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The Law of Anomalous Numbers Author(s): Frank Benford Source: Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 78, No.

4 (Mar. 31, 1938), pp. 551-572 Published by: American Philosophical Society Stable URL: . Accessed: 08/02/2014 11:22
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FRANK BENFORD Electric Research General Laboratory, Company, Physicist, Schenectady, New York (Introduced by Irving Langmuir) (Read April22, 1937)

that the first It has been observed pages of a table of common logarithms thatmoreusednumbers showmore wearthando thelast pages,indicating begin withthedigit1 thanwiththe digit9. A compilation ofsome20,000first digits shows sources thatthere is a logarithmic takenfrom distribution widely divergent ormore digits are composed offour offirst whenthenumbers digits. An analysis different showsthatthe numbers from sources ofthe numbers takenfrom unresuchas a group ofnewspaper showa much latedsubjects, better items, agreement witha logarithmic distribution thando numbers from mathematical tabulations or otherformal data. There is herethe peculiarfactthat numbers that indiin largegroups, in good viduallyare without relationship are, whenconsidered witha distribution law-hence the name " Anomalous agreement Numbers." A further ofthedata shows a strong analysis for tendency bodiesofnumerical data to fallintogeometric series. If theseries is madeup ofnumbers containing ormore thefirst form a logarithmic three series. If thenumbers condigits digits thegeometric relation stillholdsbutthesimple tainonlysingle digits logarithmic no longer relation applies. An equationis givenshowing the frequencies of first digitsin the different 1 to 10, 10 to 100,etc. orders ofnumbers The equationalso givesthefrequency ofdigits in thesecond, third place ofa multi-digit and it is shown thatthesamelaw appliesto reciprocals. number, Thereare manyinstances thatthegeometric showing or thelogarithseries, miclaw,has longbeenrecognized as a common phenomenon in factual literature and intheordinary affairs oflife. The wire gaugeand drill gaugeofthemechanic, the magnitude scale of the astronomer and the sensory response curvesof the are all particular psychologist examples ofa relationship thatseemsto extend to all human affairs. The Law ofAnomalous is thusa general Numbers probability law ofwidespread application. PART I: STATISTICAL DERIVATION IT OF THE LAW

has been observedthat the pages of a much used table of common logarithmsshow evidences of a selective use of the natural numbers. The pages containingthe logarithms of the low numbers1 and 2 are apt to be more stained and frayedby use than those of the highernumbers8 and 9. Of

4, MARCH 1938






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forno attentionis to be paid to magnitudeother digit. The method any tabulationofdata that is not ofstudyconsistsofselecting in some way in numerical range.243 on Sat.174.224. 3. is used in the building up of our scientific. 9. There may be.and whichmay contain a 0 as a digitin any positionafterthe first. a distinction of the nine natural numbers 1. in the relative table. Between these limitsone will recognizevarious degrees of randomness. the beginning numberof observationsto insure a fair average. Methodsand Terms the the data collectedwhileinvestigating Beforepresenting law that applies to numerpossibleexistenceof a distribution it may and to randomdata in particular. be wellto define is made betweena digit. a sufficient This content downloaded from one could be expected to be greatlyinterestedin but the mattermay be the conditionof a table of logarithms. general factual literature. 2. possible and to include a variety of widely different no numbers that have random from purely The types range relationotherthan appearing withinthe covers of the same magazine. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .. data on how we cleanlinessof the pages of a logarithm thinkand how we react when dealing withthingsthat can be describedby means of numbers. In every group the count was continuousfrom to the end. or in the case oflong tabulations. 3. ical data in general-. than that indicatedby the first The Law of Large Numbers was made to collect data fromas many fieldsas An effort types. to formalmathematicaltabulations that admit of no variationfromfixedlaws. whichis composedof one or moredigits. ofstudywhenwe recallthat the table moreworthy considered and engineering. and a number.. . .whichis one First.. 9 occur as firstdigits.552 FRANK BENFORD course..and makinga count of the numberof times the natural numbers 1. a fewtermsand outlinethe methodofattack.or conditioned too restricted too sharply. If a naturalnumberit decimalpoint or zero occursbeforethe first is ignored.and in general the title of each line of data in Table I will suggestthe nature of the source.

