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News » International

Fact: Jesus is the biggest name in human history

Data experts' survey puts Jesus ahead of all others

Fact: Jesus is the biggest name in human history

Picture: Wikimedia Commons

Cathy Lynn Grossman for Religion News Service International

December 13, 2013

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He’s a man with a ton of titles — Prince of Peace, Son of God, Shepherd of Souls — but now Jesus has one more: the biggest name in human history. Ever.

So say the authors of a startling new book, “Who’s Bigger: Where Historical Figures Really Rank,” which tries to settle, once and for all, the question of who’s who.

It’s a work of “culturometrics,” a fancy term to describe quantitative data analysis applied to individuals in society the same way Sabermetrics tracks performance in baseball, pundits aggregate polls in elections, and algorithms rule computer search engines.

“Bigger” is a complex collection of lists and rankings, but none is more provocative than its Top 100:  Jesus is No. 1, Adolf Hitler is No. 7, everyone is overwhelmingly white and 97 are male.

But keep your blood pressure in check. “Bigger does not mean better,” said co-author Steven Skiena, a computer science professor at Stony Brook University where he heads the Data Science Laboratory.

To research “Bigger,” Skiena and Charles Ward, an engineer on the ranking team at Google, created a complex amalgam of measures. To establish their “significance” ranking, they assessed more than 800,000 names, calculated scores of celebrity and achievement or gravitas and then factored in how long, and how long ago, someone lived.

Hence the Top 10 names need no introduction:

1. Jesus

2. Napoleon

3. Muhammad

4. William Shakespeare

5. Abraham Lincoln

6. George Washington

7. Adolf Hitler

8. Aristotle

9. Alexander the Great

10. Thomas Jefferson

Where things get really curious is moving down the list:

– Protestant reformer Martin Luther (No. 17) is just above Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

– Elvis Presley (No. 69) is notched between Socrates and William the Conqueror.

– King Arthur (No. 85), who may be a myth, tops Michelangelo.

– Only Queen Elizabeth I (No. 13), Queen Victoria (No. 16), and St. Joan of Arc (No. 95) make the Top 100; whether the list includes anyone who is black depends on how you classify St. Augustine of Hippo (No. 72), the North African/Roman theologian of the early Christian church.

– President Obama barely missed the top 100, coming in at No. 111, but ahead of the Virgin Mary (No. 127).

Researchers say there was no nefarious plot to exclude women and blacks. But in centuries past, those two groups were barred from historically significant roles, their social contributions unrecorded by others.

Full Story: Jesus, Elvis, and Aristotle: Who’s bigger?

Source: Religion News Service

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