(1922-1983)

Price was the Chair of new department encompassing the histories of science, technology, and medicine at Yale 1961. “One of the fathers of bibliometrics” (DALB). He was called the “father of scientometrics” by Eugene Garfield and Robert Merton. Belver Griffith said “Price’s understanding of scientific literature has made major contributions to the management and evaluation of the world’s major bibliographic resources and services and to our understanding of the role of recorded knowledge in science.” Price wrote Little Science, Big Science (1963) and Science Since Babylon (1961).

DEREK DE SOLLA PRICE

1922-1983

Derek de Solla Price was born on January 22, 1922 in Leyton, England, a northeastern suburb of London. Price demonstrated early on an inclination toward science and mathematics, and by age 16 was a laboratory assistant in physics at the South West Essex Technical College. He earned a B.A. with honors in physics and mathematics from the University of London in 1942 and quickly went to work on wartime research projects.

Price continued his studies and earned a Ph.D. in experimental physics from the University of London in 1946. In 1948, he began a three-year teaching assignment at what is now the University of Singapore. His time there is significant for the influence the experience had on the rest of his career.

When Price arrived in Singapore, the University had just received a complete set of thePhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. He read the Transactions, and not only became aware of the evolutionary nature and the historical aspects of science and technology, but also developed his theory of the exponential growth of scientific literature.

Price returned to England and in 1954 obtained a second doctorate, in the history of science, from Cambridge University. Difficulty in obtaining a permanent position in England led Price to the United States. He worked at Princeton and the Smithsonian Institution before he secured a professorship at Yale University. In 1961 he was named chair of a new department which encompassed the histories of science, technology and medicine. In the prospectus for the new department, Price elaborated on the exponential growth of scientific literature and tied it to the increased number of indexing and abstracting services. “He also predicted or advanced the notion of relating fields of scholarly activity via interactive communication patterns. He suggested that…relationships within and among disciplinary literatures can be identified and measured via their mode and degree of citation to one another. …Price was the father (certainly one of the fathers) of what is now known and pursued as bibliometrics.” (DALB, Supp.Vol. p.100)

In a posthumous, expanded version of Price’s 1963 book Little Science, Big Science [titled Little Science, Big Science … and Beyond (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), Eugene Garfield and Robert Merton lauded Price: “we can hardly doubt that with this book and the papers which followed it … Derek John De Solla Price takes his place as the father of Scientometrics.” [scientometrics is bibliometrics applied to scientific literature].

Derek Price died in September 1983, after suffering a massive heart attack. In his eulogy to Price, Belver Griffith said, “Derek Price’s understanding of the scientific literature has made major contributions to the management and evaluation of the world’s major bibliographic resources and services and to our understanding of the role of recorded knowledge in science.”

Important writings of Price:

Science since Babylon (New Haven: Yale University Press); 1961. This is Price’s prospectus for the new department at Yale, and for his personal goals in the history of science. Recommended byManfred Kochen for every information scientist (JASIS, 35(3):147-48; 1984).

Two “seminal” works (according to Kochen): “Networks of Scientific Papers.” Science 149(July 30, 1965): 510-515 [reprinted in Kochen, The Growth of Knowledge (Huntington, NY: R.E. Krieger (Wiley), 1967)] RE: citation indexing. Merton and Garfield agree that this is probably Price’s most important contribution to information science.

Little Science, Big Science (1963). A set of lectures on the “science of science,” “science policy studies,” and the promotion and application of such knowledge.

Other works specifically noted by Kochen:

JASIS, 27(5); 1976. RE: cumulative advantage processes (Kochen says these became permanent and central topics after this article)

Derek Price Papers:

Centre de Recherche en Histoire des Sciences et des Techniques, cite des Science et de L’industrie, Paris, FR (Personal and professional papers of Price as well as his personal library)