Talk:Human Accomplishment

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Mathematical accomplishment[edit]

I have heard that Murray's book says that new discoveries in mathematics have declined since 1900. That is utter nonsense; only an illiterate would say such a thing. Is that actually in Murray's book? Michael Hardy 01:06, 29 Nov 2004 (UTC)

The closest to such a thing I can find is pg. 313 of the hardcover edition, where he says:
  1. "The golden age of mathematics ocurred earlier than for any other scientific inventory, over the late 1500s to the end of the 1600s. A short list of the names explain why: Pascal, Fermat, Cavalieri, Descartes, Wallis, Huygens, Barrow, Leibniz, the first Bernouillis, and Newton, who discovered, among much else, logarithms, analytic geomerty, probability theory, and the calculus."
  2. "A lesser but notable period of acheivement came in the early 1800s, led by Gauss, but with a distinguished body..... After mid-19C, all the measures of accomplishment in mathematics, including those based on events, trailed off through the 1950 cutoff."
(Numbered list in the original). Personally, I find such a result to be fairly plausible. I don't know of any figures between 1850-1950 who really rival "Pascal, Fermat, Cavalieri, Descartes, Wallis, Huygens, Barrow, Leibniz, the first Bernouillis, and Newton". --maru (talk) contribs 20:05, 29 April 2006 (UTC)
Probably nobody rivals Newton. But there has been far more new discovery in mathematics since 1900 the before. Is Murray trying to deny that? --Michael Hardy 19:26, 26 June 2006 (UTC)
Looks like he's saying that between 1900-1950 accomplishment has declined; he deliberately cuts off all his inventorying at that point (so as to avoid overvaluing contemporary work), so that says nothing about work between 1950-2006. I'm not so sure he's right about the overall progress, though as I have said, I think I agree with his point about individuals. --maru (talk) contribs 23:11, 26 June 2006 (UTC)
I'd add that besides the issue about the cut off, Murray would probably say that there are fewer eminent individual figures because more is being done through collaboration (I think he explicitly offers this as a reason for the fewer eminent figures: the greater need for large groups working together) and also that per-capita accomplishment has fallen: there may be more accomplishment post-1950 than in Newton's time, but then, there's like 9 or 10 times more humans around. --Gwern (contribs) 01:25 17 February 2010 (GMT)

There is no question that the post-world war II period is the greatest period in the history of mathematics . One has the total refashioning of mathematics in the Eilenberg-Grothendieck era (1945-1970),culminating in the recent work of Edwards,Jan. 18,2010. —Preceding undated comment added 13:43, 18 January 2010 (UTC).

You obviously know more about mathematics than I do. However 80% of the Eilenberg-Grothendieck era (1945-1970) lies outside the period covered by the book. Jjc2002 (talk) 22:51, 16 February 2010 (UTC)Jjc2002
You don't need to. Anyone who grandiosely proclaims themselves the culmination of the most glorious period of some field has instantly discredited themselves. --Gwern (contribs) 01:25 17 February 2010 (GMT)

The Mathematics section is a nice example of Murray's shortcomings. Almost everybody literate has read somewhere something about "Fermat's theorem" - it was (probably) the most popular example of an unsolved problem, but it has only made Fermat's name exceedingly popular. Such popularity does not relate directly to his mathematical abilities. The First place for Euler is also easily understood: either you say briefly 'Euler contributed to all branches of mathematics' or you start enumerating, which really takes a lot of place and Murray measures just that.

(Another revealing twist is the absence of Karl Marx among the philosophers - a footnote says his achievements are elsewhere. One would have expected to see a rating of economists, but here Marx is the obvious winner, so Murray had to scrap the category.)

Perhaps some explicit warnings should be included in the article with references to published criticism. Ael 2 (talk) 22:22, 1 December 2010 (UTC)


Archimedes is inferior to Fibonacci??? --Michael Hardy 17:09, 26 September 2005 (UTC)

Not by my reading. Looking through the appendix for the mathematical inventory, they both have index scores of 33. --maru (talk) contribs 20:05, 29 April 2006 (UTC)

Christian/Western POV[edit]

