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Photograph of Garfield Eugene
CHF Collections, Photograph by Douglas A. Lockard

Oral history interview with Eugene Garfield

  • 1997-Jul-29

Oral history interview with Eugene Garfield

  • 1997-Jul-29

Eugene Garfield begins the interview with a discussion of The Johns Hopkins University Welch Library indexing project. Garfield joined this project in 1951, during which he became involved in machine methods for indexing and searching literature. He worked on automating Current List of Medical Literature and experimented with punched cards and zato coding. During his tenure there, he helped to organize a symposium to demonstrate the project's work, at which he met many pioneering information scientists. Also while at the project, Garfield developed his idea for Contents in Advance. He discusses his relationship with Sanford V. Larkey, and his decision to attended library school at Columbia University.

After graduating, Garfield joined Smith, Kline & French as a consultant. He eventually set up his own company, DocuMation, Inc., and worked on many projects, including a Genetics Citation Index for the NIH and Management's DocuMation Preview. Garfield discusses the development of Current Contents, the growth of his business, and the challenges he encountered. In the 1960s, he launched Science Citation Index, a concept that was later expanded to include other fields of literature. Garfield was also involved in many professional organizations throughout his career, including the Information Industry Association (IIA). He addresses the evolution of his company, Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), his colleagues, and his decision to sell ISI. Garfield concludes the interview with a discussion of his experience with VINITI, changes in library education, and the future role of the Internet.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 102 pages
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewer

Robert V. Williams is a professor of library and information science at the University of South Carolina. He holds a PhD in library and information studies from the University of Wisconsin, Madison; an MS in library and information science from Florida State University; and an MA in history from New York University. Before joining the University of South Carolina in 1978, he was an archivist and information services manager for the Ford Foundation, and the Georgia Department of Archives and History. Williams has also been an information consultant for many organizations including Appalachian Council of Governments of Greenville, South Carolina, and Pontifical Catholic University Madre y Maestra, Dominican Republic. He came to the Chemical Heritage Foundation as the Eugene Garfield Fellow in the History of Scientific Information in 1997. He is a member of the South Carolina Historical Records Advisory Board, the American Library Association (ALA), and the American Society for Information Science (ASIS), where he served as chair of ASIS History and Foundations of Information Science Special Interest Group in 1994–1995. Williams is also a member of the Special Libraries Association (SLA) and Chair of the SLA Membership Committee. Williams has numerous publications on the historical role of information science.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0165

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • September 16, 1925
  • New York City, New York, United States
  • February 26, 2017
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1948 Columbia University BS Chemistry
1954 Columbia University MS Library Science
1961 University of Pennsylvania PhD Structural Linguistics

Professional Experience

Evans Research and Development Corporation

  • 1949 to 1950 Laboratory Chemist

Columbia University

  • 1950 to 1951 Research Chemist

Johns Hopkins University

  • 1951 to 1953 Staff member, Welch Machine Indexing Project

Eugene Garfield Associates

  • 1954 to 1960 President

Institute for Scientific Information

  • 1960 to 1992 President and CEO
  • 1992 Chairman
  • 1993 Chairman Emeritus

The Scientist, LLC

  • 1986 to 2000 Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
  • 2001 President

American Society for Information Science and Technology

  • 1998 to 2000 President


Year(s) Award
1953 to 1954 Grolier Society Fellow, Columbia University
1966 Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science
1966 Fellow, Institute of Information Scientists
1975 Award of Merit, American Society of Information Scientists
1977 Hall of Fame Award, Information Industry Association
1977 Herman Skolnik Award, Division of Chemical Information, American Chemical Society
1978 Book Award for Best Information Science Book of 1977
1980 Award, Chemical Notation Society
1983 Patterson-Crane Award, American Chemical Society
1983 John Price Wetherill Medal, Franklin Institute
1984 Derek J. de Solla Price Memorial Medal, Scientometrics
1986 John Scott Award, City of Philadelphia
1987 Distinguished Alumni Award, Columbia University, School of Library Service
1988 Doctor (honoris causa), Vrije University, Brussels, Belgium
1990 Honorary PhD, State University of New York, Albany
1991 Honorary Fellow, Society for Technical Communication
1991 Honorary PhD , Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia
1993 Honorary Fellow, Medical Libraries Association
1993 Honorary Foreign Member, Institute of Marine Biology, Vladivostok, Russia
1993 MD (honoris causa), University of Rome, Tor Vergata, Italy
1995 MD (honoris causa), Charles University, Czech Republic
1999 Avenue of Technology Award, Philadephia, Pennsylvania
2000 Professor Kaula Award for Library and Information Science, India
2007 Richard J. Bolte, Sr., Award for Supporting Industries, Chemical Heritage Foundation

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PDF — 340 KB

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

9 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads