b.1902 d.1950
George Kingsley Zipf was not a mathematician, but his work in linguistics gave rise to what we call Zipf's Law or Zipf's Curve -- a statistical distribution that is also known as the Rank-Size Rule. While countless applications have been found for this distribution it has had the greatest impact in text compression, internet caching, and population studies.

Zipf was born in Germany and went on to become a professor at Harvard University. He also devised The Principle of Least Effort, which states that, "a person…will strive to solve his problems in such a way as to minimize the total work that he must expend in solving both his immediate problems and his probable future problems." His fanatical adherence to this idea -- along with some of his political views regarding Hitler's Germany -- gained him a reputation as eccentric (if not an outright crackpot). Zipf died of natural causes in 1950.

Books by George Kingsley Zipf

  • Selective Studies and the Principle of Relative Frequency in Language (1932)
  • The Psycho-Biology of Languages (1935)
  • The Generalized Harmonic Series as a Fundamental Principle of Social Organization(1940)
  • On the Economical Arrangement of Tools; The Harmonic Series and the Properties of Space(1940)
  • National Unity and Disunity; The Nation as a Bio-social Organism (1941)
  • Human Behavior and the Principle of Least Effort (1949)

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.