Science Proves Isaac Newton Doesn’t Even Break Into Top 8,000 All Time Greatest Scientists

Science Proves Isaac Newton Doesn’t Even Break Into Top 8,000 All Time Greatest Scientists

Issac Newton was the greatest scientist. The calculus, mechanics, gravity, thermodynamics, astronomy, optics, the binomial theorem, even theology! You name it, Newton was there, looming over all of us.

“No way, Briggs. I checked. Newton only has an h-index of 70, whereas the great Richard Dawkins has an index of 83, and 83 is greater than 70, even without calculus.”


“Yes. It’s a quantification of the amazingness of scientists. It’s a hard number, a solid metric, beloved of scientists and hiring committees, that quantifies their worth. Think of it like IQ.”

How’s it calculated?

“For any scientist, count the number of his papers that have been cited by other papers at least h times. An h-index of 10 means a scientist has at least 10 papers that have been cited at least 10 times each.”

So Dawkins has 83 papers that have been cited at least 83 times, whereas Newton has 13 fewer. And that makes Dakwins the superior scientist?

“It does. Numbers do not lie, as they say.”

Anybody better than Dawkins?

“Oh, many. I only picked him because everybody knows him and he’s been in the news recently. Dawkins is ackshually pretty low. There’s an Official List, you know. Or you should have known before you went spouting off about who was the Best Evah. It’s called the AD Scientific Index, and ranks all scientists by their h-index.”

Naturally, I’m curious, and of course always willing to be corrected. Who do they say is the top scientist, if not Newton?

“Alberto Ruiz Jimeno. Has an h-index of a whopping 348, putting your Newton to shame.”

Well, I’m ashamed to say I had never heard of Jimeno, God bless him, who, I take at your word, must be a great scientist.

“His most famous paper, cited by over 14,000 other papers, is ‘The CMS experiment at the CERN LHC‘.”

That I remember. That CMS is the Compact Muon Solenoid detector at CERN. Those CERN guys are always churning out papers. Many have dozens, even hundreds, of authors. Makes you wonder who’s doing the actual writing.

And—hang on—I notice at the top of the Index site you tout there is a button to “List without CERN…” Maybe they know about CERN’s paper factory.

“Doesn’t matter. Ignore CERN. There are still an enormous number of scientists better than your Newton. Take Ronald C Kessler, who has an h-index of 336. He’s a psychiatrist, has nothing to do with CERN. His top paper is ‘Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication’, cited by over 36,000 other papers.”

Ah, the National Comorbidity Survey, another paper generator, maybe even more efficient than AI. How about more ordinary brilliance. Not just paper count, but the work itself. Who else has h-index values around Newton’s?

“I have to admit I don’t know. That AD Index lists 1,604,605 scientists, but they stop displaying the database at an h-index of 100. Those below don’t show.”

A hundred? That’s still higher than Newton, even Dawkins. Who’s the last in the list that does show?

“Horace Loh, from the University of Minnesota. He has an h-index of 100. His most cited paper, which only has three authors, is ‘Molecular mechanisms and regulation of opioid receptor signaling’.”

Sounds like it could be of interest. To somebody, anyway. Yet would you say it ranked right up there with the invention of The Calculus?

“Well, maybe not.”

According to that AD Index there’s something like 8,250 or so scientists with h-indexes of 100 or greater, all better or more worthy to be called The Best than Newton. If we decide h-index is a useful metric of worthiness.

“I guess so.”

If the criterion of goodness is money, which is not a bad argument to make, given science is now an enterprise, then h-index is the way to go. The h-index still has low correlation with real value about knowledge of the world, though. But even if we accept money, the h-index doesn’t account for the number of working scientists, which only seems to increase, thus boosting everybody’s index through time.

The small, independent man who publishes little but with each work being a gem would score low. Ignoring the absolute bottom tier of scientists, the h-index functions more like an inversion of real value.

But it does account for this curious paper Anon suggested to me. “Google Scholar is manipulatable“, by Hazem Ibrahim and others. Some unscrupulous scientists are now buying citations to boost their h-indexes.

From the Abstract:

Citations are widely considered in scientists’ evaluation. As such, scientists
may be incentivized to inflate their citation counts. While previous literature
has examined self-citations and citation cartels, it remains unclear whether
scientists can purchase citations…Intrigued by a citation boosting service that we unravelled during our investigation, we contacted the
service while undercover as a fictional author, and managed to purchase 50
citations. These findings provide conclusive evidence that citations can be
bought in bulk, and highlight the need to look beyond citation counts.

You have to laugh.

