The 4 Most Cited Papers: Magic In These Methods

It will surprise few that methods papers lead the list of the most cited scientific articles ever—at least those tracked in the Institute for Scientific Information’s Science Citation Index, 1955 to 1987. “The lowry paper,” as it is known, stands head-and-shoulders above all others. This 1951 article by Oliver H. Lowry Nira J. Rosenbrough, A. Lewis Farr, and R.J. Randall, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, 193,265-75, reported an improved procedure for

David Pendlebury
Aug 7, 1988

It will surprise few that methods papers lead the list of the most cited scientific articles ever—at least those tracked in the Institute for Scientific Information’s Science Citation Index, 1955 to 1987.

“The lowry paper,” as it is known, stands head-and-shoulders above all others. This 1951 article by Oliver H. Lowry Nira J. Rosenbrough, A. Lewis Farr, and R.J. Randall, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, 193,265-75, reported an improved procedure for measuring proteins. Although more sensitive methods have since been introduced, it still ranks as the King of the Classics, with over 180,000 citations by the end of 1987. It continues to receive 10,000 citations per year.

Why is this the most cited paper? Lowry observed: “It filled a need in the beginning—and a lot of people measure proteins. Once it became established... other people may have thought it was the method to use, or at...