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Eugene Garfield Papers

Identifier: 2009-036

Scope and Content

The Eugene Garfield Papers contains the personal papers of Eugene Garfield. The collection is arranged into the following 11 series:

  1. Subject Files
  2. Publication and Presentation Files
  3. Meeting Files
  4. Trip Files
  5. Anthony Cawkell Files
  6. Personal Files
  7. Printed Materials
  8. Audio-Visual Materials
  9. Electronic Storage Materials
  10. Transparencies
  11. Photographic Materials


  • Creation: 1944-2011


Language of Materials

Collection materials are mostly in English. Small amounts of materials in 20 other languages, including German, French, Chinese, Czech, Spanish, and Swedish are also in the collection.

Access Restrictions

There are no access restrictions on the materials for research purposes and the collection is open to the public.

Copyright Information

The Science History Institute holds copyright to the Eugene Garfield Papers. The researcher assumes full responsibility for all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Background Note

Eugene Garfield was a prominent American information scientist and a pioneer in the field of scientometrics. He was the founder of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), a renowned academic publishing service that offered scientometric and bibliographic database services, and specialized in citation index and analysis. Garfield was also the inventor of the Science Citation Index (SCI),Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI),Current Contents,Index Chemicus, and Arts and Humanities Citation Index. These inventions provided an objective and quantitative basis for analyzing information flows in scientific communication and fostered the growth of the field of scientometrics.

Eugene Garfield was born in New York City on September 16, 1925. He briefly attended the University of Colorado Boulder, then served in the United States Army during the latter stages of World War II. After his discharge from the military, Garfield resumed his education and earned a B.S. in Chemistry from Columbia University in 1948.

Garfield’s career in scientific communication and information began in 1951 when he joined the Welch Medical Indexing Project at Johns Hopkins University. The goal of this project was to examine problems of medical information retrieval and the application of new methods to indexing biomedical literature.

One of Garfield's contributions to the Welch Project involved the revision of the subject heading authority list used for the Current List. More than 30,000 subject heading terms were then in use and available only on printed lists or index cards. The Welch Project transferred the data to punched cards for machine sorting. The lists that were eventually produced became the firstSubject Heading Authority List, the prototype of Medical Subject Headings, the authoritative list of indexing terms presently used by Index Medicus, a bibliographic database for medical science information.

In addition, the Welch Project planted the seeds for several major advances in scientific communication and information science that distinguished Garfield's career. They can be expressed as two basic and related themes: information discovery and information recovery.

Information discovery refers to how researchers stay current with the thousands of articles being published. While still with the Welch Project, Garfield produced Contents in Advance, a current awareness publication that reproduced the contents pages of library documents and journals. This allowed users to browse a wide range of journals for relevant articles. It was also the prototype of Current Contents, which is now published in seven discipline-specific editions.

Information recovery relates to how researchers locate relevant articles among a flood of literature. Subject indexes, like Index Medicus, were the traditional means for information recovery. However, these indexes required substantial intellectual effort and subjective judgment by human indexers. The results were often confusing, duplicative, costly, and quite late. At the Welch Project, Garfield became interested in using machines to automatically generate indexing terms that effectively describe a document's contents without human intervention.

Garfield resumed his education after the completion of the Welch Project, earning an M.S. in Library Science from Columbia University in 1954. Upon receiving his master's degree, he went to work as a part-time consultant for Smith, Kline, and French in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In 1954, while working at Smith, Kline, and French, Garfield established DocuMation, Incorporated, a private publishing service. A year later, Garfield's new firm introduced the contents-page publication Current Contents of Management and Social Science. Bell Laboratories became the firm's first major corporate client, contracting for 500 copies of this publication. Two years later, DocuMation began producing Current Contents/Pharmaco-Medical and Life Sciences, a publication covering literature of interest to pharmaceutical companies. This publication was also discovered by physicians and academic biomedical researchers, who promptly requested subscriptions. Also during this time period, Garfield conceived and started developing the concept of the citation index, which he first proposed in an article published in Science in 1955.

Under Garfield's leadership, DocuMation grew. In 1958, the firm was renamed Eugene Garfield Associates and relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1960, Eugene Garfield Associates was incorporated and renamed the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), with Garfield serving as its President and CEO. In addition to running his business, Garfield continued his education, eventually earning his Ph.D. in Structural Linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1961.

In 1959, Garfield was contacted by Joshua Lederberg, a prominent molecular biologist who won the Nobel Prize that year. Lederberg was interested in Garfield's work on the citation index. Subsequent correspondence between the two men led to a meeting with the National Institute of Health's (NIH) genetics study section. As a result of this meeting, Garfield received funding to develop and distribute the Genetics Citation Index, which included a multi-disciplinary index to the scientific literature of 1961. The NIH declined to publish the multi-disciplinary index, so Garfield decided to publish it on his own. The end result of this work was the Science Citation Index (SCI), which was introduced by ISI in 1964.

Science Citation Index soon distinguished itself from other literature indexes and was recognized as a basic and fundamental innovation in scientific communication and information science. It was truly current while other traditional indexes were often several years behind the literature. SCI was comprehensive, indexing all types of source items, including research articles and reviews. It also indexed technical notes corrections and errata, letters, editorials, and discussions. SCI was also multidisciplinary, covering virtually all disciplines and fields of science. Most importantly,SCI uniquely indexed the references cited in the articles it indexed. This allowed users, for the first time, to take advantage of the associations and connections that researchers themselves made through the references they cited in their papers.

