Eugene Garfield – 1925-2017 – a life of impact

Eugene Garfield. May 9th, 2007.

By Richard Gallagher, President and Editor-In-Chief of Annual Reviews. 

It is with great sadness that I write to share the news that Dr. Eugene Garfield, one of the longest serving members of the Annual Reviews Board of Directors, passed away yesterday (26th February 2017) at the age of 91. Throughout his tenure Gene provided invaluable and enthusiastic support to us.

That Gene’s life created an impact is undisputed.

He first mentioned the idea of an impact factor in science in 1955 and an article in JAMA tells the story of how he and Irving H. Sher created it. In research that he conducted in the late 1950s, he developed the concept of citation analysis, which provided researchers with a powerful network to identify, connect and retrieve information, decades before the internet.

Although he was an information scientist at heart, Gene’s entrepreneurial flair is revealed in a catalogue of highly successful business ventures. The products that he developed from this research, including Current Contents and the Science Citation Index, are still in use today. Gene founded a very successful business, the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), to produce these products and they were for many years part of Thomson Reuters until their IP and Science business was bought out in 2016 (now Clarivate Analytics). 

His influence extended well beyond scientific information.  Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin acknowledged Gene in their academic work on PageRank, the algorithm that powers their company’s search engine, leading Gene to be described as “the grandfather of Google.”

My relationship with Gene and his wife Meher goes back prior to my arrival at Annual Reviews in May 2015. I was privileged to work with him between 2002 and 2010 as Editor and Publisher at The Scientist, a professional magazine for life scientists that Gene founded in 1986. He had boldly envisaged it as a daily newspaper for scientists distributed at campuses across the country, and we brought his vision to reality with The Scientist Daily, launched a decade ago. Ellis Rubinsten, an early employee of The Scientist who became Editor of Science, says that Gene’s encouragement of great science journalism ended up transforming both Science and Nature’s research coverage.

Gene was also a pioneering employer. The ISI office had a state-of-the-art childcare facility attached, maximizing convenience for the staff. And he trained and supported many of the female leaders in the publishing industry today. The awards that he inspired also give an indication of his interests, including The Eugene Garfield Residency in Science Librarianship and the ALISE Eugene Garfield Doctoral Dissertation Competition. He also supported and was a Board Member of Research!America.

News of a memorial service will be forthcoming and we will share it here. All of us at Annual Reviews offer our sincere condolences to his family. We are grateful for his life. He will be greatly missed. 

Image credit: Chemical Heritage Foundation to Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA.