Advertisement

Scientometrics

, Volume 99, Issue 3, pp 839–844 | Cite as

Tracing the origin of a scientific legend by reference publication year spectroscopy (RPYS): the legend of the Darwin finches

  • Werner Marx
  • Lutz Bornmann
Article

Abstract

In a previews paper we introduced the quantitative method named reference publication year spectroscopy (RPYS). With this method one can determine the historical roots of research fields and quantify their impact on current research. RPYS is based on the analysis of the frequency with which references are cited in the publications of a specific research field in terms of the publication years of these cited references. In this study, we illustrate that RPYS can also be used to reveal the origin of scientific legends. We selected “Darwin finches” as an example for illustration. Charles Darwin, the originator of evolutionary theory, was given credit for finches he did not see and for observations and insights about the finches he never made. We have shown that a book published in 1947 is the most-highly cited early reference cited within the relevant literature. This book had already been revealed as the origin of the term “Darwin finches” by Sulloway through careful historical analysis.

Keywords

Citation analysis Reference publication year spectroscopy Scientific legends 

References

  1. Bangerter, A., & Heath, C. (2004). The Mozart effect: Tracking the evolution of a scientific legend. British Journal of Social Psychology, 43, 605–623. doi: 10.1348/0144666042565353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bornmann, L., & Marx, W. (2013). The proposal of a broadening of perspective in evaluative bibliometrics by complementing the times cited with a cited reference analysis. Journal of Informetrics, 7(1), 84–88. doi: 10.1016/j.joi.2012.09.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Darwin, C. (1859). On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1st ed.). London: John Murray. ISBN 1-4353-9386-4.Google Scholar
  4. Darwin, C. (1871). The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex (1st ed.). London: John Murray. ISBN 0-8014-2085-7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Darwin, C. Journal and remarks 1832–1836. Vol. 3 by P. Parker King, Robert FitzRoy, Charles Darwin: The narrative of the voyages of H.M. Ships Adventure and Beagle. Henry Colburn, London 1838–1839 (1st ed.).Google Scholar
  6. De Solla Price, D. J. (1974). Little Science, Big Science. Suhrkamp-Taschenbuch - Wissenschaft 48. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag.Google Scholar
  7. Dobzhansky, T. (1937). Genetics and the origin of species. New York: Columbia University Press. (2nd ed. 1941; 3rd ed. 1951).Google Scholar
  8. Dufour, H. D., & Carroll, S. B. (2013). Great myths die hard. Nature, 502(7469), 32–33. doi: 10.1038/502032a.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Garfield, E. (1969). Essays of an Information Scientist. Current Contents, 1, 43–46. Reprinted from: American Documentation, 14, 289–291 (October 1963).Google Scholar
  10. Grünbaum, B. (2012). Is Napoleon’s theorem really Napoleon’s theorem? The American Mathematical Monthly, 119(6), 495–501. doi: 10.4169/amer.math.monthly.119.06.495.CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  11. Lack, D.L. (1947). Darwin’s Finches. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press (reissued in 1961 by Harper, New York, with a new preface by Lack; reissued in 1983 by Cambridge University Press with an introduction and notes by Laurene M. Ratcliffe and Peter T. Boag). ISBN 0-521-25243-1.Google Scholar
  12. Marx, W. (2012). Tracking historical papers and their citations. European Science Editing, 38(2), 35–39. http://www.ease.org.uk/sites/default/files/may12toc.pdf.
  13. Marx, W., Bornmann, L., Barth, A., & Leydesdorff, L. (2013). Detecting the historical roots of research fields by reference publication year spectroscopy (RPYS). Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. doi: 10.1002/asi.23089.
  14. Sulloway, F. J. (1982). Darwin and his finches: The evolution of a legend. Journal of the History of Biology, 15(1), 1–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Sulloway, F. J. (1983). The legend of Darwin’s finches. Nature, 303(5916), 372. doi: 10.1038/303372a0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Van Raan, A. F. J. (2000). On growth, ageing, and fractal differentiation of science. Scientometrics, 47(2), 347–362. doi: 10.1023/A:1005647328460.Google Scholar
  17. Wetterer, J. K. (2006). Quotation error, citation copying, and ant extinctions in Madeira. Scientometrics, 67(3), 351–372. doi: 10.1556/Scient.67.2006.3.2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for Solid State ResearchStuttgartGermany
  2. 2.Division for Science and Innovation StudiesAdministrative Headquarters of the Max Planck SocietyMunichGermany

Personalised recommendations