New York Times, By PATRICIA COHEN, December 3, 2010
Victorians were enamored of the new science of statistics, so it seems fitting that these pioneering data hounds are now the subject of an unusual experiment in statistical analysis. The titles of every British book published in English in and around the 19th century - 1,681,161, to be exact - are being electronically scoured for key words and phrases that might offer fresh insight into the minds of the Victorians.
Dan Cohen and Fred Gibbs, the two historians of science at George Mason University who have created the project, have so far charted how frequently more than two dozen words - among them "God," "love," "work," "science" and "industrial" - appear in British book titles from the French Revolution in 1789 to the beginning of World War I in 1914. To Mr. Cohen, the sharply jagged lines that dance across his graphs can be used to test some of the most deeply entrenched beliefs about the Victorians, like their faith in progress and science: "We can finally and truly test these and other fundamental claims that have been at the heart of Victorian studies for generations."