Thanks to Tom Stewart, who in turn thanks John Hagel for this network discovery: 18th-century social network of ideas, carried out through letters, and now on YouTube, having been mapped by Stanford's "Mapping the Republic of Letters" study. Assistant French Professor Dan Edelstein, principal investigator, describes how ideas spread via letters. Voltaire, for example, wrote 15,000. Cynthia Haven reports:
Edelstein, principal investigator for "Mapping the Republic of Letters" with history Professor Paula Findlen, has mapped thousands of letters that were exchanged during the period of the Enlightenment to uncover hidden truths about the "Republic of Letters." The latter is "a shorthand that scholars use to refer to writers and philosophers and clergymen and other early modern intellectuals who corresponded across Europe and even across the world," said Edelstein.
...According to Edelstein, "We tend to think of networks as a modern invention, something that only emerged in the Age of Information. In fact, going all the way back to the Renaissance, scholars have established themselves into networks in order to receive the latest news, find out the latest discoveries and circulate the ideas of others."
"We've known about these correspondences for a long time – some of them have been published – but no one has been able to piece together how these individual networks fit into a complete whole, something we call the Republic of Letters."