Halls of fame

At about the same time economists were publishing their AER’s hall of fame, the team that brought the Google n-gram viewer published their own version of a hit-parade: an all-time, all-discipline scientists’ ranking. Success is counted in milli-Darwins (mD), and measures the frequency of citation in a corpus representing 4% of all the books ever printed:


In the first 200 names, where are the economists?

John von Neumann (137mD), and Harold Hotelling (27mD), if you want. But that’s cheating. As far as I could see, the only economist by training cited in the first 200 is Herman Daly (48mD). Certainly a surprise to me (not a bad one), and a motive for thought about the cultural imprint of economics!

(btw: is it a coincidence that Hotelling, like Herman Daly, is also a contributor to the study of the finiteness of natural resources?)



Mid December Google gave the nerds of the World an early Xmas gift. It was N-gram viewer, a visualization tool to plot word frequency (and word strings “n-grams” up to 5 words) in its Google Books corpus. There is a Science article to go with it dawning a new field of “culturomics” (apparently a Harvard University object). Looking beyond the Steven Pinker enabled hype, better methods to probe corpora for meaningful subtexts and cultural themes exist, N-gram viewer is just fun.

There are plenty of clever queries out there, but I liked most the ones I found in Datavisualization. Closer to our interests are the queries of Economic History Blog. My contribution is a bit poor in imagination. But here goes.

Occasionally, the label of our community becomes a subject of debate. What best represents us: history of economics (blue) or history of economic thought (green)? From n-gram viewer the latter gets the most uses. At least until 2000 there is not much movement between one and the other, their frequencies move in parallel. I am sorry to report that our subject peaked in the mid-1990s (in books at least). [Update, 8th Feb. 2011: I included two graphs with caps and without, thanks Andrej!]

The triad of Masters programs in economics are: Micro/Macro/Econometrics, but how to these fare in mentions? I was surprised that econometrics was ahead for most of the period, and macro goes over the top only in the 1980s.

How about subjects in the work of economists (and everyone else)? Growth is the word that explodes into consciousness particularly post 1945, as Wealth slowly declines.

The classic: supply or demand? Demand of course!

Finally, a query that is not much history of economics but is important. How have the lay been referred to: as citizens and taxpayers (political), or as investors, consumers and producers (economic).