2 5.3 12.4 5. and finally thereis 0.2 8.306.5 5.0 4. NATURAL NUMBERS AS DETERMINED BY First Digit T itle _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ .0 3.2 7.8 5.8 12.4 5.0 6.5 7.8 3. and also the probable errorof the average.1 7. The frequency of first l's is then seen to be 0. H Mol. League Q Black Body R Addresses S n'.4 10.9 5. is called the logarithmic integral.1 335 4. i/n.1 8.0 741 707 1458 1165 342 418 159 91 6.n2.2 +-0.9 33.7 14.2 3.6 4.1 9.4 18.6 6.7 25.1 4.5 10.0 18.4 18.1 6.3 Constants Newspapers 30.6 703 690 5.0 4.0 5.0 6.2 +-0.7 8.185.0 4.0 I Drainage 27.6 4.4 10.8 23.5 5.6 308 560 25.8 8.7 8. These averages can be better studied if the decimal point is moved two places to the left.4 27.7 L Design 26.1 1.3 Population 33. which is slightlygreater than the logarithmof 3/2..8 7.7 5. .1 4.6 10.7 31.8 2. The frequency 2's is 0.8 8.0 9.0 4.0 27.5 4.2 3.4 14.8 13.4 6.3 7. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .0 4.9 18.THE LAW OF ANOMALOUS NUMBERS 553 The numbers countedin each groupis givenin the last column of Table I.3 16.1 5.9 41.229OBSERVATIONS FIRST -~ount 9 C 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 B C D A Rivers.3 7.*.6 15.4 9.0 12. .2 4.6 17.6 10. whichis about equal to the common of first logarithmof 2._ _ _ .1 54 5.4 16.8 .0 E Spec.8 4.2 +0.4 +0.7 20.5 17._ _ _ 1 TO 9 ARE USED AS 20.224.8 11.243 on Sat.8 6.047 to with or be compared log 10/9.9 5000 4.2 3259 10.5 9.8 17.0 100 4.5 5.0 10.3 18.1 9.7 6.9 8.3 8.7 18.1 14. .9 4. This content downloaded from 184.4 4. 0.6 8.8 6.0 7.4 5.**25.0 8. The difference here.2 4.4 6. Lost 24.4 12.5 5. n! T Death Rate Average.5 M Digest 32.5 12.4 7.1 5.30.0 6. 26.1 J AtomicWgt.0 16.4 14.8 7.7 11.0 12.8 9.5 900 Probable Error 4-0.1 8.5 3.9 5.9 32.P.4 6.3 1011 At the foot of each column of Table I the average percentage is given for each firstdigit.1 4.8 10.making the sum of all the averages unity.log 2.6 6.2 10.2 10.8 8. .3 14.2 K n-.2 7.0 28.4 18.Heat F Pressure G H.6 8.7 3.5 8. 47.5 5.7 2.9 5. .2 6.6 104 5.4 6.6 30.0 18.046.7 5. Area 31. TABLE I PERCENTAGE OF TIMES THE DIGITS IN NUMBERS.5 4.6 29.8 N Cost Data 0 X-RayVolts P Am.7 5.2 1800 1.6 14. Wgt.2 +-0.4 6.4 6.3 19. These resemblances persistthroughout.7 -0.0 18.0 8.log 3 .1 2.1 4.8 7.6 12.0 4.6 7.4 8.2 5.2 14.3 2.2 15.174._ _ _ ..1 12.5 +0.4 9.1 5.0 20.8 8.9 5.6 7.3 +-0.6 8.8 5.4 7.1 1389 3.

004 -0.002 +0.004 ?40.094 0.301 +0.001 -0.051 0. Error of Mean 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1 2 to 3 3 to 4 4 to 5 5 to 6 6 to 7 7 to 8 8 to 9 9 to 10 1 to 2 0. two significant digits.002 4t0.001 ?40.003 +0.046 0.005 +0. TABLE II OBSERVED AND COMPUTED FREQUENCIES Natural Number Number Interval Observed Frequency Logarithm Interval Observed . Frequency ofDigits in theqthPosition The second-place digits are ten in number.002 ?t0. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .224.174.554 FRANK BENFORD The frequency of first digits thus follows closely the logarithmic relation Fa = log (a + ). The range of subjects studied and tabulated was as wide as and as no definite timeand energy exceptionshave permitted.002 ?t0.243 on Sat.067 0. If we may assume the accuracyof Eq.fivelaw for largenumbers.007 -0.for Table I was compiledfromnumberscomposed in general of and six digits.009 -0. we thenhave a law ofthe mostgeneralnature. (1) is not a law of numbersin themselves.008 There is a qualification to be noted immediately.forit is a probabilprobability ity derived from"events" throughthe medium of theirdescriptivenumbers.047 0. in considering This content downloaded from 184.003 -0. ever been observed among true variables.049 0.001 -0.and there is a more is a distribution numbersof general equation that applies when considering one. (1) whereFa is the frequency of the digit a in the firstplace of used numbers.003 ?40.080 0.002 ?t0. It will be shown later that Eq. (1).306 0.Computed Prob.003 ?t0.125 0.176 0.079 0. the logarithmic law forlarge numbersevidentlygoes deeper among the roots ofprimalcauses than our numbersystemunaided can explain.064 0. Also.058 0.for here we the frequency musttake 0 into account.124 0.097 0.051 0.185 0.

