Bibliometric curios

Wed 22 Dec 2010 05:51 PM

Brian Leiter mentions the fun to be had with Google's Ngram Viewer, a webpage that graphs the frequency of words or phrases in books over time. Two interesting comparisons:

"Immanuel Kant" versus "Thomas Reid" in English from 1800 to the present. As one might expect, discussion of Kant increases over time. Perhaps surprisingly, discussion of Reid continues at more or less the same level over the whole period.

"Pragmatism" versus "utilitarianism" from 1900 to the present. Pragmatism gets an initial bump when coined but falls off in the second decade of the century. After about 1920, the two are in lockstep with utilitarianism shadowing pragmatism.

Some niggling: There may be some sample selection bias, because it only counts books that Google has scanned. Also, it is only matching whole phrases; it won't aggregate different forms, such as "C.S. Peirce" and "Charles Sanders Peirce".