More Famous than Jesus? Two Greeks Are, According to this MIT Project


There’s a lot of buzz over what archeologists believe to be the tomb of Aristotle, unearthed recently in northern Greece. It’s no wonder people are excited. Aristotle is, according to most educated people, the smartest man ever to have walked the earth.

A few years ago, students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Media Lab took a stab at mapping cultural production (laymen’s term for fame) on a global scale and created the Pantheon Project.

The team has collected and analyzed data on “cultural production” from 4,000 B.C. to 2010 and with a few clicks of your mouse, you can swing through time and space, creating lists of global achievement of fame, or a single country like Greece, the United States or elsewhere.

Note: the program’s method of tracking and documenting birthplace is a bit flawed, especially if you’re interested in the Greek impact on the world. For example, it lists world-famous Greeks like Thales, Herodotus and Homer (to name only a few) as born in Turkey. Given border changes and geopolitical movements over 2,500 years of history it’s obviously it was a daunting task to organize. But nonetheless, it’s blasphemy to some to consider these important Greeks as being born in “Turkey” when it would be a few thousand years before the idea of a nation called Turkey would even be a thought. The website does have a disclaimer that states that its ‘birthplace’ statistic is based on present-day boundaries.

But the best part is seeing who is tops— globally, according to the millions of bits of data collected by the MIT researchers and the global top 10 list is, well fascinating.

Aristotle and Plato top the list at number one and two respectively. Ironic since the latter was the teacher of the former.

Pantheon's top 10 most famous people in history

Pantheon’s top 10 most famous people in history

Third on the list, after the Ancient Greek philosophers, is none other than Jesus Christ.

A total of 6 out of the top 10 “most famous people on the planet” are Greeks. See the full global list here.


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