Which 18th century botanist is more influential than both Jesus and Hitler on Wikipedia?

New study ranked 'most influential' figures using various algorithms

A new study intended to find the most influential person on Wikipedia has reached a somewhat surprising conclusion: Carl Linnaeus is bigger than Jesus.

The research carried out by Young-Ho Eom of the University of Toulouse concluded that the 18th century Swedish biologist beat the likes of Adolf Hitler, Michael Jackson and yes, even the Christian messiah to take the top spot.

This somewhat unusual evaluation can be explained by the study’s methodology: adapting Google’s PageRank algorithm to count the number of incoming links to any given article. Because Linnaeus invented the system of biological taxonomy still used today, each plant, animal, bacteria or fungi covered by the online encyclopaedia linked back to him.  

A different algorithm which ranked figures based on both incoming and outgoing links suggested a slightly more reasonable ‘top three’ – Adolf Hitler, Michael Jackson and Madonna – although the ranking for only English-language pages found that Frank Sinatra was the most influential, followed by Michael Jackson and Pope Pius XII.

These variations show that sorting ‘influence’ based on Wikipedia entries can be a slightly ad hoc endeavour. A similar study carried out in 2010 put Jesus, Napoleon and Shakespeare on the podium (a shift explained by Wikipedia’s ever-changing content) while a historian used the online encyclopaedia and other sources to crown Christ as ‘the most significant person ever’.

In addition to the changes caused by different algorithms, Young-Ho Eom and his team point out that “each Wikipedia edition highlights local figures, so that most of its own historical figures are born in the countries which use the language of the edition.”

This is certainly true if you browse the language-by-language rankings (online here) which shows a number of culture- or country- specific figures. Using the Japanese language Wikipedia the 16th century daimyo and ‘Great Unifier’ Toyotomi Hideyoshi is most influential, while the Hindi ranking places Mughal Emperor Akbar the Great in the top spot.

Similarly the Greek list is dominated by local boys (Plato, Alexander the Great and 20th century prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos) while the German edition puts Hitler on the top followed by Otto von Bismarck and a trio of composers: Mozart (Austrian actually), Beethoven and Handel.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer - 2nd & 3rd Line

    £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The IT Support Engineer is needed to ass...

    Recruitment Genius: Junior / Mid Software Developer

    £22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Service Desk Manager

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity to join a p...

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic and Motion Designer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you get a buzz from thinking up new ideas a...

    Day In a Page

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea