April 12, 2010

Mapping Wikipedia biographies by region

Following on from our last post on mapping Wikipedia biographies, here is a quick overview of biography articles visualised by country. Again, wiki bibliographies are intended to be entries about notable people, you can see more about this definition at our previous post.

The US comes out on top of the list here, with more than half of all biography articles prominently mentioning the country or a location within the country. On the other and of the scale, there are about fifty countries and territories (examples include Bhutan, Gambia and the Maldives) which are prominently mentioned in fewer than ten biographies. It is also interesting to examine the data normalised by the populations of each country (see below).

At the top of the list is the Vatican City. There are 242 articles in which the Vatican City is prominently mentioned for every 1000 people in the country. This isn't really that surprising given the tiny population of the country and the long list of famous people associated with the Vatican. If we remove city-states and island nations from the list, we see that Iceland, Ireland and the UK have the most per capita mentions in Wikipedia biographies (all have roughly three articles in which the country is prominently mentioned per every 1000 people in each country). Also interesting is the fact that Australia, Canada and all of the Nordic countries also have very high numbers of Wikipedia articles mentioning those places per every 1000 people in those countries.

At the other end of the list we have Guinea which has only two mentions in Wikipedia biographies per every one million people in the country (most African countries have similar per capita numbers). China also has an extremely low number of biography articles per capita - although this owes much to the enormous population of China rather than an low total number of mentions in Wikipedia biographies.

These figures are likely skewed by the fact that we are measuring biographies of people from all centuries. This would seem to give higher numbers of articles to parts of the world with thousands of years of recorded history (e.g. the Vatican) rather than places with a smaller amount of recorded history (e.g. New Zealand). That being said, it is interesting that many of the countries in the "New World" (e.g. the US and Canada) are far better represented in Wikipedia than countries like Greece, Iran and Egypt which are home to some of the earliest recorded histories of humankind.

We nonetheless plan to post some more detailed versions of the maps by century in the near future.

See also:

Our post on Mapping Wikipedia Biographies for the methodology that we used to create these maps.

The data used to create these maps were collected by Adrian Popescu and are available here.


  1. Nice Blog! Loved reading...

    Best, Bruce M. Mackh

  2. Fascinating stuff. Interesting that Namibia ends up being pretty high after the normalization (I guess the population is pretty low relative to the size of the place). But wouldn't it be fantabulous if you could see these figures after normalization for internet access levels?? Ooooooh, let's do it!