In memoriam: Eugene Garfield – 1925-2017

By Ernesto Spinak

Photo: Wikipedia

Photo: Wikipedia.

Eugene Garfield was born in New York in 1925 to a family of immigrants, and earned a Ph.D. in Structural Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania in 1961. From the experience during his student years on indexing of the National Library of Medicine database, he developed a theory about using the article’s bibliographic citations as a better information retrieval procedure than thesauri, subject headings or free vocabulary, which were research hot topics in the 1950s due to the emergence of large computers.

Garfield undertook the development of a complete citation index to show the propagation of the scientific thought, based on the ideas of the Memex presented in Vannevar Bush’s famous 1945 article “As we may think.” Along with other greats of his generation – Robert Merton with the Sociology of Science, and the quantitative theories of scientific citations by Derek J de Solla Price – they were the parents of what we know today as scientometrics. All the others, we came after following their footsteps.

Garfield was the founder of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) in 1960, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which was transferred to Thomson Corporation in 1992, later in 2008, to Thomson Reuters, and from 2016, to Clarivate Analytics. He was the creator of Current Contents, including the Science Citation Index (SCI), the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI) and the Arts and Humanities Citation Index (A&HCI), now collected in the Web of Science and the Journal Citation Reports (JCR), the Impact Factor, and along with Henry Small, of Research Fronts detected by co-citations. His bibliographic production exceeds 1,000 documents that can be seen in his personal homepage: http://www.garfield.library.upenn.edu/

Garfield’s citation indexing theory says that if we have an interesting or relevant article that cites certain authors, and other articles that cite those same authors, surely these articles will also be of the same interest or relevance. Garfield based this indexing method on the so-called citing culture; i.e., the more cited a paper is, the greater is its importance or its impact in its scientific field. This Garfield theory corresponds, in the era of Internet, to the development of information retrieval algorithms such as Pagerank, used by Google, that uses structured citation between websites through hyperlinks.

Although the ISI has been criticized for establishing idiomatic biases in favor of English, the truth is that it has revolutionized the world of scientific research and science evaluation, marking a before and an after. Indexing by citations, the research fronts and the journal impact factor have been theories and tools on which modern Bibliometrics has been supported.

One of the last giants of documentation has gone.

Notes

1. BUSH, V. As we may think. Life Magazine. 1945 [viewed 01 March 2017]. Available from: http://worrydream.com/refs/Bush%20-%20As%20We%20May%20Think%20(Life%20Magazine%209-10-1945).pdf

2. MERTON, R.K. The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations. Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Press, 1973.

3. DE SOLLA PRICE, D.J. A general theory of bibliometric and other cumulative advantage processes. Journal of the American Society for Information Science [online]. 1976, vol. 27, no. 5, pp. 292–306 [viewed 01 March 2017]. DOI: 10.1002/asi.4630270505. Available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/asi.4630270505/abstract;jsessionid=F30EC208597CF90 DC0BFEEBE533D187B.f04t01

References

BENSMAN, S.J. Eugene Garfield, Francis Narin, and PageRank: The Theoretical Bases of the Google Search Engine [online]. arXiv. 2013. [viewed on 01 March 2017]. Available from: http://arxiv.org/abs/1312.3872

BUSH, V. As we may think. Life Magazine. 1945. Available from: http://worrydream.com/refs/Bush%20-%20As%20We%20May%20Think%20(Life%20Magazine%209-10-1945).pdf

DE SOLLA PRICE, D.J. A general theory of bibliometric and other cumulative advantage processes. Journal of the American Society for Information Science [online]. 1976, vol. 27, no. 5, pp. 292–306 [viewed 01 March 2017]. DOI: 10.1002/asi.4630270505. Available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/asi.4630270505/abstract;jsessionid=F30EC208597CF90 DC0BFEEBE533D187B.f04t01

Eugene Garfield [online]. Personal Page. 2017 [viewed 01 March 2017]. Available from: http://www.garfield.library.upenn.edu/

Eugene Garfield [online]. Wikipedia. 2017 [viewed 01 March 2017]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Garfield

GARFIELD, E. Los índices de citaciones: del Science Citation Index a la Web of Science. BiD: textos universitaris de biblioteconomia i documentació. 2016. no. 37 [viewed 01 March 2017]. Available from: http://bid.ub.edu/es/37/garfield.htm

MERTON, R. K. The Sociology of Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations. Chicago; London: The University of Chicago Press, 1973.

 

Ernesto SpinakAbout Ernesto Spinak

Collaborator on the SciELO program, a Systems Engineer with a Bachelor’s degree in Library Science, and a Diploma of Advanced Studies from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (Barcelona, Spain) and a Master’s in “Sociedad de la Información” (Information Society) from the same university. Currently has a consulting company that provides services in information projects to 14 government institutions and universities in Uruguay.

 

Translated from the original in Spanish by Lilian Nassi-Calò.

 

How to cite this post [ISO 690/2010]:

SPINAK, E. In memoriam: Eugene Garfield – 1925-2017 [online]. SciELO in Perspective, 2017 [viewed ]. Available from: http://blog.scielo.org/en/2017/03/03/in-memoriam-eugene-garfield-1925-2017/

 

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