A Better Search Engine might be created with the sribblings of John Adams

A Better Search Engine might be created with the sribblings of John Adams

John Adams was the Founding Father who served as the second president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. He owned a copy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s philosophical novel Julie, ou La nouvelle Héloïse, published in 1761 and is now in Boston Public Library. Adams scrawled comments in the margins of several passages. For instance, in a column where Rousseau writes that aristocrats and plutocrats should be punished, Adams notes: “Peoples, Nations, not Individuals, are guilty of this. Riches and fame are Chimeras too”, which means that is society itself that institutes aristocracy or plutocracy.


However, David Smith, professor of the Northeastern University says that he is not concerned with what authors such as Rousseau have to say, instead he wants to know how readers interact with their texts. For this, he is trying to analyse the underlined and highlighted passages, the drawings, and the handwritten scribbles in the margins .Thus, it is better if it is a more marked-up a text.


Smith’s latest project builds on his exploration of how news stories, fiction, and poetry went viral in the 19th century. “This project is applying those results to the question of, OK, can people do more with texts than just reprint them? Because we’ve seeded the world with identical copies of books it’s interesting to ask how people have customized them” Smith commented. He has received an $82,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, to which he said: “I hope this will provide us with technology to build better search engines so that somebody who is interested in searching all the records of the past can more quickly focus on the more relevant passages”.


According to Smith, his findings could lead to the creation of better and more efficient search engine algorithms and that it will enable researchers to examine the kinds of information that various groups of people, including former presidents and plebeians alike, have found important at particular periods of time, something that could benefit students. He says “A lot of libraries contain books that students have studied and students write in these books. So as a way of finding out what they find most relevant, we can work backwards to help students find the more relevant passages and find what they are struggling with”.


Shahjadi Jemim Rahman

Shahjadi Rahman
Shahjadi Rahman


A firm believer of the Law Of Attraction. I say the glass is always filled half, fancying the world as a runway to fly with my wings on!

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