Honoring The Father Of Hyperlinking, Eugene Garfield

Eugene Garfield
Cronin & Atkins
SLIS Network, Alumni Newsletter, Fall 2000

"Bibliographic citation is the mother of all hyperlinks." Not my words, but a pithy observation by Stevan Harnad writing recently about open (electronic) archives. Think about it: What do we do when we cite? We link one work with another.

The latticework of links that binds the literature of science is revealed in ISI's (Institute for Scientific Information) massive citation indexes. What do we do when we include a pointer (URL) to another site on our Web page? We link the two sites. In short, the principles of bibliographic citation underpin the practice of hyperlinking.

If only the World Wide Web had been around when Eugene Garfield founded ISI back in the 1950s! But it wasn't, and Garfield had to struggle for years to persuade scientists (and others) of the value of a unified index to the literature of science.

It's a classic rags (an uncle was in the garment business in the Bronx) to riches story, but with a serious scholarly twist. When Garfield founded his business he operated out of a chicken coop and drove a cab to make ends meet. However, he combined scholarly acuity and entrepreneurial verve in unusual measure, and that was the key to his future success.

Today, some 3.5 million scientists, scholars, and researchers worldwide use The Web of Science a far cry from the '50s. Also today, the curriculum of every self-respecting LIS program reflects the extraordinary contributions made by Eugene Garfield (currently president of the American Society for Information Science and Technology) to the intellectual maturation of the discipline of information science.

Gene Garfield visited SLIS recently and gave a sparkling presentation to a packed audience, just a few months before his 75th birthday, which was celebrated recently at ISI in Philadelphia. There Helen Barsky Atkins and I presented him with a 500-page festschrift, The Web of Knowledge, to honor his career contributions.

If you thought that citation indexing was just a clever way of retrieving articles, open this book and your eyes will soon be opened. Eugene Garfield, while building a very successful business (ISI is now part of the Thompson Corp.), in the process helped build the theoretical foundations of information science. For that we should be sincerely grateful.

Blaise Cronin (

Eugene Garfield, above, displays an advance copy of the book The Web of Knowledge, presented to him by the authors, below, SLIS Dean Blaise Cronin and Helen Barsky Atkins, director of database development, Institute for Scientific Information.
Photos Courtesy of Helen Barsky Atkins

Related SLIS NEWs stories:

Web Of Knowledge: Tribute To A Man And His Work

ISI Web of Science Pioneer Honored by SLIS's Dean Cronin

Posted December 08, 2000