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From:"D. Spencer Hines" <>Subject:"Everyone of European Ancestry is Descended From Charlemagne"?Date:Sun, 18 Jul 1999 08:35:52 -1000_Everyone of European Ancestry is Descended From Charlemagne_

Readers will find this piece at:

http://www.oz.net/~lee/Genealogy/charlemagne.html

D. Spencer Hines

It was reportedly written by:

John M. (Jack) Lee

Professor of Mathematics

Graduate Program Coordinator

University of Washington

Department of Mathematics

C-546 Padelford Hall

Box 354350

Seattle, Washington 98195-4350

USA

Phone: (206) 543-1735

Fax: (206) 543-0397

E-mail:

Whose Home Page is at:

http://www.math.washington.edu/~lee/

D. Spencer Hines

Lux et Veritas

Fortem Posce Animum

--

As I was researching my Lee ancestral line back into the middle ages,

I was excited to find that I am apparently a direct descendant of

Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor. As I dug deeper, I found at

least three separate lines of descent from him to me, and I saw more

and more genealogical sites on the Web that claimed similar descent.

This started me thinking about how likely it is that I, or anyone for

that matter, might be descended from a particular person that far

back. As a mathematician (though not by any means a probabilist), I

figured I ought to be able to come up with at least a rough estimate

of the probability. My conclusion, which was surprising (to me at

least), is that there is virtually no chance that anyone of European

ancestry is not directly descended from Charlemagne.

Here's my reasoning. Charlemagne was approximately 40 generations back

from the present day. Each person has 2 parents, 2^ 2 = 4

grandparents, 2^ 3 = 8 great-grandparents, ... and 2^ 40, or

approximately 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion), 40th-generation

ancestors, which means half a trillion male ancestors. Of course,

since the entire male population of Europe at the time of Charlemagne

was only about 15 million, these half trillion ancestors cannot all

have been different men -- obviously there has been a lot of

cross-breeding, and many of our ancestral lines cross and re-cross,

eventually ending up at the same person. Let's assume that each of my

40th-generation male ancestors is a randomly-chosen man from

eighth-century Europe (this is not really valid, but more on that

below). Choosing any one such ancestor, say my father's father's ...

father's father, the probability that that particular person is

Charlemagne is one in 15 million. Pretty small. To put it another way,

the probability that any particular ancestor was not Charlemagne is

1 - 1/15,000,000, or approximately 0.999999933

But now consider the probability that none of my 40th-generation

ancestors is Charlemagne. For that to happen, every one of my half

trillion male ancestors has to not be Charlemagne, which would be an

amazing coincidence. To see how amazing, let's compute the

probability. Assuming all of these various not-being-Charlemagne

occurrences are independent of each other (more on this below), the

laws of probability state that the probability of all these events

occurring simultaneously is obtained by multiplying together their

individual probabilities:

(0.999999933)(0.999999933)...(0.999999933) = (0.999999933)^

500,000,000,000.

This turns out to be an incredibly small number: about one chance in

10^ 15,000. That's a one with 15,000 zeroes after it, a number that's

too big even to display in a browser window. This is way more than the

number of atoms in the universe (which is estimated to be about 10^

80). Therefore, if this analysis is even remotely close to correct,

it's virtually impossible that Charlemagne is not among my direct

ancestors.

Of course, there are a few sources of errors in this analysis, so

there are various corrections one could make that might yield a more

accurate estimate. Most obviously, one's ancestors are not in fact

randomly chosen people from eighth-century Europe. For example, anyone

who had no children, or no grandchildren, cannot be an ancestor of

someone living now. (Charlemagne has well-documented descendants down

to the present day.) More generally, wealthy people survived at a far

higher rate than the rest of the population, and so were much more

likely to produce descendants - thus one's ancestors are more likely

to be found among the relatively small population of royalty and

nobility, including Charlemagne. You might think of other, smaller,

corrections, such as the fact that the probabilities of different

ancestors being Charlemagne are not really independent: for example,

if my father's ... father's father was Charlemagne's brother, then the

probability that my father's ... mother's father was Charlemagne

himself is very small. And, of course, some of my ancestors came from

outside of Europe. But I believe these effects cannot change the fact

that the probability we're talking about is so tiny as to be zero for

all practical purposes.

- --------------------------------------------------------------------

----------

Lee/Weizenbaum Genealogy Lee/Weizenbaum Home

http://www.oz.net/~lee/Genealogy/charlemagne.html

--

D. Spencer Hines --- "She [Hillary Rodham Clinton] loves eunuch geek

men." [CP]; "Like Who?" [The Women's Quarterly]; "Oh my God, look at

them all! Sidney Blumenthal, Ira Magaziner, Harold Ickes --- they all

look alike. They are all weird Ichabod Crane men, all high IQ men who

have no natural virility, okay? It's really weird. She loves to have

her little cabals with them. And the other one --- the lawyer David

Kendall --- they're all alike, and they all bond with her. They're all

joined at the hip with her! "Camille Paglia, Professor of Humanities

at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia is a culture critic,

libertarian feminist, and columnist for the Internet magazine _Salon_.

She is also the author of four books including _Sexual Personae: Art

and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson_; _Art and American

Culture_; and _Vamps and Tramps_." _The Women's Quarterly_, Spring

1999, Number 19.

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