Was Charles Eppes the first fictional Data Scientist


Sherlock Holmes is the most well known fictional detective, although many students of literature will tell you Holmes was not the actual first consulting detective.

A recent conversation about detectives, and data scientists led me to wonder who could be considered the first fictional Data Scientist.

To answer this question we should consider what a data scientist is and what they do.

They work with data gathered in the real world, do some analysis, derive a model that can represent the data, explain the model and data to others, add new data to the model, perform some type of prediction, refine results, then test in the real world.

While their are many definitions, and I feel like the definition of the term Data Scientist changes on an ongoing basis, for the purpose of this article I think these general thoughts are sufficient.

On the show Numb3rs, Charles Eppes, played by David Krumholtz was a mathematician who had a brother in the F.B.I. in California. Through a number of seasons Charlie, as he was affectionately known, worked through "doing the math" of these hard problems helping his brother and his team both solve crimes, as well as understand the math behind his explanation. By taking things this next step, actually explaining through analogy that non-mathematicians could understand he was able to provide them insight into the crime and the criminal.

For those of you that have attended any of my presentations on data science, you know that I consider Johannes Kepler to be one of the first true data scientists. Like Charlie, Johannes gathered data from the real world, (painstakingly collected over years by Tycho Brahe), did some analysis, derived a model to represent the data, then began to explain the model and the data to others. As new data came in, Kepler refined his model until all the data points fit with his model. From there Kepler was able to make predictions, refine his results and show others how the real world worked.

There are many other shows that apply the principles of Forensics to solving crime, some of them are quite interesting, although I am not sure  of the veracity of the capabilities of crime solvers to do some of the things that their Television counterparts do on a weekly basis.

Numb3rs, to me will always be about using Data Science to solve real world problems.If you haven't seen an episode, the whole series is on Netflix.

After all, isn't that what the data we work with on a daily basis represents? Something in the "real world" ?

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