The Ortega Hypothesis

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Science  27 Oct 1972:
Vol. 178, Issue 4059, pp. 368-375
DOI: 10.1126/science.178.4059.368


Let us consider, then, some general conclusions that may be drawn from the findings reported in this study. The data allow us to question the view stated by Ortega, Florey, and others that large numbers of average scientists contribute substantially to the advance of science through their research. It seems, rather, that a relatively small number of physicists produce work that becomes the base for future discoveries in physics. We have found that even papers of relatively minor significance have used to a disproportionate degree the work of the eminent scientists. Although the conclusions of this paper may be reasonably clear, the implications of these data for the structure of scientific activity, at least in physics, need careful consideration.