Cities around the world are doing their utmost to appear cool and innovative. The success of Silicon Valley in attracting the best and brightest technological minds has prompted a number of other innovation hubs to be created in cities from London to Berlin. Throughout history however, it’s clear that some cities were much more effective than others.
Which is most likely to help you reach the stars? A new study might provide something of a clue. It has forgone the recent trend in cluster building to look at the attractiveness of cities through the ages to see if any patterns emerge in both who lived where, and how people migrated between cities.
The study trawled through a database of notable names over a 2,000 year period that stretched all the way back to King David of Israel’s time in 1069 BC. As such, the research covered the rise and fall of cities and cultural hubs in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia over hundreds of years.
A number of fascinating findings emerged (and some perhaps not surprising ones). For instance, Paris managed to attract around 70% of all France’s notable people over that period.
70% of all French celebrities were drawn to Paris
The method used to scour the database allows the researchers to connect up particular regions with particular professions, just by studying who dies in which city. The hope is that it will enable a much more thorough understandings of the relative strengths of each dwelling.
"This paper is the first step," the researchers say. "In follow-up papers, we can actually show even more that actors die in Hollywood and sports people die in Cleveland and sailors die at sea."
The researchers explored the movements of 150,000 luminaries harvested from Freebase.com, with the birth and death locations of each person noted and tracked. Their list included people such as monarchs but also certain celebrities of a more recent vintage.
The birth and death locations of each person were then used to create a map of where celebrities were born and died, which was used as a proxy for where they lived during their lives.
The results reflect the changing character of the world during that period. For instance, in the early parts of the 1st century, Rome was a clear and identifiable hub, but gradually cities began to become interconnected, thus enabling the flow of people moving throughout the major cities of Europe.
This changed again around the 1500s when regional clusters began to be formed. These clusters would typically take two distinct forms. Some, such as Paris, would be dominated by a single core city. Others however, such as that reflected by Germany, would be much more disparate and scattered, with the celebrities of the time spread evenly throughout the country.
In Europe, it transpired that a mixture of places and terrains proved popular. For instance many celebrities would migrate to London, the Alps and the French Riviera. Interestingly, cities such as Edinburgh and Dublin would produce lots of talented people, but they would then migrate elsewhere.
In the United States, New York is the one city that dominates, although the likes of Boston and Philadelphia are notable entries too, although, as with Dublin and Edinburgh, they tend to produce talent that then moves elsewhere.
Other interesting talent ’importers’ in the US included Los Angeles and Washington D.C.
"There are a lot of notable individuals being born all over the western half of the U.S., but most of them actually move to cultural centers of various sizes," the researchers said. They went on to suggest that places such as Boston produce more celebrities than they attract due to their universities.
Suffice to say, the patterns are far from static. For instance, New York wasn’t always such a talent magnet, with talented people tending to move elsewhere in the 1920s, in particular to Los Angeles.
So it’s quite possible that the efforts currently being made by cities around the world to pull in talent will do just that.