Advertisement

Scientometrics

, Volume 118, Issue 2, pp 605–615 | Cite as

Fame in the sciences: a culturomics approach

  • Ho Fai Chan
  • Franklin G. MixonJr.Email author
  • Benno Torgler
Article

Abstract

Although scientists, like many other professionals, aspire to fame and recognition, research in the emergent field of fame and celebrity has as yet neglected to explore their fame trajectories. This study therefore uses the frequency with which scientists’ names appear in English language books between 1800 and 2000 to trace the fame of a large number of eminent scholars from different fields. The analysis suggests that, on average, fame grows substantially between the approximate ages of 30 and 50, at which point its growth slows before peaking at around 70. Beyond this point, the growth of fame is more volatile, although we observe no clear decreasing trend. In fact, fame grows again after scientists’ death, but with the fame of those born in the twentieth century exceeding that of their nineteenth century counterparts.

Keywords

Fame Recognition Celebrity Science Culturomics 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The authors thank an anonymous referee for many helpful comments on a prior version. Ho Fai Chan and Benno Torgler benefitted from support by the Australian Research Council (ARC), DP180101169.

References

  1. Aiden, E., & Michel, J. B. (2014). Uncharted: Big data as a lens on human culture. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  2. Azoulay, P., Stuart, T., & Wang, Y. (2013). Matthew: Effect or fable? Management Science, 60, 92–109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baram-Tsabari, A., & Segev, E. (2018). Global and local ‘teachable moments:’ The role of Nobel Prize and national pride. Public Understanding of Science, 27, 471–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bohannon, J. (2011). The science hall of fame. Science, 331, 143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Borjas, G. J., & Doran, K. B. (2015). Prizes and productivity how winning the fields medal affects scientific output. Journal of Human Resources, 50, 728–758.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brodesco, A. (2018). Nobel laureates in fiction: From La fin du monde to The Big Bang Theory. Public Understanding of Science, 27, 458–470.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bucchi, M. (2014). Norms, competition and visibility in contemporary science: The legacy of Robert K Merton. Journal of Classical Sociology, 15, 233–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bucchi, M. (2018). ‘The winner takes it all?’ Nobel laureates and the public image of science. Public Understanding of Science, 27, 390–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chan, H. F., Bodiuzzman, S Md, & Torgler, B. (2018a). Behavioral consequences of limited attention: The power of social cues, mimeo. Brisbane: Queensland University of Technology.Google Scholar
  10. Chan, H. F., Frey, B. S., Gallus, J., & Torgler, B. (2014a). Academic honors and performance. Labour Economics, 31, 188–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chan, H. F., Gleeson, L., & Torgler, B. (2014b). Awards before and after the Nobel Prize: A Matthew effect and/or a ticket to one’s own funeral. Research Evaluation, 23, 210–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chan, H. F., Mixon, F. G., Jr., & Torgler, B. (2018b). Relation of early career performance to the probability of winning the Nobel Prize in economics. Scientometrics, 114, 1069–1089.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Chan, H. F., Önder, A. S., & Torgler, B. (2015). Do Nobel laureates change their patterns of collaboration following prize reception? Scientometrics, 105, 2215–2235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chan, H. F., Önder, A. S., & Torgler, B. (2016). The first cut is the deepest: Repeated interactions of coauthorship and academic productivity in Nobel laureate teams. Scientometrics, 106, 509–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Chan, H. F., & Torgler, B. (2012). Econometric fellows and Nobel laureates in economics. Economics Bulletin, 32, 3365–3377.Google Scholar
  16. Chan, H. F., & Torgler, B. (2014). Time-lapsed awards for excellence. Nature, 300, 29.Google Scholar
  17. Chan, H. F., & Torgler, B. (2015a). The implications of educational and methodological background for the career success of Nobel laureates: An investigation of major awards. Scientometrics, 102, 847–863.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chan, H. F., & Torgler, B. (2015b). Do great minds appear in batches? Scientometrics, 104, 475–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Condit, C. M. (2018). The character of scientists in the Nobel Prize speeches. Public Understanding of Science, 27, 417–432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Cowen, T. (2000). What price fame?. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Fahy, D. (2015). The new scientists: Out of the lab and into the limelight. New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  22. Fahy, D. (2018). The laureate as celebrity genius: How Scientific American’s John Horgan profiled Nobel Prize winners. Public Understanding of Science, 27, 433–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fahy, D., & Lewenstein, B. V. (2014). Scientists in popular culture: The making of celebrity. In M. Bucchi & B. Trench (Eds.), Routledge handbook of public communication of science and technology (pp. 83–96). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  24. Faria, J. R., Mixon, F. G., Jr., & Upadhyaya, K. P. (2016). Human capital, collegiality, and stardom in economics: Empirical analysis. Scientometrics, 106, 917–943.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Feldman, M. P., & Kelley, M. R. (2003). Leveraging research and development: Assessing the impact of U.S. advanced technology program. Small Business Economics, 20, 153–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Ferris, K. O. (2007). The sociology of celebrity. Sociology Compass, 1, 371–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Frey, B. S. (2006). Giving and receiving awards. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 1, 377–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Frey, B. S., & Gallus, J. (2016). Honors: A rational choice analysis of award bestowals. Rationality and Society, 28, 255–269.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Frey, B. S., & Gallus, J. (2017). Towards and economics of awards. Journal of Economic Surveys, 31, 190–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gibbons, J. D., & Fish, M. (1991). Ranking of economics faculties and representation on editorial boards of top journals. Journal of Economic Education, 22, 361–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gomez-Mejia, L. R., Treviño, L. J., & Mixon, F. G., Jr. (2009). Winning the tournament for named professorships in management. International Journal of Human Resource Management, 20, 1843–1863.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Goodell, R. (1977). The visible scientists. New York: Little, Brown.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Gouyon, J.-B. (2018). From engaged citizen to lone hero: Nobel Prize laureates on British television, 1962–2004. Public Understanding of Science, 27, 446–457.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hansson, N. (2018). What’s so special about the Nobel Prize? Public Understanding of Science, 27, 485–488.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Henrich, J. (2016). The secret of our success: How culture is driving human evolution, domesticating our species, and making us smarter. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Hull, D. L. (1988). Science as a process: An evolutionary account of the social and conceptual development of science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Källstrand, G. (2018). The image of the Nobel Prize. Public Understanding of Science, 27, 405–416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Merton, R. K. (1973). The sociology of science: Theoretical and empirical investigations. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  39. Michel, J.-B., Shen, Y. K., Aiden, A. P., Veres, A., et al. (2010). Quantitative analysis of culture using millions of digitized books. Science, 331, 176–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mixon, F. G., Jr., Torgler, B., & Upadhyaya, K. P. (2017). “Scholarly impact and the timing of major awards in economics. Scientometrics, 112, 1837–1852.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mixon, F. G., Jr., & Upadhyaya, K. P. (2014). Eyes on the prize: Human capital and demographic elements of economics’ Nobel Prize and John Bates Clark Medal. Briefing Notes in Economics, 24, 1–18.Google Scholar
  42. Samuelson, P. A. (2004). Paul A. Samuelson. In W. Breit & B. T. Hirsch (Eds.), Lives of the laureates: Eighteen Nobel economists. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  43. Solow, R. M. (2004). Robert M. Solow. In W. Breit & B. T. Hirsch (Eds.), Lives of the laureates: Eighteen Nobel economists. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  44. Van de Rijt, A., Shor, E., Ward, C., & Skiena, S. (2013). Only 15 minutes? The social stratification of fame in printed media. American Sociological Review, 78, 266–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Widmalm, S. (2018). The Nobel science prizes and their constituencies. Public Understanding of Science, 27, 397–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Zott, C., & Huy, Q. N. (2007). How entrepreneurs use symbolic management to acquire resources. Administrative Science Quarterly, 52, 70–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Zuckerman, H. (1995). Scientific elite: Nobel laureates in the United States. New York: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ho Fai Chan
    • 1
  • Franklin G. MixonJr.
    • 2
    Email author
  • Benno Torgler
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Economics and FinanceQueensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Center for Economic EducationColumbus State UniversityColumbusUSA

Personalised recommendations