thenusingthe customary ing of position and order in our decimal system a two-digit numberis written ab..174. p (q +1) 1 lgabc abc . This content downloaded from 184. 2. and the next greaternumberis written ab + 1.. Therefore the frequencyFb of a second-place digit b followinga first-place digit a is = log F Fb= )/l1 Og ( ab?+ ab .. oIp . 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ..the probability Fb of a 0 following a first-place 5 in a randomnumberis the quotient Fb = log0/ log . *.243 on Sat. pq Fb = -3abc o (p+1)) log abc. It followsthat the probability fora digitin the qthpositionis .1.. 9. abc p Here the frequencyof q depends upon all the digits that precede it. (4) As a resultof this approach to uniformity in the qth place of digitsin all places in an extensivetabulathe distribution tion of multi-digit numberswill be also nearlyuniform.. 2.. but when all possible combinations of these digits are takeninto accountFq approachesequalityforall the digits 0.224. The logarithmic interval between ab and ab + 1 is log (ab + 1) . 1. digit a nummeanber and b be the second digit. of 9.THE LAW OF ANOMALOUS NUMBERS Fb 555 of a second-place digit b we must take into account the interval between digit a that preceded it... 1. while the interval covered by the ten possible second-place digits is log (a + 1) .log ab. Let a be the first the ten digits0.1og + a (2) As an example.. The logarithmic to two digitsis now to be dividedinto ten parts corresponding . or Fq 0.log a.

0.108 0. 3.120 0.085 Reciprocals and scientificdata are Some tabulations of engineering such as candles per watt.. 8. and the omissionof the counted digitsto numbers spelled-outnumbersrestricted 342 streetaddressesgiven in the cur10 and over. 7. On the other hand.079 0.093 0. page numbers)of an issue of the Readers' Digest was also in agreement.176 0. The first rentAmericanMen ofScience (Item R.125 0.097 0.301 0. If one formof tabulation followsa logarithmic then the reciprocaltabulation will also have the distribution..046 0.174.097 0..104 0.088 0. the greatest variations from the relation were found in the firstdigits of mathelogarithmic This content downloaded from 184. A little consideration must followfordividingunityby a given set of numbersby withmerely leads to identicallogarithms means of logarithms a negativesign prefixed. will show that this same distribution. 6.. 9. 2. Dates were barred as not being variable.556 FRANK BENFORD TABLE III FREQUENCY OF DIGITS IN FIRST AND SECOND PLACES Digit First Place Second Place 1.090 0.067 0.114 0. Table IV) gave exceland a complete count (except for dates and lent agreement.000 0. The Law ofAnomalousNumbers A study of the itemsof Table I shows a distincttendency forthose of a randomnatureto agreebetterwiththe logarithmic law than those of a formalor mathematicalnature. The was foundin the arabic numbers(not spelled best agreement out) of consecutivefrontpage news items of a newspaper.224. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 0.058 0. 4.243 on Sat.100 0.. 5.051 0. and watts given in reciprocalform. per candle.

