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Working at the Welch Medical Library


Going to an American Chemical Society meeting and getting a new job
Eugene Garfield Scientist
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I decided to go down... that was the year... I, I think that was the called the Diamond Jubilee Year of the American Chemical Society, and I went down to the meeting. I’d never been to a, a scientific society meeting before. It was held in some hotel in New York and I go in there, oh, and I also had read in the paper an ad for the Director of Chemical Research at... the Ethel Corporation was looking for what was advertised as a Chemical Secretary. So, I had... at that time I could do typing and stenography and, and I had the chemical degree so it was a, kind of, a natural fit, and so we arranged for an interview. So, when I went down to the hotel with the interview, I walked in there and I see a sign that says, I think it said, 'The vision of chemical literature'. And, I walked in the room and there was James W Perry on a, on a platform, chairing this meeting, and I started listening to these people talking about different things, and I, sort of, got the idea that here was a group of people... were doing for money what I was doing for nothing, you know. So, I said, I said to Jim Perry, I walked up to him after, sort of, the session closed, I walked up to him and I... said to him, 'How do you get a job in this racket?' you know and he laughed. He had just come out with the punch card book. He and Robert Casey of the Schaeffer Chemical, Schaeffer Ink Company, they produce ink, right, Schaeffer... and, and just produced the punch card book, Punch Cards in Science and Industry, and he also... James Perry was a chemical engineer. He was also a, had produced a very well known text book on Scientific Russian, Teach Yourself Scientific Russian, okay. So, after I said that, he said to me, well, he said, 'There might be a chance for you here... there might be... we might have an opening for you'. So, at that time James Perry had a project at MIT. I don’t know all the politics about, and working for him, at that project, was Alan Kent who later on became... I think he was the editor of JASIST for a while and he also was the editor of the Encyclopaedia of the Library Information, and the Dean of the Library School at Pittsburgh, okay. The reason... I had a lot of contact with Alan later on. And Madeleine Henderson was his assistant, I think. We’ve remained friends now ever since then. So, he says, 'Well, why don’t we meet and talk about this'. So, I invited him to come up to my mother’s house in the Bronx, and he came up there, and he, and he... and she fed him and he loved Jewish food, you see, and he liked to eat generally. So, he then gave me a copy of, of his book and he said, 'What we want you to do, you, kind of, have you come up and visit the project at MIT'. So, at some point a few weeks later he calls me and I go up to, to Boston and he takes me around the MIT library. He introduces me to Norbert Weiner, okay, who was in there. And, also he was a friend of Calvin Mooers, interesting, but I didn’t know that at the time. Calvin Mooers was the guy who invented the information retrieval and he was working on his master’s degree. So, a few weeks go by and I don’t hear from him. Finally, somehow I, I got in touch with him which, you know, in those days we didn’t have cell phones. It wasn’t all that easy to get hold of people. And, he finally... which I learned later but I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but they have closed his project down, or he didn’t get his funding from whoever was funding him, and he was going to move from MIT out to Western Reserve, I think, they went to, or, or Case. I’m not sure where. You know, he and, and Alf set up that metallurgical system, whatever. So... metal system. He calls me up and he says, 'Why don’t we meet again?' and he said, 'Do you mind, I told you the job is going to be in Boston but will you care if it was in Baltimore, if you had a job Baltimore?' I said, 'I didn’t know the difference, you know', I said. So, he says, 'Alright', and we met again. My mother fed him again, and then we... he said, I want you to... here’s somebody I want to introduce you to, and he gives me the name of Dr Sanford Larkey who he knew as the Head of the Welch Medical Library, the Director, but also as Head of the Army Medical Library he had this indexing project, you know, they were sponsoring... machine methods... to investigate machine methods and new methods of indexing. So, I go down to Baltimore and I get, I meet Larkey, and all the time I’m talking to him I think I’m going to go to work for Jim Perry, James Perry, you know. I never knew that this was a completely separate thing. Well, he meets me and they were looking for somebody who had to be... they wanted somebody who was a chemist because that was the work that was being done, partly by Mina - Williamina Himwich was a very wonderful woman who I replaced, so to speak. I mean, she left the project and I couldn’t really... She was a trained brain physiologist but she was very, very bright in other things too, and they needed somebody to do the chemical nomenclature side of subject heading analysis, and so forth. Larkey had gotten, obviously, a recommendation from Perry or I wouldn’t have been there, but unbeknownst to me I found out later when I was leaving the Welch Medical Library that Larkey had gotten a hold, or written to Louis P Hammett and Louis P Hammett told him that Garfield is an extremely hard worker but not a particularly original thinker, and that was exactly what Larkey wanted, he thought. So, that’s how I got the job. Was he surprised.

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, 3 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 23 June 2009