Cite the oldest paper: the competition

June 17, 2010 § 2 Comments

So we have four articles so far that prefigure the development of the field we now call systems biology, ranging in date from 1948 to 1972.  Let’s play this game a little differently.  Instead of focusing on the date when the article was published, let us consider the delta between the age of the person submitting it and the age of the publication.  Walter’s, John’s and Allon’s submissions score somewhere between -6 and -12, while the Bonner piece (sent to us by Elliot Meyerowitz) comes in at +9.  Let’s have a little competition to see who can find the oldest paper, relative to their birth date, that describes an approach to science that looks like systems biology*.  Alert students will realize that they have a considerable advantage in this game.

I’ll offer a small prize (TBD) for the top three submissions.  To ensure that the older generation isn’t put off entirely, I’ll also think of a prize for the chronologically oldest submission. I guess I’d better say that articles written by someone whose work has already been submitted don’t count; I know there’s at least one more article out there by Frenster.

I’ll award the prizes at the end of the summer.  See you all in the library stacks…

*According to whom?  According to me, of course.

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§ 2 Responses to Cite the oldest paper: the competition

  • Bobak Hadidi says:

    I am curious what the results of this (absolute age) contest were, if the winning entry(s) could be shared (or was it the Srb & Horowitz 1944 paper?).

    Also interesting, (as the Nostrad scientist once heralded systems biology at the dawn of molecular biology’s heyday, so too…) perhaps the prefiguring papers of the scientific paradigm subsequent to systems biology are being published even today. Can such a thing still occur; any candidates?

    Thanks for the great read.

    • Becky says:

      hi Bobak, the contest was a bit of a joke really — there are too many potential candidates for discoveries that prefigure systems biology (since SB often uses differential equations, do I get to count the invention of calculus? If so, should I go back to Leibniz, Newton or Ibn Al-Haytham? Or further?). I do think it’s interesting to look for papers that prefigure the field we now call systems biology, but if I have to pick a winner it’s the Bonner piece from 1960. Which, alas, not everyone can read; I should get in touch with the publishers to see if this can be remedied.

      And yes, I’m sure that the roots of the next “new” approach are already out there.

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