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The 1961 International Congress of Biochemists in Moscow
Eugene Garfield Scientist
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I went to the biochemistry meeting to promote Current Contents and to talk about the genetics index. Well, they had... these 500 American chemists were there, including Dr Greenberg from Smith, Kline & French and many other friends of mine who went to that meeting, and the year I went to that meeting, it was '61, the summer, I had my son Stefan with me. I’ll never forget that year because that was the year when we got... when we had travelled to Moscow, when we came... on the way back we went and stopped off in Leningrad and we went to the museum, the Hermitage. The day we were at the Hermitage, Yuri Gagarin and his family were making a tour of the museum, and I’ll never forget it. Can you imagine an American astronaut visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art the day after he gets off the space shuttle? It was an incredible contrast in culture, right? So... but at the biochemistry meeting we were promoting Current Contents. And my Uncle Sam, that I had mentioned to you, had retired by then, at a fairly early age actually, and he was travelling in a private automobile with a friend of his, they had gone to Poland and they knew I was in Moscow, and they came to Moscow by car. How they managed to do that I do not know, but they did. He was an incredible guy. He stayed at the... he was staying at the Hotel National, which was where Lenin had stayed during the revolution, and there was a special room that was kept as a kind of museum, but you couldn’t go in and you couldn’t use it. And he tried to book that room. The way he did it, being the drinker that he was, he’s gotten involved in these drinking sessions with these Russians; he would out-drink the Russians, it was just incredible. So, he came over to visit me at the... I was staying at the Hotel Metropole with Stefan. And all these Americans were there, and when you went to Russia in those days the in tourist agency would... you would have to pay for everything in advance and you had to buy coupons which were used for your meals and for your buses, and for whatever you were going to do at the hotel, and you got one for every meal. So, you had a breakfast thing, you had a lunch, you had a dinner, you had a tea; so you get these coupons. Well, Stefan, he was 14 years old, being the kid that he was, he went around, mostly Americans couldn’t eat that many meals a day and use all the coupons, he went around and people were giving him coupons that they hadn’t used. He would just collect them like a kid collects baseball tickets, you know. And he was sitting at the table with us and my uncle came over and he orders a bottle of Russian champagne. So, the waiter, we thought he was going to have to pay him in rubles, you know, because it wasn’t a part of the usual meal, and we were not vodka drinkers so we had never ordered any alcoholic beverages, you know, so the waiter is hanging around, he’s getting a little impatient, and he sees Stefan playing with these coupons, and he walks over to Stefan, instead of waiting for my uncle to give him the rubles, and takes a few of these coupons for the champagne. Then we figured out... that was the realisation that the Russians considered these coupons had a certain value in rubles, so you could buy anything in the hotel with that stuff. So, we said okay, we ordered champagne for the whole room, because he had piled up all these coupons, we used these coupons to buy champagne. There were guys who spoke to me 20 years later who said, 'We’ll never forget when we got the champagne delivered to our table from ISI'. Because remember, ISI was changed, it was named in 1960, '61 is the meeting. So, those are the little things... it was incredible, the stories you could tell. Stefan was amazing, he discovered the flea market on his own, he was a 14-year-old kid. Nobody ever questioned where he went, and so on.

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: 5 minutes, 46 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2007

Date story went live: 23 June 2009