Magazine article Information Today

A Lifetime of Achievement and Still Going Strong

Magazine article Information Today

A Lifetime of Achievement and Still Going Strong

Article excerpt

Eugene Garfield, known by many as the "Father of Scientometrics and Bibliometrics," received the 2006 Online Information Lifetime Achievement Award Nov. 29 in London. The International Information Industry award paid tribute to Garfield's more than half-century of leadership, innovation, and work in the information industry. In a nutshell, he basically revolutionized scientific research with his concept of citation indexing and searching.

At 81, Garfield is still going strong. As the chairman emeritus of Thomson Scientific, he still maintains a busy schedule of speeches and presentations at conferences and symposia. His schedule is filling up fast for 2007, so if he has any inkling of slowing down, he's not letting on yet. When asked if he has any plans to retire, Garfield is quick to say, "What would I do?" He said he tried golfing once, but he came back to the work that he obviously loves to do.

Garfield originally started out in chemistry. As a chemistry graduate of Columbia University, he signed on to help with an indexing project at The Johns Hopkins University in 1951. He turned his attention to developing bibliographic citations as viable options to conventional indexing methods. He tested his theory by publishing his own weekly bulletin called Current Contents (a table of contents from scientific journals). His fellow scientists saw immediate value in it.

One of the pivotal points for Garfield came in the early 1950s after he read the 1945 article "As We May Think" in The Atlantic written by Vannevar Bush. The article expressed Bush's vision of creating a collective memory by recording people's information trails through a device called a Memex that could capture the useful trails through the common record. Something clicked with Garfield.

Garfield's concepts organized the scientific landscape. Back in the early 1950s, "[t]here was no such thing as an information industry," he said. "I've said this over and over again, most of the ideas that I have thought of in some way or another were in ... 1951 and 1953. Those are the years that changed my life, and my career especially."

By 1962, Garfield had launched his company ISI (Institute for Scientific Information) and began publishing the Genetics Citation Index on behalf of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. He followed a similar strategy in 1964 through ISI with the publication of the Science Citation Index (SCI), which indexed 613 journals and included 1. …

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