Analysis

These data are only preliminary, so the results of any quantitative analysis must be treated with a healthy dose of skepticism. But it is still instructive to look at some of the broad patterns of scientific fame.

The distribution of fame

This histogram shows the fame of the 3807 scientists in the Science Hall of Fame with at least 1 mD. As you can see, it is highly skewed by the hyper-famous. (Note that the X axis is a logarithmic scale.) The vast majority of scientists famous enough to appear both in books and Wikipedia have less than 10 mD of fame.



Scientific field

Field of research was already identified by Michel et al. to have a strong effect on fame. As you can see, the social sciences generate far more famous scholars. Whether or not they are directly comparable to other scientists is open for debate. This plot shows the median fame of scientists in the raw dataset, divided by field. (The median value here is the amount of fame that divides the population in half, a more meaningful statistic than the mean for highly skewed data like these.)



The Nobel prize

And with this plot you can see the distribution of fame for Nobel prize-winners. Contrary to intuition, Nobels do not cluster at the top of the fame spectrum. Instead, they are sprinkled quite evenly among the thousands of  famous scientists. (All scientists in this plot are classified in physics, chemistry, and biology.) The median fame of Nobel prize-winners is 4 mD, while for non-winners it is 2 mD.