Visualizing historical influencers

Hannah Yan Han
Feb 28, 2018 · 3 min read

Today I looked into data from Project Pantheon by MIT media lab, which collects Wikipedia page views for notable historical figures, and calculates a composite Historical Popularity Index. Included in the data are mostly great personalities, occasionally an evil mastermind, all of whom somehow shaped our culture. Simply put, they were historical influencers. Records exceeds 11k now and it’s still a work in progress.

As a first step, I chose 6 highest-ranked city by cultural prominence according to the index, and filtered for historical figures with Wikipedia profiles in more than 50 languages, using the length of the lines to indicate number of languages and size of the bubbles to indicate their popularity index.

Rome shows many records in Institution category due to its many Popes. Paris, in comparison has more figures in arts.
New York demonstrates cultural influence in all domains, from science to humanities to sports. LA has pre-dominant amount of actors and actress, it’s also one of the cities with the most notable female figures.
London exerts a mixture of influence in arts and science. Istanbul is the birthplace of historically renowned politicians and a Nobel-laureate writer.

Also observed some outliers where the profile is translated in more than 100 languages but popularity index judging by page view and a suite of other factors is not correspondingly high, such as Nicolas Sarkozy and an actor Corbin Bleu.

Wikipedia data has its limitations such as English bias, the methodology on the Project Pantheon’s page has addressed how the calculation of index sought to reduce the bias by factoring in different languages and other factors. Besides, Wiki is also censored in certain countries, and in other countries, people prefer local alternatives, all of these could affect page views too.

As next steps, it would be good to know how cities and countries have shifted in prominence and which region were the centers of science or arts in history.


This is #day78 of my #100dayprojects on data science and visual storytelling. I hope to link an interactive version of this soon so one can mouse over and see the names of historical figures. Thanks for reading. If you like it, please share it. Suggestions of new topics and feedbacks are always welcomed.

Hannah Yan Han

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#100daysproject on data science and visual storytelling ✈️🗺️

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