4 Weights These factslead to the conclusionthat the logarithmic law applies particularly to those outlaw numbersthat are without known relationshiprather than to those that individually followan orderly course. League. A. first examiningbriefly the frequency of the natural numbers themselves when arranged in the infinitearithmeticseries 1. and counting up to This content downloaded from 184..6 Black Body Radiation 7.S. TABLE IV SUMMATION OF DIFFERENCES BETWEEN FREQUENCIES OBSERVED AND THEORETICAL Nature Nature 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 D F G R P Q 0 M A T Newspaper Items 2.Specific Heats. .P. S. numbersas they are used in everyday affairs. U. n8.4 Am.6 16 K n-1.THE LAW OF ANOMALOUS NUMBERS 557 maticaltables from engineering handbooks.4 Readers' Digest 8. 5.and in tabulations ofsuch closelyknitdata as Molecular Weights.1936 6. 3.*22. Let us assume that each individualnumberin the natural numbersystemup to n is used exactlyas oftenas everyother individual number. 2. 16. Starting with 1.8 17 H Molecular Wgts. There must be some underlying causes that distort what we call the "natural" numbersysteminto a logarithmic and perhaps we can best get at these causes by distribution.n! 13.2 X-Ray Voltage 7.174. wheren is as large as any numberencountered in use. Lost in AirFlow 4. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions ..that is.2 11 N Cost Data.4 AreaRivers 9.6 14 B Population. A.9 Constants 20 J Atomic 35.AirFlow 3.243 on Sat.2 H.224. 23.4 12 S n.-Vfn .M.8 13 L DesignData Generators 16.and therefore the logarithmic relation is essentiallya Law of Anomalous Numbers.2 19 C Physical 34.8 Death Rates 11. PART II: GEOMETRIC BASIS OF THE LAW The data so farconsidered have been composedentirely of used numbers. Physical Constantsand AtomicWeights.2 18 E Specific Heats 24.6 15 I DrainageRate ofRivers 21...8 Street Addresses. Concrete 12. n..8 Pressure Lost.

forexample.000 of the other digits are added to the series before FRfEQfJENVCY Or P/.999 l's occur in 55.174.000. When number 20. But an integrationby the methodsof the calculus is merelya quick way of adding up an infinite numberof equallyspaced ordinatesto the average heightof this additionfinding the curve and from This content downloaded from 184. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .999 l's added. wherethe entire area of the frameof coordinateshas an area 1. 2.000 is reached there is a temporarystopping of the addition of first l's and 90.243 on Sat. Comparison numbers. 1 would have been used 1.at100.224.12 per cent of all uses. This curve is Fn and log n scale.000-99. If the equations forA plotted to a semi-logarithmic forthe threediscontinuous but connectedsections are written 10.558 FRANK BENFORD 10.000 the area underthe curve will be veryclosely0. 1.or 11.30 / 2 3 4 a 5 6 7 8 3 ofobserved and computed frequencies formulti-digit FIG.999 numbers.55 per cent thereare 9. 20.000.999 and 99.000-20.112 times.30103.999-100. and first of the 19.112 per cent as illustratedin curve A of Fig. intothe series.Sr PLACC D/G/r3 0 OBSERVED 0. At thispoint l's are again brought the percentageof l's is again reduced to 11. If the count is extendedto 19.000.

4 0O3 0 NA7VRAA NUMBER FIG. But if we are satisfied witha resultsomewhatshortof the perfection of the integralcalculus we may take a finitenumberof equally spaced ordinatesand by plain arithmetic come to practically the same answer. Linear frequencies of the naturalnumber systembetween10.000 89 /0 ArFOR/ 8FOR 9 0. By definition each point of A represents LINEAR FREqU/NC/ES 1 2 3 4 5 67 FROM /Q000TO/0.000 to 100. The finite number corresponding to equally spaced ordinatesnow representsa geometric series of numbersfrom10.and it is substantially thisseriesofnumbers. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .000.000. 2.THE LAW OF ANOMALOUS NUMBERS 559 the ordinatesand hence the area underthe curve.174.000and 100. the frequency of first l's from1 up to that point. in thisand otherordersof This content downloaded from 184.and an integration (by calculus or arithmetic)under curve A gives the average frequency offirst l's up to on Sat.

