Remarks on the occasion  of receiving the
Doctor of Science,
honoris causa  at Drexel University

Eugene Garfield

Chairman Emeritus, Institute for Scientific Information
  President and Founding Editor, The Scientist

Philadelphia, PA  19104

June 12, 2004

Until I met President Papdakis and Dean Fenske at dinner last night, I was prepared to read you a brief summary of my lifetime achievements. I am going to skip that introduction, the details of which can be found on my personal web page at which also includes the full text of most everything I have ever written.

Instead,  let me explain how a boy from the Bronx became a Philadelphia son and supporter.

In 1949 after graduating as a chemistry major in a pre-med program at Columbia University, I was enrolled as a graduate student in physiological chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania.  Unfortunately, I had to withdraw from the program due to a slipped-disc which landed me in Temple University Hospital. The disc was injured by driving an old Checker taxi cab in New York City while I attended college there. I returned to Columbia and worked as a laboratory assistant to Professor Louis P. Hammett, but in 1951 moved to Baltimore to become a research assistant to the director of the Welch Medical Library of Johns Hopkins University.  Most of my later innovative ideas were hatched at the Medical Indexing Project.  In 1953 I returned to Columbia again where I earned my Master’s Degree in Library Service. Even before graduating I planned to go into research on machine translation of  Russian at Georgetown.  But a twist of fate brought me to Philadelphia again. For that phase of my life I am indebted to Ted Herdegen of Smith Kline & French Laboratories who died in 1960. We first met while I was at the Welch Project in Baltimore.  He asked me to return to Philadelphia as a documentation consultant for SK&F. That six-month assignment turned into a 50-year odyssey.

My temporary assignment for SK&F led to other assignments, including Biological Abstracts (now BIOSIS), and led to my founding Eugene Garfield Associates in 1954 where I started Current Contents.  In 1960, the company name was changed to the Institute for Scientific Information.

Another key event in my career was my encounter in 1962 with Philadelphia native son, Professor Robert K, Merton, a Temple graduate and eminent historian and sociologist of science, who remained my mentor until his death last year.

Over the next two decades, ISI would launch a whole series of information products.  But a chance meeting in 1978 with Dr. Randall Whaley, the now deceased founding president of the University City Science Center led to our constructing the ISI building at 3501 Market Street with its close proximity to Drexel and Penn. A fortuitous meeting with Martin Meyerson, President Emeritus of the University of Pennsylvania led to the selection of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown as the architects for the ISI Building. Randy later asked me to join the scientific committee for the John Scott Award of the City of Philadelphia Board of City Trusts.

At Drexel I have known several deans including John Harvey, Guy Garrison, Dean Lyttle, and now Dean Fenske. My ties to Drexel became stronger when my half-brother Ralph Garner received one of the first degrees in information science under Barbara Flood in 1965. At that time he was a research programmer at ISI.  In addition, my then future wife Catheryne Stout graduated in information science from Drexel in 1976. After working as biology librarian at Temple, she went on to become Vice President of  ISI. During these early years, it was also my good fortune to know and work with Professor Belver Griffith. We were honored to endow  the Fellowship-Lectureship which bears his name.   ISI's ties to Drexel were also enhanced by collaborative research between Henry Small, Belver, Howard White and Kate McCain. I would also like to mention the role of Evelyn Armstrong as well as Carol Montgomery, both present today. Evelyn served a distinguished library career at Merck Sharp and Dohme and stimulated my interest in recruiting minority students to the Drexel Information Science and Technology programs. Carol is a former ISI employee who went on to a distinguished library career at MCP-Hahnemann and now is Director of Libraries here at Drexel. When MCP became a part of Drexel, it also brought with it the endowed minority scholarship for the medical school that we funded to honor my parents, Edith Wolf and Ernest Garofano.

While my ties to Drexel remain strong, I should also mention that in parallel my connections with the University of Pennsylvania also increased both as a graduate student in structural linguistics from 1955-61, as a Lecturer in information retrieval at the Moore School, and then as a member of the Penn Library Board of Overseers.

These many contacts may explain in part why this institution would recognize me today, but I also like to believe it is related to my work as an information scientist. Fifty years ago, I published a paper about an association-of-ideas information system based upon citation links between published papers, books and other publications. [1] That paper, and another published ten years later, by Derek deSolla Price on "Networks of Scientific Papers."[2] constitute "landmark” events in the evolution of the citation indexing system.  Science Citation Index, now  included in the ISI Web of Science, is essentially  a huge topological network of millions of publications, not unlike the international telephone network. It was indeed an early precursor to the Internet with its Google-like search engine. The term "search engine" had not yet been invented -- even in 1970 at the American Society for Information Science & Technology  national meeting, we debated the future of the already “Information Conscious Society.”  Today more than half the population knows what a search engine is and how to use the World Wide Web

Time does not permit me to discuss in detail the early formidable resistance to my ideas. In those days, librarians, publishers, and scientists were extremely conservative. Current Contents,  the founding backbone of  ISI, needed a decade for full acceptance by scientists and librarians. And were it not for my meeting with Joshua Lederberg here in Philadelphia the year after he won the Nobel prize, the Science Citation Index might never have developed.  Current Contents continues to this day but few historians note its critical role in the history of science information systems. I have also not discussed ISI’s historic role in the development of scientometrics as a science policy and research evaluation tool.  While often controversial, its informed use is a valuable adjunct to traditional peer review methods. And it continues to evolve as science and scholarship change.

In this audience today I am confident there are several entrepreneurial graduates who will have new and original ideas. Do not let the naysayers discourage you! When you are young you can tolerate a lot of rejection. Hold onto to your dream until you are satisfied the battle is won or lost. You can do it if you only stick to it.


 [1] Garfield E., "Citation Indexes for Science: A New Dimension in Documentation through Association of Ideas," Science, 122(3159):108-11 (July 1955).

[2] Price, DJD. "Networks of Scientific Papers," Science 149(3683):510-5 (1965).