Eugene Garfield's remarks on accepting the

ASIS Award of Merit, 1975



Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, colleagues and friends:

It’s usual, I believe, in responding in situations like this one, to thank a great many people, and to name some of them, who have been in one way or another part of the work that such an award recognizes. And I shall do that, because there are too few occasions when any of us can in public, and with some fitting ceremony such as this, acknowledge who it has been who equipped us for the work, inspired us to begin, lighted the directions the work might take, encouraged us to continue, provided those intellectual jabs we all need to complement and expand our own insight, and finally year after year - those whose appreciation and praise has made the work light and its rewards great.

But first, I should like to thank you, the members of the Association, who decided to remember me in this manner. I value the award highly, you may be sure of that, and the honor of it. There are words in Shakespeare’s Henry V that sum my position and my reaction exactly, especially in regard to this award: "But if it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive:"

It would be untruthful of me to say that I received word of your decision without the slightest emotional reaction. Some of you may understand when I say that it is embarrassing to receive praise and in like manner often difficult to give it. In this sense I abide by the maxim that it is better to give than to receive — just because it is easier — hard as it is.

On the other hand it would be absurd to pretend that I have not wanted this award for a long time. But though I may have coveted the honor, I cannot say that I have begrudged it to those who preceded me here. Yet in many cases I have thought how useful the award might have been earlier in one’s career. Time’s plan, however, seems to have a larger wisdom. You have brought me here tonight at a time in my life when your award has provided much needed cheer and encouragement.

It has been natural to ask myself, if indeed I deserve the award, who have been the people who helped me to deserve it? You haven’t time to let me name the dozens, if not hundreds, of individuals who have been helpful to me in the development of ray career as well as an important stimulation to the discoveries and accomplishments mentioned in the citation. But I do want to name some.

It is important to me to recognize that a generous and loving mother made all of this possible. It takes more than chicken soup to make an information scientist.

Speaking professionally, I think it really all began when I met James Perry at an ACS meeting hack in 1951. Later, he introduced me to San Larkey at the Johns Hopkins Indexing Project. That project gave me the unique opportunity to meet leaders in our field. It was a stroke of great good fortune for a young upstart. In that first year of my professional life I met Chauncey Leake, Verner Clapp, Ralph Shaw, Mortimer Taube, Ken Lowry, E. J. Crane, Charles Bernier, Peter Luhn, Ted Herdegen, John Mauchly, Seymour Taine, Robert Hayne, Williamina Himwich, Dake Gull, Miles Conrad, and not last and certainly not least, Brad Rogers, who was Director of the Armed Forces Medical Library when I joined the indexing project. It was then too that I first met my old and dear friend and colleague Sam Lazerow, whom now I have even the greater good fortune of working with almost every day. And it was then too that I met Saul Herner, with whom I collaborated in many ways.

If I were here tonight to present an award, rather than receive one, I can think of few people whom it would please me more to find in my position than Saul. He and I have disagreed about a great many things professionally. I hope he will find it difficult to disagree with that.

Later years have been as rewarding as that first year. I think particularly of how I have benefited both as an individual and as an information scientist from knowing and learning from men like J. D. Bernal, Robert Merton, and Derek Price; as well as Henry Bliss, Ranganathan, and so many British information scientists in Dorking in 1957, and others whom I met later as a member of the Institute of Information Scientists.

When I went to library school, Tom Fleming was a special inspiration, but certainly I owe a great deal to Carl White who was, as Dean at Columbia, instrumental in my receiving the first Grolier Society Fellowship. Without it, I should never have been able to get a library degree. I am very proud of that degree, though it may seem strange because I never went to work thereafter in any traditional library. As soon as I graduated from library school, Ted Herdegen of Smith Kline & French Laboratories invited me to come to Philadelphia as a consultant. It was Ted who encouraged me to postpone my intent to work on mechanical translation at Georgetown with Leon Dostert. Eventually, however, I did take my doctorate in structural linguistics at Pennsylvania under Zellig Harris--primarily thanks to Casimir Borkowski.

I must mention Professor Bentley Glass. I still regard as possibly my most important paper the one that was published in Science in 1955. Bentley Glass introduced me to the ways of scientific reporting and was mostly responsible for making my paper readable.

Certainly one of the most significant and eventful moments in my career was the receipt of a letter in 1959 from Professor Joshua Lederberg, expressing his interest in citation indexing. The correspondence, which followed, led to the initiation of the Genetics Citation Index, and that, as you know, to the Science Citation Index and more recently to the Social Sciences Citation Index. Today, Dr. Lederberg is a member of ISI's Board of Directors.

Long before that, however, back in my days as a consultant, two people did a great deal to encourage the introduction of Current Contents as a commercial venture, and I must remember them here. One was Charlotte Studer Phillips, still librarian at Miles Laboratories; the other was my deceased friend Allan MacWatt, then librarian at Lederle laboratories.

Many other people in the pharmaceutical industry provided inspiration and support for my ideas and my work. In particular, I owe a great deal to the dozen or more companies that helped in getting the Index Chemicus launched in 1960, the first issue of which was dedicated to Ted Herdegen. In not just a few ways, this award tonight is also Ted’s. He was my friend and teacher in many things, especially in how he taught me and in what he taught me of modern industry and management functions. He also literally made my son and I part of his family.

Finally, let me borrow one more distinction. My first part—time employee in the log cabin in New Jersey where the first issues of Current Contents were put together was even then, I think, as she is now, the First Lady of Documentation, Claire Schultz.

There are many more I should like to remember here, but your time does not permit me to do it. You have included them, if not by name, then implicitly, in the citation.

I believe strongly that one cannot be truly successful without the aid, stimulation, challenge ––call it what you will–– of worthy adversaries. There are undoubtedly some people here tonight who may have always found me professionally and socially irritating. They too have been of importance and of value in my career. In fact, I sometimes feel that no man can he happy without both good friends and competent adversaries. I count myself fortunate in having a measure of both.

Let me say finally that if it is true that a man’s worth can he measured by the friends he has acquired, then surely this award is well deserved.