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Top Science Papers Ever

I stumbled across this webpage put together by Nature, listing the top 100 science papers of all time. There’s a great interactive tool that lets you cycle through the papers and see graphs of their citations per year.

There are tens of millions of papers on the record. Only around 15,000 papers have ever been cited more than 1,000 times.

Naively (or maybe arrogantly, given I was trained as a physicist), I expected the most cited papers to be related to physics. It’s the most fundamental of the sciences, after all. I expected the other sciences to lean on physics.

Failing that, I imagined the most cited things would be famous papers, like Einstein’s Annus Mirabilis papers in 1905 or Watson and Crick’s 1953 Nature paper on the structure of DNA.

But the most cited papers by far as either biology lab technique or physical chemistry. Which makes sense, in hindsight. That’s where the big business is. That’s what the big labs focus on.

The most cited paper in history, from 1951, is about measuring proteins, and has 305,000 citations at the time of writing.

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