Artists and Scientists in a World Leadership Center

from Human Accomplishment by Charles Murray (2003), page 339


"Countries that have more per capita gross domestic product (GDP) than others at a given point in time tend to produce more significant figures than their poor competitors, particularly in the arts and sciences."

"A stronger case for the good effect of wealth is supplied by the Netherlands in 17C. A small country with few natural resources, controlled by Spain, threw off its foreign rulers and within a few years of the peace of 1609 became the most dynamic economy in Europe, the 'image of Venice in the days when Venice was thriving,' as a Venetian diplomat observed in 1618. Dutch growth continued without a break for the rest of 17C. As in the case of Spain, the production of significant figures tracked almost perfectly with the riches, from only 6 significant figures in the last half of 16C to 46 during the course of 17C. The home-grown Dutch major figures of 17C include a roster of painters that only Florence at its height could match - Rubens, van Dyck, Hals, van Ruisdael, Vermeer, and Rembrandt. Spinoza in philosophy and Huygens in the sciences would have ornamented any country in any era. Descartes wasn't born in Holland, but he lived there during the prime of his career.

"Unlike Spain, the Netherlands did not go into an economic funk, but growth slowed. From 18C onward, the Netherlands became just another European small-but-prosperous country. As in Spain, the production of great figures in the arts and sciences came to a stop. Between Jan Swammerdam, who died in 1680, and Hugo de Vries, who began his career two centuries later, the Netherlands produced a solitary major figure (Daniel Farenheit, 1686-1736)."


Charles Murray suggests two causes for a large number of prominent arts/ science figures, as in 17C Netherlands:

1. Money is available to build universities and buy paintings.

2. Prosperity reflects a broad cultural and national vitality, which encourages accomplishment in the arts and sciences, independent of monetary support.


World's Most Influential People (This is Sloan's list, inspired by Murray's book)

China - Confucius (personal and state conduct)

Greece - Aristotle (philosophy), Alexander the Great (military leader)

Italy - Augustus Cesar (politician), Michaelangelo (sculpture), Leonardo da Vinci (overall genius), Puccini (opera)

Israel - Jesus (moral philosophy)

Saudi Arabia - Mohammed (religious leader)

Great Britain - Shakespeare (literature), Newton (physical sciences), Smith (economics), Darwin (natural sciences)

United States - Jefferson (political writer), Wright (architect), Gates (businessman)

Germany - Beethoven (music)

Spain - Picasso (artist)


Go to: Netherlands and other World Leadership Centers

Go to: Home Page

Comments to: