Cities have been the scene of more than their share of great achievements in many fields. This is not just because many people have been concentrated in cities. Even in proportion to population, cities have turned out far more than their share of leading figures.
Particular groups have also had more than their share of spectacular achievements. In the first half of the 20th century, Jews won 14 percent of all Nobel Prizes in literature and the sciences combined, and in the second half of the century they won 29 percent. In both periods, Jews were less than one percent of the world's population.
Once we understand that achievements are not random and never have been, the question that arises is: What causes so much more achievement in some places than in others, at some times rather than others, and among some individuals and groups more than others?
Charles Murray's answers to these big question are too long for a column and can be found in the book. But just to have established a basis for such questions is a major contribution.
Let us not forget that we live in a time when a failure to have a random distribution of individuals and groups in the workplace or on an academic campus is regarded as a sign of bias or discrimination. The very thought that groups might differ among themselves in the required skills, attitudes and performances is anathema to many in academia, the media and even the courts.
This study of landmark achievements is itself a landmark achievement. If it does no more than get people to think about things that have been accepted as social dogmas, that will be a major contribution.