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1000 Most Famous People In History (MIT’s Pantheon)

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  1. There’s also some clear mistaken omissions, especially if you look at the master list. Lots of fairly obscure classical composers in the top 1000 (Offenbach, say, or Smetana), but Brahms is not anywhere in the top 10,000. There’s no way that makes any sense. I’m also not impressed by the inclusion of antediluvian Biblical characters whom nobody except fundamentalists thinks were real people (Methuselah, Enoch), while excluding, for some reason, Noah, who is actually at least well-known. The Biblical patriarch Jacob is not included, even though his father, grandfather, and second wife are included.

    And, yeah, the algorithm obviously gives a bit too much credit for being ancient. Beyond the obscure Roman emperors, check out the obscure pharaohs – Ramesses I? Hor-Aha? Sneferu?

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    1. I had a lot of the same questions. After entering Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and Wagner, I thought that, while I love Brahms and he was undoubtedly a master of the Romantic era, perhaps he simply wasn’t influential enough. But when I saw I some composers on the list who make Offenbach look influential and important, I emailed the makers of the list. They said that there was an error in their data collection method that missed a few people who should clearly be in the Pantheon set, including Brahms. I assume this explains some of the other puzzling omissions.

      I also asked how they decided if a person was “real”. They said that they didn’t deliberately decide — they used the Freebase data set and accepted anyone with a “date of birth, place of birth, and cultural domain”. No matter what criteria you use, including or excluding religious figures will be controversial. I would question whether a default birthdate of 3500 BC should be considered a true birthdate.

      Whether or not you think they belong on the list, if you are going to include the religious figures, 3500 BC is still an unsatisfactory birth date for many of these figures. If he was a real person, Judas would have been about the same age as Jesus, not 3500 years older. They told me they are working to align contemporaries when possible, which returns us to the question about the birthdate as part of the inclusion criteria for these figures.

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    2. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve known Brahms and Ramesses since I was a little kid. Agree with you about the obscure Roman emperors and biblical characters. On the other hand, I was actually surprised about some omissions, like Heidegger, Gagarin, Dumas, Mingus and even Ringo Starr being more famous than Mick Jagger.

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  2. Also, criticizing celebrities like Rihanna, Katy Perry, Jenna Jameson, etc. is fine, but this list seems to get very obscure in classical history. Three of the four emperors in the namesake year are among the thousand most famous people? Didius Julianus and two Valentinians make the cut? There’s messy stuff all around.

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  3. Some notes: Laozi should have more spellings, Lao-tzu, Lao-tze, Lao-tse, etc.
    Judas Iscariot shouldn’t require more than Judas
    Consistency: Saint is required for St. George, St. James, but not others
    Hannibal and Hamilcar Barca-surname shouldn’t be required
    Garcia Marquez and Garcia Lorca should be the answers for those two writers-Marquez and Lorca shouldn’t be acceptable, but whatever.
    Vitruvius is usually known by Vitruvius.
    Timur-i-leng should have Tamerlane accepted
    Kublai, Batu, and Genghis Khan shouldn’t have their title required.

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  4. Formula 1 has more worldwide following than both baseball and golf so it’s only natural to see Schumacher there. Lists like these will always be controversial… Lady Gaga is on the first half of the list but Margaret Thatcher is nowhere to be seen. Alexander #5? Questionable… It can fuel good discussions though.

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    1. There is probably an exception I’m not thinking of, but as a rule of thumb, no German last name should start with “von”. When referring to Germans by surname only “von” is never included, and it is not used for alphabetization. You would never see “von Goethe”, or “von Humboldt”, just two examples I’ve found on this list.

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  5. Please accept Ramses for Ramesses, various alternate spellings for Tutankhamun (Wikipedia lists -amen and -amon as common), and Shih Huangdi or something similar for Qin Shi Huang. Also, what does “1900- Birth Year” mean? If it’s supposed to refer to people born after 1900, I don’t think the number matches up with how many of those people I actually got (it’s way too high).

    But yeah, this is awesome.

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