Derek John de Solla Price (January 22 1922 – September 3 1983) was a physicist, historian of science, and information scientist,
credited as the father of scientometrics.
Price was born in Leyton
, to Philip Price, a tailor
, and Fanny de Solla, a singer. Starting in 1938, he worked as a physics lab assistant at the South West Essex Technical College. He studied Physics
at the University of London
and received a B.S.
in 1942. He obtained a Ph.D.
in experimental physics
from the University of London
Price worked as a teacher of applied mathematics at Raffles College (to become part of the University of Singapore in 1948). It was there that he formulated the exponential growth of science, an idea that occurred to him when he noticed the growth in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society between 1665 and 1850 – he had the complete set in his home while Raffles College had its library built.
After three years, Price returned to England to work on a second Ph.D., one in the history of science from Cambridge University. During his Ph.D. studies, he accidentally discovered Equatorie of the Planetis, a manuscript written in Middle English that he attributed to Geoffrey Chaucer.
Around 1950, Price adopted his mother's Sephardic name "de Solla" as a middle name. Price was a "British Atheist... from a rather well known Sephardic Jewish family" and, although his Danish wife Ellen had been christened as a Lutheran, did not regard their marriage as "mixed" because both were atheists, according to their son Mark.
After obtaining his second doctorate, Price moved to the United States where he served as a consultant to the Smithsonian Institution and a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. His next post was at Yale University, where he worked until his death, serving as the Avalon Professor of the History of Science and chair of a new department that encompassed the histories of science, technology, and medicine.
In 1984 Price received, posthumously, the ASIS Research Award for outstanding contributions in the field of information science.
Price's major scientific contributions include
- Studies of the exponential growth of science and the half-life of scientific literature (Price 1963).
- Quantitative studies of the network of citations between scientific papers (Price 1965), including the discovery that both the in- and out-degrees of a citation network have power-law distributions, making this the first published example of a scale-free network.
- His mathematical theory of the growth of citation networks, based on what would now be called a preferential attachment process (Price 1976). The technical elements of Price's treatment relied heavily previous work by Herbert Simon, but Price was first to apply the idea to the growth of a network.
- The analysis of the Antikythera mechanism, an ancient Greek clockwork calculator (Price 1959, 1974).
- Derek J. de Solla Price (1959). An ancient Greek computer. Scientific American, 200 (6):60-67.
- Derek J. de Solla Price (1961). Science since Babylon. New Haven: Yale University Press.
- Derek J. de Solla Price (1963). Little Science, Big Science. New York: Columbia University Press.
- Derek J. de Solla Price (1965). Networks of Scientific Papers Science, 149(3683): 510-515, (July 30).
- Derek J. de Solla Price (1970). Citation Measures of Hard Science, Soft Science, Technology, and Nonscience, in Nelson-CE., and Pollock-DK edited Communication among Scientists and Engineers, Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath and Company, pp. 3-22.
- Derek J. de Solla Price (1974). Gears from the Greeks: the Antikythera mechanism, a calendar computer from ca. 80 B.C. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society (New Series) 64 (7):1-70. Also published as a book with the same title by Science History Publications, New York (1975).
- Derek J. de Solla Price (1976). A general theory of bibliometric and other cumulative advantage processes. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 27:292-306. (1976 JASIS paper award).