Watch how the centers of Western culture migrated over 2,000 years

If you want to map cultural hubs throughout time, you can track where history’s most notable figures—like Leonardo da Vinci, Jane Austen, and Steve Jobs—were born and died. That was the thinking of Dr. Maximilian Schich, associate professor for art and technology at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Major cultural hubs of western civilization denoted by number of notable figures who have died there
Cultural meccas rise and decline over time.

Schich and his team took data on more than 100,000 notable figures—people important enough to have their births and deaths catalogued—from Google’s information tank, Freebase, and digitally plotted it on a map visualizing changes over hundreds of years. Blue dots signify births, red dots mark deaths. The more dots in a given location, the bigger the visualization. The result is a mesmerizing, animated timeline tracking the geography of culture and the origins of the hub contributors.

While it may not be surprising that Rome and Paris were huge centers of cultural activity in the 16th and 17th centuries, and that Hollywood is now taking over that spotlight, it’s interesting to see how the progression unfolded and who fueled it—all in a five-minute clip.

YouTube screenshot

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