“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”*…
The discovery of high-temperature superconductors, the determination of DNA’s double-helix structure, the first observations that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating — all of these breakthroughs won Nobel prizes and international acclaim. Yet none of the papers that announced them comes anywhere close to ranking among the 100 most highly cited papers of all time.
Citations, in which one paper refers to earlier works, are the standard means by which authors acknowledge the source of their methods, ideas and findings, and are often used as a rough measure of a paper’s importance. Fifty years ago, Eugene Garfield published the Science Citation Index (SCI), the first systematic effort to track citations in the scientific literature. To mark the anniversary, Nature asked Thomson Reuters, which now owns the SCI, to list the 100 most highly cited papers of all time. (See the full list at Web of Science Top 100.xls or the interactive graphic [above].) The search covered all of Thomson Reuter’s Web of Science, an online version of the SCI that also includes databases covering the social sciences, arts and humanities, conference proceedings and some books. It lists papers published from 1900 to the present day.
The exercise revealed some surprises, not least that it takes a staggering 12,119 citations to rank in the top 100 — and that many of the world’s most famous papers do not make the cut…
Read more (and find an enlargeable version of the infographic above) in Nature’s “The top 100 papers.”
* Isaac Newton
As we iterate “ibid.,” we might send send leak-less birthday greetings to a man who facilitated the writing of several of these papers: George Safford Parker; he was born on this date in 1863. While working as a telegraphy instructor in Janesville, Wisconsin, he became dismayed by the unreliability of his students’ pens. He experimented with ways to prevent ink leaks; and in 1888, founded the Parker Pen Company. The next year he received his first fountain pen patent. By 1908, his factory on Main Street in Janesville was reportedly the largest pen manufacturing facility in the world. Parker eventually became one of the world’s premier pen brands, and one of the first brands with a global presence.