Visualising how the world's ideas fit together is no mean feat. But now you don't have to struggle, because Brendan Griffen has mined Wikipedia to create a map of how the world's greatest thinkers influenced each other.
Colour-coded by genre -- so, for instance, fiction authors are in orange, while 19th/20th century philosophers are in red -- each node presents a person, and its size is determined by the number of links to other nodes. The data was gathered by studying every profile on Wikipedia that had an "influenced by" or "influences" field. Griffen explains:
It really is fascinating (to me at least) to start at one node and bounce along the connections to a distantly related someone else. People in philosophy influencing fantasy writers who influence comedians. It shows one thing above all: the evolution of ideas is a non-linear process. We too, are somewhere in this web, albeit at a smaller scale. We too, are the sum of many.
But while it's nice to look at the image above, it's worth taking a peek at the fully zoomable web which is hosted over at Zoom It. Just don't blame me if you spend the next half hour looking at it. [Brendan Griffen via Flowing Data]