The heightof a line. Series and Logarithmic Geometric seriesand a logarithof a geometric The close relationship demonstration.numericalfrequencies already presented.000to 89. as called for mationto the logarithmic by the previousstatisticalstudy. increment.000 to 99.the heightsof these lines were summed. micseriesis easilyseenand hardlyneedsformal spaced ordinates of Fig. and it should therefore poses. 3 these addresses are first of the lines at the base of the diagram. digit.560 FRANK BENFORD the natural numberscale that lead to the.beacross to the right.224. logarithmic in size by the constant Semi-LogCurves plottedto a semi-logarithmic A geometric seriesofnumbers In line. that streetnumber. 29 on various streets. 2 is for9 as a first of9's decreasesin the numberrangefrom10. Each line will give the observedfre- This content downloaded from 184. each with a different factorbetweenterms. In orderto make the trendclearer. It was at the leftand proceeding ginning found that four straightlines could be drawn among these of trend. 2 forma geometric The uniformly series of numbersfor these numbershave a constant factor is determined and thisconstantfactor betweenadjacent terms. and an undercurve B leads to a good numericalapproxiintegration intervallog 10 .indicates the numberof addresses at.and these four summationpoints with fair fidelity lines representfour geometricseries. Thus therewere fiveaddressesat No.log 9. The randomness be usefulforillustrativepurputed. or near." These are the streetaddresses Men American in the current 342 people mentioned ofthe first of such a list is hardlyto be disofScience.174. indicatedby the height In Fig.243 on Sat.999 and then increasesas 9's are added from90. measured on the scale at the left. The frequency Curve B of Fig. the originaltabulation of obscale gives a straight served numbersthe line of data marked "R" is designated simplyas "street addresses.999. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .

Distribution and summation offirst 342street American M addresses.174.243 on Sat. 3. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . This content downloaded from 184.- ~~D/UTRl8ur/ON AND 3UMMA7YON OF F/Rsr 34 2 5IMER/CAN MEN OF SCIENCE" - /9-34 - I WIll ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ /0 /0 ___t_Q _08_C FIG.224.

We are so accustomedto labeling orlogarithmic things1. The growth of sensation is slow at first and a straight whilethe rodsofthe retinaare alone responsive. 4. ture contained sufficient of the close approximation function should give an extremely law of distribution.and perhaps the same laws operate to make at ages ten and fifty. logarithmic The sense of loudness followsthe same rules. the logarithmic and Nature'sNumbers The Natural Numbers In natural events and in events of which man considers thereare plentyofexamplesofgeometric an originator himself progressions.243 on Sat. .the responseof the body to medias are the killingcurves cine or radiationis oftenlogarithmic. When over-exciour working line represents tationand fatigueset in. and thus three geometricseries could be used to state the relationbetween illuminationand the sensation of brightness. a thirdline is needed. 8. rigidly In the fieldof medicine.and hence satisfies quency over the numerical relationship. This content downloaded from 184. Yet it is in this latter manner large numberofphenomenaoccur. the senseofelapsed timeseemso different seriesthat repeat geometric Our music scales are irregular everyoctave.224. 3. *** and thensayingtheyare in naturalorder that the idea of 1. 2. let us considerthe physiologicaland psychological reactionto externalstimuli. When the cones come into action there and anotherstraight is a sharp change in the rate of growth. as illustrated by Fechner's Law.174. If the literathe brightness numericalreferences.562 FRANK BENFORD range it covers.and the that a surprisingly evidenceforthis is available to everyone. 2. * being a more natural arrangement is not easily accepted. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . with increasing The growthof the sensationof brightness illumination is a logarithmic function. 4. undertoxinsand radiation. First. as does the sense of weight. rangeof vision. paper (the stimulus being on the line on semi-logarithmic functhe intensity-brightness scale) can represent logarithmic tion in this region.

. the finalresultsare often geometricseries. That this is so is evidencedby the frequent use made of semi-logpaper in plottingthe test data. Nature counts e0.THE LAW OF ANOMALOUS NUAIBERS 563 In the mechanical arts. *.224.. For convenience ofdescription the naturalnumbers1 to 10 are called the first digitalordernumbers. e2x e3x . It will be noted that 10 is both the last numberof the first orderand the first numberof the second order.etc. Numbers composed of many digits are ordinarily separated into groups of three digitsby interposing commas. DIGITAL ORDERS OF NUMBERS The natural number system is an array of numbers in simple arithmetic series. where the results representwhat occurs among groups of the building units of nature.and when an integration is carriedout. ex.and here we unknowingly give evidence of the use of these numberson a geometric scale.. scale is not the natural scale. The action of a single atom or electronis a random and unpredictable event. 3. as will This content downloaded from 184. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and the issued lists of "preferred numbers. witness our standards of wire diameters and drillsizes. In the field of experimentalatomic physics.174. where standard sizes have arisen fromyears of practical experience. The analogy is complete. thosefrom10 to 100 the second digitalorder. but that." The astronomer lists stars on a geometric scale brightness that multipliesby 100 every five steps and the illuminating engineer adopts the same typeofseriesin choosing thewattage of incandescentlamps.243 on Sat. and one is temptedto thinkthat the 1. invokingthe base e of the natural logarithms. and builds and functions accordingly.the test data are statisticalaverages. PART III.but on top of this we have imposed an idea taken froma geometricseries. and where the unit itselfis known only by mass action. and the test points often fall on one or more straightlines. and a statistical average of a group of such events would show a statisticalrelationship to the resultsand laws here presented.

