Is it because of mixed feelings about Google that librarians don’t talk much about Google having its origins in the library world? As described in the quote below, it’s well-established that Google PageRank is built on librarian Eugene Garfield’s citation-analysis work done in the 1950’s, which led to the standard library reference tool Science Citation Index, and later Web of Science — So why are we not shouting it out? – Google grew from library roots!
Guy Gugliotta’s 2009 article in Wired does a good job of connecting Garfield’s work with Google (boldface added):
The science citation revolution began more than 50 years ago. Eugene Garfield, then a young librarian pursuing a PhD in structural linguistics, started wondering about that most prosaic of bibliographic tools: the footnote. Most people think of footnotes as reaching backward in time to a document’s sources. But Garfield realized that they could reach forward, too—future footnotes would cite the original article. “The citation becomes the subject,” says Garfield, now 83 and enjoying his stature as the founding father of modern citation analysis. “It was a radical approach to retrieving information.”
Some three decades before the concept of the hyperlink and the World Wide Web crossed anybody’s mind, Garfield had figured out how to connect the immense body of scientific knowledge into a network. In the early 1960s he began publishing The Science Citation Index; Garfield sold the first edition, five volumes of arcane hard-copy reference, to academic libraries for $500.
Citation-based ranking schemes … are increasingly the coin of the online realm. Understanding and quantifying reputation is the best approach to navigating the tsunami of information on the Internet. That’s why Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin cited Eugene Garfield in their academic work on PageRank, the algorithm that powers their company’s search engine.
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Why I’m calling Garfield the “grandfather of Google” — Gary Price, in 2004, seems to have been the first to refer to Garfield as The Father of Citation Analysis (which is repeated in the quote above) — So, if he’s the “father” of citation analysis, and citation analysis played a key role in the development of PageRank and Google, it’s a short step to … Garfield as Google’s grandfather.
*Garfield as a “librarian” — Although he apparently never worked in a library, Garfield did have an MLS and is often referred to as a “librarian,” as he is in the Wired quote above. In his early career, he had especially close connections in the medical library world, as this profile of him describes.
Picture of Garfield from Indiana University.
Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey