A Science Hall of Fame With a Twist

On January 14, Science ran a Gonzo Scientist piece entitled, “The Science Hall of Fame.” John Bohannon details the ways in which this particular Science Hall of Fame (SH0F), curated by Adrian Veres and John Bohannon, measures fame in terms of the number of times a person’s name has appeared in books over the centuries. The impact is measured “in milliDarwins (mD): one-thousandth of the average annual frequency that Charles Darwin’s name appers in English-language books from the year he was 30 years old (1839) until 2000,” as explained in the SHoF piece.

The data set was created by a team led by Jean-Baptiste Michel and Erez Lieberman Aiden. It is “based on the trillions of words within Google Books, which currently represents 15 million books, 12% of those ever published,” according to The Science Hall of Fame piece.

You can either go to the SHoF and see the results for yourself or… go into the data to see what you can come up with. I, of course, immediately went into the data to see how my favorite trio of dusty naval guys made out.

Turns out Alfred Thayer Mahan, the one who started the whole naval defense is key to a country’s prosperity thing in 1890 has a graph that looks like this:
David Watson Taylor, noted hydrodynamicist and the man who designed and ran the first model basin in the US in the early 1900’s fared thus:
William Froude, the man who championed model testing as a viable way to predict the performance of full-sized ships before they were constructed in the late 1870’s generated this chart:
Charting them together, it’s easy to see that Froude outshone them all, which is only fitting since he’s the one who proved the theory and got the ball rolling:
But let’s face it. Charles Darwin kicked their butts:

Need more information about William Froude, Alfred Mahan, or David Watson Taylor? Check out my book.


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