4 the curves show the frequencywith which the naturalnumbersoccurin the Natural NumberSystem.where1 is the onlynumber.564 FRANK BENFORD be done later.20 against0. At 19 the from 9 is forthedigits downward 2 to rises for curve join thecurvefor1 at 29 and 1 frequency This content downloaded from 184.and theequal division S digits first reached. When2 is reachedthefrequency /INEAIR FREQUEAW/E5 OF rHE NATURAL mum8ERS / ro /.174.SS FIG.20. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .10 foreach of the othereight frequency but once. that is. is 1.S0for example.beginits frequency ningat the leftedge.1 42C~~~~~~~ 1.224.50 for1 numbersystem. Linear frequenciesof the natural numbers in the firstthree orders.for andO. At 10. 4. and it is thus used in this case as a boundaryline ratherthan a unit zone in the natural numbersystem. until9 is continues is 0. 10 appears as both an upper and a lowerlimit. thathave appeared digits from 9 on thescale thatthecurve It willbe observed rising thecurvecontinuing is foronlythedigit1. In Fig. AtS.2% -V tl=SW XM rr/2 . the digit1 has'appearedtwiceand has a of 0. f oreachofthe thefrequency 2. until a second numberis added 1 is the entire is 0. while of abscissoe 2 to 9 inclusive.243 on Sat.0O am A feL r Dw Xw __r 4 /Gr17L ~~~~~JECOND ORDER-O_ 7-I/RD / OeRDCR DTrAL 44 X I1 I V0 0 41 11.

174.243 on Sat. Continuous and discontinuousfunctionsin the neighborhoodof the digit 9.224. j II I I. given to fectlycontinuousfunctions.THE LAW OF ANOMALOUS NUMBERS 565 and 2 have a commoncurve until 99 is reached and a third 1 is about to be added to the series. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . The curvesare drawnas ifwe weredealingwithcontinuous functionsin place of a discontinuousnumbersystem. 5. At any ordinatethe first curves therefore tell the frequencyof the total number of natural numbersup to that point. This content downloaded from 184. 9 /0 FIG. The forusing a continuousformis that the thingswe justification use the numbersystem to representare nearly always perand the number.say 9. willbe used in some degreeforall the infinite any phenomenon sizes of phenomenabetween 8 and 10 when we confineourselves to singledigitnumbers.

Theoretical size 812 the chancesare about equal forcallingit either8 or 9. The summationof area underthe curve 8-b-c is taken as the ofusinga 9 forphenomenain this region.968 0. frequencies and observed FIG.174.243 on Sat.566 FRANK BENFORD An enlargedsketch of the linear frequencycurves at the and second ordersis givenin Fig.40 _ 0. The junctionofthe first lines h-b and b-j are the computedratios of 1 in this region. foras soon as of our usinga 9. This is probability accuratelythe size ofall phenomabout equivalentto knowing between8. /O - / 2 3 4 5 6 7 8a9 ofsingledigits.224. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . whilethe lines 8-b forthe ratio of 9 beginsat 8. 5. 6.EAsr /N /o BOOKS EACH H/A ONE PAGE WIrH TEN FoorWores O&RV&ED) (2.5 ena in this regionand decidingto call everything This content downloaded from 184. whilefor size 8 is passed thereis a possibility rFIW /EUNCY OF S/NGLE D/G/I3 / T09 + rHEORE7/CAL O OgSERvVED FREQUENCY Or FOOTNOFfS VING Ar L.50 l __ 0.

