Simonton: DOI: 10.18536/jge.2016.

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Scientific Genius in Islamic Civilization: Quantified Time Series from Qualitative Historical Narratives

Dean Keith Simonton
Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis

Simonton, D. K. (2016). Scientific genius in Islamic civilization: Quantified time series from qualitative historical narratives. Journal of Genius and Eminence, 1(1), 6-15. http://dx.doi.org/10.18536/jge.2016.

It has long been known that genius is not randomly distributed across the history of any given civilization. Instead, genius clusters in Golden and perhaps Silver Ages, separated by apparent Dark Ages in which the highest order geniuses vanish altogether. The methodological question then arises regarding how to quantify the time-wise distribution of genius using historical data that are explicitly qualitative in nature. The potential of narrative-to-number translations was first demonstrated by Sorokin and Merton’s (1935) conversion of Sarton’s (1927-1931) pioneering history of Islamic science into numerical and graphic representations. These qualitative-to-quantitative translations were here subjected to new statistical analyses that address both the internal consistency of the measures and their external relation to comparable but independent assessments based on Kroeber’s (1944) treatment of the same source. Although certain methodological precautions became evident, it also became apparent that the conversion of qualitative narrative to quantitative measures enjoys appreciable justification. This finding is important in those areas where quantitative researchers lack appropriate biographical dictionaries, encyclopedias, chronologies, or award compilations. Then the resulting quantified time series can still be used to study the sociocultural factors underlying rise and fall of genius in world civilizations.