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Handing in my dissertation


Index Chemicus and completing my doctorate degree
Eugene Garfield Scientist
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Well, I think the official year we used, as a launch year for CC life is, like '58, pretty sure, that's about it. We had done this customs service in '57.

By that time you had you own business I presume?

Well, it was still my, it was consulting, I was still consulting for Smith Kline all this time, you know, a couple of days a week with all these other things. Cos they had offered me a job and I had turned it down and well that I did because a lot of the people had said, oh, if you go to Smith Kline and you'll have security for the rest of your life. A lot of those guys were out of a job within a few years when they had a reorganisation. And then, you know, all during that time I was doing consulting for them, there were also... I was advised... we went into chemical information systems too. Don't forget the Index Chemicus started in 1960. So, Current Contents wasn't that old when we did these other things it's just that it helped finance, you know, the other things.

You were in Spring Garden Street, is that where you were?

We were there until, yeah, and we were doing Index Chemicus from Spring Garden Street, 1960 is when we launched it. And it was a very risky proposition, you know. And then at the same time, all this was going on after I went to work for Smith Kline, and my friend Casimir came up to Philadelphia and was getting his PhD in linguistics at Penn, okay. And he introduced me to Zellig Harris who was the chairman of the Department of Structural Linguistics, you know, and I wasn't all that conscious of how radical that was. Noam Chomsky was just finishing his PhD that year that I met Harris. And so, Casimir came to work with Zellig Harris and eventually got his PhD there and he introduced me to Harris. And I found out about some of the work they were doing and I said to him, 'You know, you could get a lot of grant money', because he was talking about doing some kind of scientific text analysis and so forth. I said, 'Let me introduce you', I introduced him to Helen Brownson, I knew she was interested in languages and, you know, she was, was she around when you were still there, was she still there when you went? It didn't take 2 or 3 months, he had a half a million dollar grant to study the application of transformational analysis of statistical analysis to the scientific indexing. I don't know what, the project never went anywhere, nothing came out of it. They wouldn't listen to me. It just didn't go their way. But, as a result of all that he and I and Zellig Harris made a deal that I would come to work for my doctorate at Penn. They would transfer my, some of my credits from my doctoral program at Columbia and would call me, cos I'd already been on a, going for a doctorate there, then, I couldn't get my inter-disciplinary committee to meet, no less to agree on anything and I had to take a certain number of credits at Penn in linguistics and research and so forth and I got my degree. But my topic there, which was agreed upon, would be my algorithm for translating nomenclature into molecular formulas, which was, of course, on my mind because of the Index Chemicus. You know, the Index Chemicus was a radical thing because nobody believed that you could produce an index to organic chemical literature with a 1-week turnaround or a 1-month whatever, you know. And what I found out was that if you look, if you went through the chemical literature, you could, every new compound was identified by the fact that they reported a key empirical formula, you know. So, why are you calculating it, you know? People at chemical abstracts insisted that they'd first draw the compound, then name it and then index it. So, I said, I went to Smith Kline as a consultant, I said, 'Listen I have to figure out a way to get you', the CA was 3 years behind the literature, now how can you, it's impossible to run a research department doing chemical synthesis without actual authority. They were 3 years behind can you imagine the amount of duplication that was going on in those days? So, I said I figured out a way to get you a molecular formula index within weeks and very few people believed me, you know. So, I did it and the original idea was that all we did was, I looked for the chemical formula and that's how we identified a new compound. We took that and then we didn't need the name, we didn't even need the name we just had the formula and we gave them the reference. But, still we wanted, I got into this thing about taking the name and I figured out that what they were doing was, when you take a name you are simply, you know, it's just basically a substitutive process, you know, for the structural diagram. So, you don't need to do the reverse, you can take the diagram and create the name and the formula but you can do the reverse. And, that's where the algorithm came from, you know, that we could take a name and calculate the molecular formula by computer.

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: 7 minutes, 5 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 23 June 2009