Fig. (5) wherethe ordinatesof the first risingsectionof the curve are Yi a - a (6) The descendingsectionof the curve has ordinates Y2 = 111 (7) and the last rising sectionbetween999 and 1. beginsto risein anticipationof the phenomenabetween9 and 10 that will be called 10. Selectingthe thirddigitalorder.224.000has ordinates a a- - 888 (8) (9) (10) The curvesare plottedto semi-logarithmic coordinates aDd x = log a. b-j. The integralsaftermakingthese substitutions give the value 1990 A1"'= loe 99 8 1000' A similar operation yields for the 1-curve in the second digital order 8 A1 A1" = og. g190 + 100 9 This content downloaded from 184. The same demonstration will now be made withthe aid ofthe calculus in regions that are markedly discontinuous. dx = dala. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . It has been notedthat forhighordersofnumbers the areas underthe curvesof Fig.5 by the number9.174. 2 are proportional to the frequency of use of the firstdigit. 4.243 on Sat.THE LAW OF ANOMALOUS NUMBERS 567 and 9. the area underthe 1-curvecan be written *199 A1"' - 00 yd dx +j 999 19 lOQO Y2d + 88 99 3 dx. Once 9 is passed the curve for 1.

third and of used numbersfor the first. simplify by in the originalstatisticalwork. to the commonlogarithm system. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 10 is thefactor base e.174. the terms . Far 2 (12) . frequencies digitalorders. the naturallogarithm system.10r1 r _1 loge oge [lge (a ~~a+ 1) 10- 1 1N )10r -1 lori _ tN11 the expressions from to convert whereN = log.243 on Sat. Hence the generalequations become Fr = =log0lo1.224. limiting This content downloaded from 184.we can write the solutionsforthe eightotherfirst from the generalequation forthe Law of AnomalousNumbers F where r = Fa 1) +or 8 =[log 10 (2.1 in both numerator dropping beand the numericaltermshaving lor in the denominator come negligible. done as was unwittingly If highordersof r are considered. In Table V numericalvalues are given forthe theoretical second. a$l = log a (13) in form.these expressions and denominator.base 10. no longerhave a difference but these two expressions and -theymay be mergedinto Far = + log1o a (14) observedformulti-digit originally whichwas the relationship numbers.568 FRANK BENFORD order and in the first Al' = loge-jj+ -?jj- 10 8 throughthese solutionsand running From the symmetry digits.

The frequency for1 is seen to be 43. Handbuchder Physik and Glazebrook's Dictionaryof Applied Physics.04576 The frequencies ofthe singledigits1 to 9 varyenoughfrom the frequencies of the limiting orderto allow a statisticaltest if a source of digitsused singlycan be found.07918 0. lettersor symbols.13266 0. The procedure ofcollecting data forthe first-order numbers was to make a cursoryexaminationof a volume to see if it contained as many as 10 footnotesto a page. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Smithsonian Physical Tables.30276 0. The footnotes so commonlyused in technical literatureare an excellent source.09479 0.2 per cent as against the theoretical frequency of39.06695 0.05348 0.08152 0.00772 1 tO 10 10 tO 100 0.25760 0.12494 0. The numbershere recorded in Table VI are the numberof footnotes observedon consecutivepages.31786 0.12432 0.and forthe digit9 the observations agreewith = theorywith Fg' 0. consistingof units that are indicated by numbers.17638 0.02352 0. forobviously no test of the range1 to 9 could be made if the maximum number fell short of the full range.04742 0.04190 100 tO 1000 0.06366 0.3 per cent.05078 0.05799 0.30103 0.07631 0.17930 0.39319 0. The books used were the Standard Handbook for Electrical Engineers.04537 0.05764 0.12487 0.THE LAW OF ANOMALOUS NUMBERS TABLE V THEORETICAL First Digit FREQUENCIES IN VARIOUS DIGITAL Third Order ORDERS 569 First Order Second Order Limiting Order 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0. In Table VI the observedpercentagesof singledigits1 to 9 are givenalongwiththenumber ofpages used in each volume and the numberof footnotes observed. This content downloaded from 184.09669 0.05444 0.224.06662 0.01456 0.17609 0.03575 0. beginning on page 1 and continuing to the end of the book.243 on Sat.05115 0. or until it seemed that a fairsample of the book had been obtained.8 per cent.09691 0.07889 0.174.

