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Irving H Sher (Part 2)

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Irving H Sher (Part 1)
Eugene Garfield Scientist
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You could spend hours talking about Irv; he was a character, a real character. I never got to know him completely, but part of the reason for his strange hours was his religious habits. I think he was an orthodox Jew, but he also did other things that you would not expect. He was an expert in Chinese, you know, and loved to eat Chinese food. Larry Hackett could tell you more about him because he worked with him, and Caroline Finn.

When did you meet Irv, do you remember?

Irv, I, I met Irv at Smith Kline French. That’s how I met him. And he was working there and I, when I set up, finally set up the company we met somewhere and decided that he would be better off coming here. I know the guy was bright when I first met him. He was an unbelievably irritating person. He believed in the principal of... what is it he used to say... the bigger they are the harder they fall. He was totally defiant of authority, so if you ever introduced him to somebody who was the expert in the field he would, he would give them a hard time, you know... but in a very clever way; he was incredibly smart. I’ll never forget the time when he tried to provoke Josh Lederberg, who is a guy that just cannot be provoked, you know, and he kept on going after him, and finally Irv recognised that this guy is not only smart but diplomatic, he just wasn’t going to get to his goat. And a similar experience with John Tukey, and Irv really knew his statistics; John Tukey was the world’s authority on mathematical statistics. And Irv, he would take anybody on. He was a biochemist, he was just... anything, a linguist; he was really a kind of genius in a strange way, but he had this incredibly nasty habit of using four letter words that were unbelievable. You’d be sitting having this conversation in the office and he would say, 'Fuck that and this'. It was just weird; it was almost like he had Tourette’s syndrome or something. But anyhow... so a lot of things we did were kind of bizarre. Once Irv made up his mind about something you could not change 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: 3 minutes

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 23 June 2009