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The origins of Eugene Garfield Associates
Eugene Garfield Scientist
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When I started the company Eugene Garfield Associates our, our letterhead was Information Engineers, okay. So, I, I’ve always thought of myself as an engineer and probably one of the reason, motivations for wanting to change, get ASIS to add the word technology to its title because I didn’t think of myself as an information scientist, per se. Anyhow, it was, I think, about a year or so after, I don’t know the exact date, I don’t know that I even have correspondence, it might be in my file somewhere. I got a letter from some state organization, or some professional society of engineers saying, Mr Garfield, you, you cannot call yourself an Information Engineer because if you are an engineer you have to be licensed by the State of Pennsylvania, you’ve got to be a licensed engineer, and in order to do that you have to have graduated from a, an engineering, and accredited engineering school or done some other equivalent, I don’t know what the rules are, and I don’t even know if that’s still true or not. I thought it was very funny because it was only a few years later that, I think it was either Sol Gorn or Morris Rubinnoff at the University of Pennsylvania, he asked me to come over to teach graduate students a course in information retrieval. So, anyhow, that was why I had to remove that designation from our letterhead, and by the time 1960 rolled around we changed the name from Eugene Garfield Associates to Institute for Scientific Information which had an, an entirely different, kind of, history. I didn’t know until quite recently, actually, that in the... and I think I read this either some document about the history of the field of information science, or either in Andrew Brown’s book about John D Bernal that Watson Davis had actually used a term, 'scientist institute for information', as a, as a proposed entity that should be developed, and Watson Davis was a name well known to us because he was one of the original founders of ADI, the American Documentation Institute, which started around 1935. And when I was still at Welch Library in, in Baltimore, ADI was still called ADI and you could not be a member of ADI, you had... only institutions or societies could be members of ADI. And it was more of a, a cooperative, almost like a, a non-profit trade group of academic institutions that were trying to develop new technologies for their use. And, so Watson Davis and other people like that were interested in things like microfilm and whatever, you know, so. I thought it was very amusing that they would almost have anticipated that name. And, at the same time, as I’ve often acknowledged, JD Bernal was now the inspiration to me because of what he proposed in Social Function of Science. And, when I, when I looked at that book recently I realised how much I’d forgotten about it over the years. I mean, it, it covers an amazing amount of material for a book that was written so far ahead of its time. He proposed... today people should know that he is probably the original... he would be supporting Steve Harnad and the Open Access movement, Vitek Tracz and others would be interested in that, too. But - and, the irony of all that is that the publishers, the society publishers were just the same group that opposed Bernals ideas and as are now opposed to the Open Access thing. You know, nothing changes after - how many years now? I’d say about - originally ’39 he proposed it - that’s about 75 years, nothing much has changed. So... But, but the origins of information engineering backing in ADI started as an institutional thing, and then, in 1952 they decided to make it a professional society and opened it up to individuals and that was when I first became a member. That’s why I got to be, I think, probably one of the first members as an individual, to join. I don’t know the exact year – I think it was ’52 – and I had already been, I had met Jesse Shera who was the editor of American Documentation, which is the predecessor of the Journal of ASIST, you know, and he asked me would I like to be an associate editor of the journal. I, I couldn’t believe it, but he asked me. I thought it was supposed to be such an honorific thing, you know. And, that was how I happened to be in a position to eventually invite WC Adair, the former Vice President of Shepherd's Citations, to write an article about citation indexes for Science. Because, what happened was, well, now we’re jumping back and forth. I don’t know how you’re going to handle all this. But, I had not only been interested in joining ADI but prior to that I had been involved in the information side of things simply because I learned about chemical information systems through, by accident through James Perry. When, when I worked in the laboratory of Louis P Hammett as a lab assistant at Columbia University, he was the editor of the McGraw Hill series and I guess, just like I was attracted to the public library I was attracted to his personal library. He had a huge collection, the entire chemical abstracts, his own personal collection, and as the editor of the McGraw Hill book series he had access to a lot of material. And, at the same time, I also found indexes that had been created in - or I tried - I created indexes to all the chemical compounds that are... in the closets at Columbia University, probably 100 years of students who had created compounds and labelled them, and all they needed was purification and you could use them, and these guys were spending all kinds of time remaking this stuff. I said, 'Why, why should you do it all over again when we can do it, have it done before?' So, that’s how I, I, sort of, got interested in chemical information systems and, searching and so on, and I was just drawn to it.

Eugene Garfield (1925-2017) was an American scientist and publisher. In 1960 Garfield set up the Institute for Scientific Information which produced, among many other things, the Science Citation Index and fulfilled his dream of a multidisciplinary citation index. The impact of this is incalculable: without Garfield’s pioneering work, the field of scientometrics would have a very different landscape, and the study of scholarly communication would be considerably poorer.

Listeners: Henry Small

Henry Small is currently serving part-time as a research scientist at Thomson Reuters. He was formerly the director of research services and chief scientist. He received a joint PhD in chemistry and the history of science from the University of Wisconsin. He began his career as a historian of science at the American Institute of Physics' Center for History and Philosophy of Physics where he served as interim director until joining ISI (now Thomson Reuters) in 1972. He has published over 100 papers and book chapters on topics in citation analysis and the mapping of science. Dr Small is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, an Honorary Fellow of the National Federation of Abstracting and Information Services, and past president of the International Society for Scientometrics and Infometrics. His current research interests include the use of co-citation contexts to understand the nature of inter-disciplinary versus intra-disciplinary science as revealed by science mapping.

Duration: 8 minutes, 5 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 23 June 2009