In the journal Science, the researchers (led by University of Texas at Dallas art historian Maximilian Schich) published a study that looked at the human cultural history of Europe and North America by mapping the birth and deaths of more than 150,000 notable figures—including everyone from Leonardo Da Vinci to Ernest Hemingway. That data was turned into an amazing animated infographic. Blue dots indicate a birth, red ones means death.
Rome’s stronghold on cultural production dissipates around the 12th century and spreads to other European cities like Paris and Berlin. As the mid 20th century rolls around, a boom in the number deaths in Paris, nodding to its iconic art and literature scene in the earlier part of the century. As the years roll by, human modern culture continues to crawl west to New York City and ultimately to Los Angeles, where many a movie star has been born and died.
The researchers used data from Freebase, which touts itself as a “community curated database of people, places and things.” This gives the data a strong western-bent. You’ll notice that many parts of Asia and the Middle East (not to mention pre-colonized North America), are almost wholly ignored in this video. But the abstract did acknowledge that the study was focused mainly on Europe and North America.
Still, mapping the geography of cultural migration does gives some insight about how the kind of valued, dominant culture has shifted over the centuries. It’s also a novel lens through which to view our more general history, as those migration trends likely illuminate bigger historical happenings like wars and the building of cross-country infrastructure. At the end of the video you see Florida blowing up in red. More proof that indeed, the sunshine state is viewed as a nice place to die.