"Murray explains his finding that the West produced almost all scientific progress by reference to Christianity's emphasis on human intelligence as a gift from God."
That's a pretty obvious instance of ethnocentrism. I would bet that Asians often assert that "the East" has produced almost all scientific progress, citing such contributions as algebra, zero, gunpowder, writing, the Russian invention of the intercontinental ballistic missile, the many remarkable advancements in electronics to come from Japan in the later 20th century, and civilization itself thousands of years ago in what is now the "middle east". To call Murray's conclusion a "finding" makes it seem as though it's an objective fact that has been discovered. I haven't read his book, so I can't critique this article much beyond that. But the article should not embrace his conclusions wholeheartedly, or else it will simply become an echo of his own point of view. --Mr. Billion 19:41, 20 May 2005 (UTC)
Russians are European. --Jugbo 04:00, 26 October 2006 (UTC)
He co-wrote "The Bell Curve", what more do I need to know about this crook? Seriously, this book's thesis is just another case of some pseudo-intellectual fellating his employers for cash and glory instead of doing real research. Sweetfreek (talk) 05:06, 1 August 2008 (UTC)
Of the six specific examples you give in support of your charge of ethnocentrism three are irrelevant as they fall outside the period covered by the book and one of these comes from "the West" (i.e. from Russia). Sometimes contributors to Talk pages ask if the other person read the relevant book. Did you read its title? The politically incorrect fact of the matter is that a hugely disproportionate amount of inventions and discoveries have come from the West. Just ask yourself a simple question - what was the most significant mathematical, mechanical or medical advance to come from outside the West between 1300 and 1950? Jjc2002 (talk) 22:51, 16 February 2010 (UTC)Jjc2002

Why do I not think that Murray actually said or wrote this, anyway? Is there any reason this line should be in the article, unsourced as it is? If anyone wants something he actually said on the subject, "“Human beings,” he claims, “have been most magnificently productive and reached their highest cultural peaks in the times and places where humans have thought most deeply about their place in the universe and been most convinced they have one.” This for Murray helps explain the preponderance of achievement in the arts and sciences in Europe during the centuries when Christianity was regnant. " Demigord (talk) 19:26, 22 January 2011 (UTC)

The Murray quote is page 475 in the subsection 'The Aristotelian Principle Recast' of the 'Summation'. --Gwern (contribs) 19:52 22 January 2011 (GMT)


There was no music before Monteverdi? What about the massive achievements of Josquin, Palestrina, Machaut, Ockeghem? That list really presents a 19th-century POV. It made me laugh out loud. Those who carried the Franco-Flemish style to the rest of Europe, and who invented the art of counterpoint, are the ones who made the later achievements possible. Is this guy for real? What sources is he using? --Antandrus (talk) 23:38, 9 November 2005 (UTC)

Perhaps I am simply unusually ignorant of music, but I haven't heard of a single one of those people listed in your second sentence. --maru (talk) contribs 07:48, 7 May 2006 (UTC)

yeah it is prettty dumb not to know who palestrina was

Murray knows there's music before Monteverdi. I think certain people should study Murray's book more carefully. His music map for 1400 to 1600 clearly shows the importance of the Low Countries in music. Less heat and more light, please. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:43, 2 December 2013 (UTC)

Murray a Philistine[edit]

Is there such a category? This books seems the definition of the term. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Editor437 (talkcontribs) 23:28, 3 November 2007 (UTC)

Well, Luddites are people who don't read books but still have a strong prejudiced opinion -- you know, one not based on any facts, only prejudice. Lkoler (talk) 05:38, 15 March 2012 (UTC)

Murray has been pretty fair-minded and accurate.

Intelligence Citations Bibliography for Articles Related to Human Intelligence[edit]

You may find it helpful while reading or editing articles to look at a bibliography of Intelligence Citations, posted for the use of all Wikipedians who have occasion to edit articles on human intelligence and related issues. I happen to have circulating access to a huge academic research library at a university with an active research program in these issues (and to another library that is one of the ten largest public library systems in the United States) and have been researching these issues since 1989. You are welcome to use these citations for your own research. You can help other Wikipedians by suggesting new sources through comments on that page. -- WeijiBaikeBianji (talk) 14:35, 28 July 2010 (UTC)

Way too many tables[edit]

What's the rationale for filling the article with so many tables from the book? Wouldn't that information be a lot more compact as paragraphs of text? (And is it really all necessary in an article about the book?) -- WeijiBaikeBianji (talk, how I edit) 01:16, 17 April 2015 (UTC)