From 1961 onward, Garfield's career was marked by the development of new information tools for researchers combined with constant enhancement of existing tools. The new tools included Index Chemicus,Current Chemical Reactions, newCurrent Contents editions covering clinical medicine, chemistry, physics, and other disciplines,Automatic Subject Citation Alert (a personalized selective dissemination of information service now called Research Alert), theGenuine Article (rapid document delivery),Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), as well as theArts and Humanities Citation Index (A and HCI),Index to Scientific and Technical Proceedings and Books,Index to Scientific Reviews, and others.

As the volume of literature grew exponentially, Garfield's innovations made it possible for researchers to cope with and keep up with articles directly relevant to their interests. His inventions improved scientific communication by helping to limit wasteful duplication of prior research, reveal unexpected relationships between articles, identify significant improvements on earlier work, and draw attention to the important corrections or retractions of published research.

In addition to his work in the development of information tools, Garfield was the founder and editor-in-chief of The Scientist. First published by ISI in 1986,The Scientist, is a bi-weekly newspaper for the research professional. It reports on news and developments relevant to the professional and practical interests of scientists, and provides a forum for the discussion of issues important both to the research community and society.

In the latter stages of his career, Garfield focused on the development of algorithmic historiography, a theme he first pursued in 1964 when computer memories were still too primitive to take advantage of the limited structure of SCI. Subsequently, he developed and patented the HistCite system which enabled researchers and librarians to differentiate the most significant works on any given topic when conducting searches on the electronic version ofSCI,SSCI, and/or A and HCI. The output of thisHistCite software was a historiographic chronological presentation of the key works and shows their interrelationships.

ISI was acquired by Thomson Scientific and Healthcare in 1992. The business was subsequently renamed Thomson ISI and became part of Thomson's Intellectual Property and Science unit. Garfield stayed with Thomson ISI as Chairman Emeritus. In 2016, Thomson spun off its Intellectual Property and Science business, which was subsequently named Clarivate Analytics. Two years later, Clarivate reestablished ISI as part of its Scientific and Academic Research Group. ISI currently exists as a group within Clarivate.

Over the course of his career, Garfield presented numerous speeches, papers, and presentations before high-level medical, scientific, and information science symposia and conferences. His topics included science education, peer review, research evaluation, future trends in medical information and documentation, the economic and social impact of basic research, the value of animal experimentation, creativity in science, and other subjects. He was also the author of over 1,000 weekly essays in Current Contents and published and edited commentaries by the authors of over 5,000Citation Classics. Garfield was also the author of a large number of journal and periodical articles.

Over the course of his life, Garfield was the recipient of numerous awards and honors for his contributions to information science and the scientific community, which include the following:

  1. Patterson-Crane Award - 1983
  2. John Price Wetherill Medal - 1984
  3. Derek de Solla Price Medal - 1984
  4. Richard J. Bolte Sr. Award - 2007

Garfield was also an active member of a number of professional organizations, which include the following:

  1. American Chemical Society
  2. American Society for Information Science and Technology
  3. American Association for the Advancement of Science
  4. Medical Library Association

Eugene Garfield passed away on February 26, 2017.


Eugene Garfield Papers, Science History Institute Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Eugene Garfield, Ph.D., Career Overview,


167.0 Linear Feet ((115 Record Boxes, 10 Photo Album Boxes, 2 CD-ROM Boxes, 2 Film Cans, 1 Hollinger Box, and 1 Videotape Box) )


Professional files, personal files, papers and presentations, journal articles, publications, audio-visual materials, electronic storage materials, and photographic materials of American information scientist and Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) founder Eugene Garfield.

Acquisition Information

The Eugene Garfield Papers were donated to the Science History Institute (formerly the Chemical Heritage Foundation) by Meher Garfield in two accessions: August 2009 and December 2018.

Digitized Materials

Selected materials from this collection have been digitized and are available online in our Digital Collections:

Related Materials

The Eugene Garfield Oral History is preserved at the Science History Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Separated Materials

In October 2022, the following optical disks were deemed out of scope and removed from the collection:

  1. American Express Presents "Tranquil Seas" (audio CD), 1997
  2. The Best of Strauss (audio CD), undated
  3. Blue Sky Software: HTML Help (CD-ROM), 1999
  4. A Passion for Art: Renoir, Cezanne, Matisse, and Dr. Barnes (CD-ROM), 1995
  5. Hewlett-Packard: Photo Project Software (CD-ROM), 1997
  6. Troyen's Medea 3 (audio CD), undated
  7. Troyen's Medea 2 (audio CD), undated
  8. Chemical Heritage Foundation 100 Greatest Scientific Discoveries in Science (DVD), 2005

Processing Information

The Eugene Garfield Papers were processed by Kenton G. Jaehnig in December 2019.

Eugene Garfield Papers
Finding aid created by Patrick H. Shea.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Revision Statements

  • 2019: Finding aid revised and encoded into EAD by Kenton G. Jaehnig
  • 8/28/2023: Digitized Materials note added.

Repository Details

Part of the Science History Institute Archives Repository

315 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia PA 19106 United States
215.873.5265 (Fax)