Quantitative analysis of culture using millions of digitized books

Science. 2011 Jan 14;331(6014):176-82. doi: 10.1126/science.1199644. Epub 2010 Dec 16.


We constructed a corpus of digitized texts containing about 4% of all books ever printed. Analysis of this corpus enables us to investigate cultural trends quantitatively. We survey the vast terrain of 'culturomics,' focusing on linguistic and cultural phenomena that were reflected in the English language between 1800 and 2000. We show how this approach can provide insights about fields as diverse as lexicography, the evolution of grammar, collective memory, the adoption of technology, the pursuit of fame, censorship, and historical epidemiology. Culturomics extends the boundaries of rigorous quantitative inquiry to a wide array of new phenomena spanning the social sciences and the humanities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Books*
  • Cultural Evolution
  • Culture*
  • Data Collection
  • Dictionaries as Topic
  • Encyclopedias as Topic
  • Famous Persons
  • Humanities*
  • Linguistics*
  • Literature*
  • Social Sciences*
  • Technology
  • Vocabulary*