discipline."
    Eric Siegel, PhD, founder, Predictive Analytics World and author, Predictive Analytics: The Power to Predict Who Will Click, Buy, Lie, or Die

    "This is all fun: reputational face-offs are great entertainment. And, shrewdly, Skiena and Ward have an app. More seriously, historians will put quantitative analysis to good use - and their model may help historiographers grapple with Wikipedia."
    New Scientist

    "I confess to simply liking the book. I still do not care about the great order of things; nonetheless, I very much appreciate a huge amount of fascinating detail that the book makes available at one’s fingertips, and the orderly manner in which it does that."
    Alex Bogomolny, MAA Reviews

    "… the authors' enthusiasm and sense of play are infectious."
    Cass Sunstein, The New Republic

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2013
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781107041370
    • length: 391 pages
    • dimensions: 236 x 160 x 28 mm
    • weight: 0.68kg
    • contains: 101 b/w illus. 2 maps 176 tables
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Quantitative History:
    1. History's most significant people
    2. Ranking historical figures
    3. Who belongs in Bonnie's textbook?
    4. Reading through the past
    5. Great Americans and the process of canonization
    6. The baseball hall of fame
    7. Historical time scales
    Part II. Historical Rankings:
    8. American political figures
    9. Modern world leaders
    10. Science and technology
    11. Religion and philosophy
    12. Sports
    13. The arts
    14. The performing arts
    15. Devils and angels
    Part III. Appendices: A. Ranking methodology
    B. Resources
    C. Biographical dictionary.

  • Authors

    Steven Skiena, State University of New York, Stony Brook
    Steven S. Skiena is Distinguished Teaching Professor of Computer Science at Stony Brook University. He is the author of four well-regarded books: The Algorithm Design Manual (2008), Calculated Bets: Computers, Gambling, and Mathematical Modeling to Win (2001), Programming Challenges (with Miguel Revilla, 2003) and Computational Discrete Mathematics (with Sriram Pemmaraju, 2003). Skiena heads the Lydia news/blog analysis project at Stony Brook, using large-scale text analysis to chart the frequency, sentiment and relationships among millions of people, places, and things. This technology forms the foundation of General Sentiment (, where he serves as co-founder and Chief Scientist. Lydia news analysis has been applied to several social science research projects, including financial forecasting and presidential election analysis. The rankings underlying Who's Bigger? derive from this analysis.

    Charles B. Ward, Google, Inc., Mountain View, California
    Charles B. Ward currently works as an engineer on the search engine team at Google. He is the author of more than a dozen scholarly papers, including research in text analysis, computational social science, computational biology, and graph theory. Ward worked as a lead developer with the Lydia news analysis project during his four years of postdoctoral studies at Stony Brook University. He is also an authority on historical strategy games. More information is available at

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