6 17.9 1.6 5. GlazebrookV .9 -2. . H.243 on Sat.2 1.9 5.0 4.5 254 211 394 405 ObservedAve.7 22.7 ?0. der Phy. H.9 1. 8.0 11. 361 360 360 All All 37.1 3.174.7 8.0.3 Difference.5 9.8 -1.0 2. der Phy.4 27.3 8.5 11.3 1.8 1. E.1 14.2 5.5 +0.2 6. S.. H..6 17..3 3. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .8 8.8 8.3 6.2 3. forthe frequencies must equal unity.224.Eq.8 2.9 1.0 40. TABLE VI COUNT OF FOOTNOTES 1 ~~Pages __ Used 2 _ _ _ 3 _ _ 4 _ _ 5 _ _ _ 6 _ _ 7 _ _ 8 _ _ 9 _ Volume Volume Frequencies. derPhy.7 6.6 25.. Probable Error.1 0. Ta . of theirprobabilities Selectingthe first-order digits. and remembering of a group rule that the sum of the logarithms the logarithmic of numbersis equal to the logarithmof theircombinedprodP' ucts. Phy.6 1..3 13.9 25.9 9. we have the probability P = logio 9102-345678 1023456789 1-010 rs 1 10 1010 Pt = 1 1 1 10 1 10 1 10 1 10 N' 1 1 whichreducesto =1.6 0.1 12.2 29.7 23.. 9.4.1 1.7 19.7 2. ..4 5.5 0.0 56.8 5.5 1.5 11.8 49.7 25.1 0.2 13. 5.3 4.5 1.0 6. 11.8 10. derPhy..8 5.3 0.4 2968 Summation ofFrequencies thatmustbe metby theseexpressions One ofthe conditions of the integersis that.. 4. II.0 0.570 FRANK BENFORD In general the agreementwith theoryis as good as the computedprobable errorsof the observation.0 11. log1010 + 0 In a similarmanner fromthe complete set of equations This content downloaded from 184.8 0.7 2. 10.that is.3 4.4 1.0 1.4 2.1 56.8 23.6 586 181 230 287 293 127 1.6 0.1 1..7 5.5 ?0..3 0..3 -0.6 11.7 7.9 3..0 5.5 +0. 6.5 0.7 +3.2 1..4 1.4 13.8 6.39.3 4.1 2.3 2.6 33. 1.4 ?0.3 H..9 2.. H.. GlazebrookI .2 0.43. in Per Cent 22. derPhy.2 -0.4 +0.. E..5 0.5 4.5 3.2 0. 23. the sum the sum of the frequencies must equal certainty.6 0.6 ?0.2 PredictedAve. 2..5 ?0.1 12.6 22.6 2.4 ?0. All All 360 360 365 55. 7.7 26. in any one order.4 9.. Sm. der Phy.4 1. H..5 52.5 41..1 0.0 Total Count 3.0 40.

The second digital order.and there is a tendencyfor the step between sizes to be equal to a fixed fraction ofthe last preceding phenomenon or event. The basic operation F=f F or F_ _a a fda a in converting from the linearfrequency ofthe naturalnumbers to the logarithmic frequency ofnaturalphenomenaand human events can be interpreted as meaningthat.224. SummaryofPart III Single digits.243 on Sat.have a specific natural frequencythat varies sharply from the logarithmic ratios. and for three or more associated digitsthe variation fromthe latter frequency would be extremely difficult to findstatistically.THE LAW OF ANOMALOUS NUMBERS 571 indicatedby Eq. regardlessof their relation to the decimal point and also regardless of preceding or following zeros. Anotherway of interpreting this relationis to say that small thingsare more numerousthan large things.174. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . has a specificfrequency approximatingthe logarithmicfrequency. 11 we have P= 79 89-99 lo 190 29-3949-59-69 1 g10 99 19 29 39-4959-69-79-89 1 1 1 +I 10 - 1 100 1 100 - 1 100 10 10100 100 = =1 log1010 + 0 1 1 100 N and similarproofcan be workedout forthe otherorders.which is composed of two adjacent significant digits. on the average. There is This content downloaded from 184. these things proceed on a logarithmicor geometricscale.

243 on Sat. that we have elected to use.then it followsthat the observedlogarithmic relationship is not a result of the particularnumericalsystem.with its base. or 20. As has been pointedout before. and the numbersbut play the poor part of lifeless symbolsforlivingthings. the theory of anomalous numbersis reallythe theoryof phenomenaand events. for the logarithmicscales of the new numerical systemwouldbe coveredby equally spaced stepsby the march ofnaturalevents. to selectsome ofthe numbers that have been suggestedat various times.174. This content downloaded from 184. 10.224. would lead to similarrelationships.572 FRANK BENFORD no necessityor implicationof limits at eitherthe upper or the lower regionsof the series. Any other base. or 12. such as 8. 8 Feb 2014 11:22:35 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . If the view is accepted that phenomenafallinto geometric series.