I remember my MSCS advisor often refers to his "academic grandfather" (his advisor's advisor Dr. Leonard Kleinrock) as the person who sent the first data packets. Although distant, I think it is cool for him to be a descendant of someone famous.

For PhDs, have you ever traced your academic family tree? Does it matter for those of you that are not in academia? I am also a PhD student now and would it be too early to imagine folks in my lab as my "academic brother/sister"?

Would like to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks!

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    Like a real genealogy tree, It's a nice topic to discuss on social occasions but at the end of the day it's unlikely to have any influence on your (academic) life.
    – Erwan
    Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 1:03
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    Erdös-Bacon number is the really important thing here :-) Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 1:11
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    I'm fortunate to have Stephen Hawking, Dennis Sciama and Paul Dirac in my academic family tree, so as a physicist it's pretty cool for me :) And it's fun to know your tree so you can find long-lost academic siblings, nephews, uncles, cousins etc when you go to conferences. No harm in it, and a handy networking tool. Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 23:27
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    @user48953094, I agree of course. But I note that as long as you are in the collaborative game in any way, then both your Erdos and your Bacon numbers can be lowered entirely through the work of others with on more effort on your part. Synergy in action.
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 21:14

3 Answers 3


I have traced mine, using the Academic Tree website. Honestly, it's one of those things that doesn't really matter, but can be quite entertaining. It can be good for a story or two, or to better understand the history of the field, but I'd doubt it'd do much career-wise - whether it's academic or not. However, referring to academic relatives can be an interesting tool when teaching - it can give a more personal touch to an otherwise dry subject, for example.


I believe that academic tree does not impact your work. However it is something that is really cool and gives you a sense of responsibility that you are carrying some of the most significant names of the industry. Having these names associated to you will give you a sense of pride and honor and that is all what it is. In addition to that it may also be used to see the transition of technology along the time.

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    I'll note that for many in mathematics, especially older folks like myself, our ancestor list is pretty impressive. But it is due, a lot, to the fact that the field was smaller (much smaller) before our time.
    – Buffy
    Commented Feb 21, 2020 at 21:20

Maybe you have heard of and looked around on the website of the Mathematics Genealogy Project. Pretty fun, and an extensive collection of academics.

About it's worth, to me as a scholar in the field of mathematics and sociology, I can say I was happy to be able to use their dataset in my dissertation. For example, the genealogical connections and additional information on academic degrees, allowed me to map global trends and interactions in research. Something which I believe is worthwhile outside academia as well.

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