Eugene Garfield: Paying tribute to the creator of ISI and the Impact Factor


We were saddened to hear of the death of Eugene Garfield, pioneer of the citation analysis field, creator of the revolutionary journal impact factor (IF) and founder of ISI. (For more information, please see our article on SCI and IF:

Eugene Garfield, born Garfinkle, died on 26 February 2017 at the age of 91. His contributions to the scientific community have been widely commemorated.

Life and Work

Born in New York, USA Garfield studied at Columbia University and the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his PhD in structural linguistics. Speaking to The Scientist, David Pendlebury of Clarivate Analytics, described Garfield as a “businessman and entrepreneur”, whose “first love” was analytics.[1]

It was probably this love of analytics which led Garfield to found the Institute for Scientific Information in 1960. This database of bibliographic services includes the Science Citation Index and revolutionized the way in which scientific research was analysed.

Later founding the IF, Garfield created a system of quantification for the influence of journals which remains the primary system used today. Despite the lack of reliable alternative methods for evaluating the impact of journals, the IF has received much criticism, even by Garfield himself. The IF was initially used internally within ISI, and Garfield warned against using it in isolation when measuring the worth and influence of journals, researchers and articles.

Garfield’s Legacy

Ivan Oransky of Retraction Watch says: “regardless of what you think about the impact factor, [Garfield’s] contribution to helping scientists in academia think about metrics . . . that field basically wouldn’t exist without him.”[2]

Eugene Garfield will be remembered for his contributions to the scientific and research communities and for his kindness; according to his wife, Meher Garfield, “no matter how important he became, he always had time for everybody.”[3]



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