Nature Chemistry | The Sceptical Chymist

‘Top chemists’ 2000-2010

Just when we thought we could breathe easily without trying to rank how great people are, we find that The Times Higher Education has a story out today that features some ISI/Thomson Reuters data on who the ‘highest impact’ chemists were from 2000-2010.

Feel free to read neither this post nor the THE article and go straight to the table in this PDF.

The data given is all from ISI/Web of Science: papers published, citations and ‘impact’ (citations per paper). I’ll give you the top ten here:

Charles M. LIEBER; Harvard University (74 papers, 17,776 citations, 240.22 c/p)

Omar M. YAGHI; University of California Los Angeles (90, 19,870, 220.78)

Michael O’KEEFFE; Arizona State University (73, 12,910, 176.85)

K. Barry SHARPLESS; Scripps Research Institute (60, 9,754, 162.57)

A. Paul ALIVISATOS; University of California Berkeley (93, 14,589, 156.87)

Richard E. SMALLEY†; Formerly Rice University (60, 9,217, 153.62)

Hongjie DAI; Stanford University (88, 12,768, 145.09)

Xiaogang PENG; University of Arkansas (59, 8,548, 144.88)

Valery V. FOKIN; Scripps Research Institute (54, 6,853, 126.91)

Peidong YANG; University of California Berkeley (95, 11,167, 117.55)

We do have a note of caution, however: we’ve tried to reproduce the results ourselves in Web of Science, but can never get quite the same numbers out. Maybe our WoS skills aren’t quite up to those of the analyst who produced them.

Anyway, it’s moderately interesting to see this and note a few points of interest (Richard Smalley’s doing well, all things considered; no Stoddart?) but I’m not sure if it tells us anything earth-shattering.

The ISI release was spinning something along the lines of a nano-takeover (“60 out of the top 100 chemists identifying nanotechnology as either their main focus or a significant research topic”), while the THE article gives the RSC a bit of a soapbox (“[RSC chief exec] warned the EPSRC against squeezing out blue-skies research”).

I’ll leave it to you guys to have a good look and tell us what trends/datapoints you find interesting.


Neil Withers

(Associate Editor, Nature Chemistry)


  1. Report this comment

    Neil said:

    One thing I forgot to mention – why have they done this for an 11 year period?? Did someone change the definition of a decade recently?

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    Curious Wavefunction said:

    Striking that there are only two bonafide synthetic chemists in there and no total synthesis chemists. Instead the list is dominated by nanotechnology and materials science. Says something about the age we live in. Almost any such list from the 50s through the 90s would have have been dominated by hard-core organic chemistry.

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    Revathi Bacsa said:

    So the top chemists in the last decade were only from the USA and that too, a large number from California. Does it mean that California is the El Dorado of chemistry or something?