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  1. This reminds me of the greatest medical scientist in a small country while I was studying in that country, some 15 years ago. He had an astonishing “impact factor” (that’s how it was called back then). He wasn’t quite as good as scientists in the West, but he was getting there. Trully the beaming hope of said small country. What did he do to be so important? Well, every year he would make a survey of medical students (he gave them questionnaires) and then we would publish the results. And he would quote all of his previous surveys. He was (or maybe still is) also a chief editor of CMJ (Croatian Medical Journal) and word is he would pressure people into citing his work. So… being cited so many times clearly means he was an awesome scientist, doesn’t it? 🙂

    He also married a student, but that entire department had a completely f-ed up sex life (they all stole each other’s girlfriends at one point) so I’m not going into that. 🙂

  2. JH

    New blog design. Oh… I find myself needing bigger fonts these ays as I refuse to wear glasses. Nice.

    Briggs is an internationally reviled thought criminal, listed as One Of The Top 7 Dangerous Minds by the Hague.

    Does science confirm that you are among the Top 7? What metric does the Hague (whatever it is) use to measure your success? lol.

    Human beings, scientist or not, can be fickle. Whatever the h-index metric represents, it’s unlikely that top research universities use it for evaluations. It would be an insult to those top researchers to have to rely on this metric. A long list of publications of no nutritional values can be easily spotted.

  3. Johnno

    The biggest problem with our greatest scientists is there are too many men, and too many whites… ugh! I don’t even want to count how many of these had some tangible ideological ties to Christianity or Christian culture that influenced their thinking.

  4. JH

    My delicious comments are eaten.

  5. Thanks for this article, Matt. I’m not sure where I stand on this index. According to Research Gate, I’ve got about 2600 citations, and the best paper (maybe the only good piece of work I did) has about 550 citations. It was done in 1970 and is still getting one or two citations / week; gave a fundamental theoretical method for calculating nmr shifts due to paramagnetic molecules. One small brick in the edifice of science.

  6. Thanks for this article, Matt. I’m not sure where I stand on this index. According to Research Gate, I’ve got about 2600 citations, and the best paper (maybe the only good piece of work I did) has about 550 citations. It was done in 1970 and is still getting one or two citations / week; gave a fundamental theoretical method for calculating nmr shifts due to paramagnetic molecules. One small brick in the edifice of science.

  7. Tars Tarkus

    Some of the greatest discoveries and inventions ever made were not published in some stupid journal literally 8 people read. One of my favorite examples is a mid 20th century example of the P-N junction. This is the single most important discovery in solid state electronics. It is at the base of every IC ever made. It did not come from academia and was not published in some journal. It was invented/discovered in the dreaded private sector (Bell Labs) where citations are absolutely meaningless.

    Most large corporations had enormous labs where basic science was done in order to invent new products or improve existing ones. Not only did all the big ones have these labs, a lot of little companies would band together and fund a lab for research important to their industry. You can find propaganda films on youtube of these companies showing off their labs and touting new and improved products stemming from this research. Now all that money is taxed and sent to academia so women “scientists” can emote in writing about their genitals.

  8. Briggs


    Are they still missing?

  9. Hagfish Bagpipe

    Briggs wrote: ”You have to laugh”

    I did, that was pretty funny.

  10. Cary D Cotterman

    I’ve noticed that, with this new format, my comments don’t immediately show up. It seems like they failed to post, and it’s tempting to try again, but that results in a double. If you get out of this website (blog, whatever it’s called) and check back later, your comment will be here.

  11. Hun

    That website (AD Scientific Index) looks very amateurish and unprofessional and is quite buggy. According to LinkedIn, they have “11-50 employees”, but they can’t make a good looking web.

  12. C-Marie

    Just a note …. I am used to the new format …. but still love the old one.
    God bless, C-Marie

  13. experts did not understand cooperate to find answers to unsolved problems and made a model “h-index” by which they outperformed Erd?s and Euler simultaneously …

  14. Milton Hathaway

    Speaking of the new format … there is beige-colored transparent circular spot that follows my cursor around, with a bit of a lag. It’s distracting and surprisingly annoying, but I can fix it by turning off JavaScript. Does it serve a useful purpose?

    My rule of thumb advice for web page designers: if you were reading a book or a magazine, and your spiffy cutesy self-pleasuring JavaScript creation manifested itself on paper, would you find it annoying? If so, then it will also be annoying on a web page.

  15. Random thoughts:

    I also was wondering about that pink cursor dot but didn’t realize it was site specific until I read Milton’s comment.

    I love the “publish a new version each year and cite your previous versions”. Well played.

    Maybe I should become a college professor in a small country and marry one of my students. Or maybe I’m too old for that by now.

    And on topic, this is quite funny, that someone would think that “number of papers cited” somehow made you a better scientist. I wonder if they originally were just looking for a way to figure out who was the most published/cited and then it morphed into “best”.

  16. Robert Kurland

    Unfortunately, academia does use the number of citations as a benchmark for promotion.

  17. Hagfish Bagpipe

    Bob Kirkland: ”(maybe the only good piece of work I did)”.

    I’m trying to think of the only good piece of work I did. It’s a challenge.

  18. Richard G

    YOS would have loved this. I would have too, but I get all my science from u-tube these days and therefore feel overinformed.

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