The Citation Index


For one of the earliest studies of repute using an index of citation, I recommend Thornthwaite, C. W. American Geographers: A Critical Evaluation. 1961. The Professional Geographer XIII(5):10-13. This study was completed and written up in 1939. It was published 22 years later. Not a bad turnaround time.

From the indexes of books of the day, the number of citations for each of the geographers was tabulated. Thornthwaite concluded that those that were not cited were either not geographers or that their work was worthless. The geographers studied, their color-coded scores and the meaning of the scores are provided in the illustration above and in its handy legend.

With the table in hand it was possible to compare geography departments. For example, all members at Chicago were mediocre and at Clark half were morons and half idiots. At Chicago, Clark, Louisiana, Michigan and Minnesota the chairmen of the departments were in the lowest rank of the staff members. Minnesota had a genius led by a moron. In the survey, there were three who made to the rank of University President. Two were morons and one was an idiot. Those geographers in the list who were in government service were all morons and idiots.
Thornthwaite, then with the Soil Conservation Service, notes

The fact that there are still a few morons and idiots in university departments indicates that the process of selection has not yet run to completion. It is to be expected that eventually all of these will be in the government service.

Such open feelings and lacks of sensitivity or political correctness predates the modern period of government funding of science. Thornthwaite pleads that his paper

should be disseminated as widely as possible. Particularly...they should be placed in the hands of prospective geography students who, through ignorance or through malicious propaganda, might otherwise make a mistake in the choice of a school and professor.


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