The world is getting smaller – my Erdös and Einstein numbers drop

In an earlier post (, I described author paths that gave me an Erdös number of 6 and an Einstein number of 7. The other day I came across a comment that Kenneth Arrow, Nobel Prize Laureate in economics in 1972, has an Erdös number of 3 and remembered that he had published a paper last year with one of my co-authors, Dean Jamison, which would reduce my Erdös number to 5 (the median number for mathematicians). So I looked for the publication path, and first found that Dean and Kenneth Arrow had published several papers over the years.


Some of the authors of the Global Burden of Disease volume for the Disease Control Priorities Project. From left: Sonbol Shahid-Solles, Alan Lopez, Steve Begg, Dean Jamison and Majid Ezzati.

Some of the authors of the Global Burden of Disease volume for the Disease Control Priorities Project. From left: Sonbol Shahid-Salles, Alan Lopez, Steve Begg, Dean Jamison and Majid Ezzati.

So much as I would like to think Dean has been working hard on strategies to reduce my Erdös number, in fact it has been at most 5 since 2005. Here is the path:

  1. Paul Erdös, László Lovász; A Simmons, Ernst G Straus. Dissection graphs of planar point sets. A survey of combinatorial theory (Proc. Internat. Sympos., Colorado State Univ., Fort Collins, Colo., 1971), pp. 139–149. North-Holland, Amsterdam, 1973
  2. Kannan, Ravi; László Lovász, Herbert E Scarf. The shapes of polyhedra. Math. Oper. Res. 1990; 15(2): 364–380.
  3. Kenneth J Arrow, Samuel Karlin, Herbert Scarf, et al., Studies in the Mathematical Theory of Inventory and Production. Stanford University Press, 1958; MR 27#1361.
  4. Kenneth J Arrow, Helen Gelband, Dean T Jamison. Making antimalarial agents available in Africa. New England Journal of Medicine. 2005; 353(4): 333-5
  5. Alan D Lopez, Colin D Mathers, Majid Ezzati, Dean T Jamison, Christopher JL Murray. Global and regional burden of disease and risk factors, 2001: systematic analysis of population health data. The Lancet 2006; 367(9524): 1747-1757

Then I realized that because Ernst G Straus was a co-author of Albert Einstein and has Erdös number 1, the same path reduces my Einstein number from 7 to 6:

  1. Albert Einstein, Ernst G. Straus. The Influence of the Expansion of Space on the Gravitation Fields Surrounding the Individual Stars. Annals of Mathematics 1946; 47(4): pp 731-741.

While googling Kenneth Arrow to find his Erdös path I also came across an alternate path to Einstein (Kenneth Arrow, Theodore E Harris, Richard Bellman, Ernst G Straus, Albert Einstein) which also gives me an Einstein number of 6. Since Einstein published close to 100 years ago and had few co-authors, that’s quite low. In contrast, Erdös was publishing recently, was the most prolific mathematics paper writers of all time, and had many co-authors.

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