Who Does Wikipedia Think Is Bigger Than Jesus?

Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus is Wikipedia’s most influential person, according to one measurement

Carl Linnaeus, 1707 to 1778. Swedish botanist, physician and zoologist. From Crabb's Historical Dictionary published 1825. Ken Welsh/Design Pics/Corbis

Even Sir Isaac Newton recognized that intellectual success depended on what had come before: "If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants,” he so famously said. But while we may all wield influence in our own domains, some people (say, the ones who inspired Newton) are just more influential than others. 

In an intriguing new study, a team led by University of Tolouse researcher Young-Ho Eom sought to figure out who, exactly, should be considered the most influential thinker in the world. Trawling through 24 different language editions of Wikipedia, Eom's team calculated whose intellectual fingers stretched out the furthest. The goal was to study who was at the heart of the biggest branching web of links, the page of the person who, if you spent long enough link jumping through Wikipedia's nearly endless treasures, you'd end up on the most.

The result was... somewhat surprising. According to Eom and co., the world's most influential mind was Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus. Linneaus beat out everyone, from the Pope to President Obama to Frank Sinatra, Hitler, Caesar—even Jesus.

If it's been a while since introductory biology, you may be scratching your head trying to remember who Carl Linnaeus even is. "The Father of Taxonomy," Linneaus invented the scientific system of naming that is still, generally, in use today. It's under Linnaeus' system that human beings became Homo sapiens, and taxonomical gifts like Llama glama, Vini vidivici, Apopyllus now and Ytu brutus came to be.

It was Linnaeus' particular scientific penchant, combined with the specifics of Young-Ho Eom's method of searching Wikipedia, says New Scientist, that led to the unexpected result: “Linnaeus topped the chart across all languages because there are so many Wikipedia pages with scientific names in every edition, and they all eventually lead back to him.”

This isn't the first time people have tried to figure out the influence of various historical people, of course, and Linnaeus is not a reliable entrant on the list. Last year Jasleen Kaur, Filippo Radicchi and Filippo Menczer tried to calculate which academic has had the most influence over the years. Using their approach, which studied how often academics referenced each other in their own work, the team found that Karl Marx was history's most influential scholar.

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