It is evident that throughout the world there are many towns, fewer large cities, and very few metropolises. This observation is not coincidental, but in effect follows a pattern and is often described by a power-law size distribution: that is, the probability of finding a city of size S is proportional to S-g with g being close to 2. Today, this statistical regularity is referred to as Zipf’s law for cities, being commonly attributed to the linguist and philologist George Kingsley Zipf, who originally studied the frequency of words in written texts, where he found an analogous distribution (Zipf, 2012). However, many researchers are not aware of the fact that the regularity of city sizes was described decades before by the theoretical physicist Felix Auerbach (1913). Zipf himself wrote “The first person to my knowledge to note the rectilinear distribution of communities in a country was Felix Auerbach in 1913” (2012, page 374). This year marks the centenary jubilee of this ground-breaking publication—an opportunity to review the legacy of Auerbach’s paper, which is in danger of sinking into oblivion.
Rybski D, 2013, "Auerbach’s legacy" Environment and Planning A 45(6) 1266 – 1268
Via Complexity Digest