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

by William M Briggs at

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.”