Waking The Sleeping Beauties | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 93 Issue 29 | p. 2 | Letters
Issue Date: July 20, 2015

Waking The Sleeping Beauties

Department: Letters

I found “ ‘Sleeping Beauties’ Wake Up” quite interesting (C&EN, June 1, page 5). My own experience is both somewhat similar and somewhat different.

My awakening was gradual. In 1964, I published a paper with my student J. A. Stynes as coauthor on the preparation and some of the ion-exchange behavior of crystalline zirconium phosphate. I found this compound to be fascinating and published more papers on the subject.

Professor G. Alberti at Texas A&M University who had worked on the amorphous zirconium phosphate (ZrP) also began publishing on the crystalline product. Interest grew slowly from about four citations in 1964 to more than 1,000 per year from 2004 to 2014.

According to the Web of Science, my total citations are 23,382 (20,437 without self-citations). Not all of these are for ZrP, but I estimate nearly half are. This is based on the fact that some 200 papers with ZrP in the title have been published every year from 2004 until now.

Abraham Clearfield
College Station, Texas

A News of the Week article notes that seven of the top 15 “sleeping beauties”—papers that have become highly cited years after their publication—are chemistry papers. I suggest a more accurate description is that they are colloid chemistry papers.

The phenomena and analyses are cited in standard colloid chemistry texts. Unfortunately, colloid chemistry has fallen asleep in most universities. Just as the prince arrived and awoke the sleeping beauty, Pierre-Gilles de Gennes (1991 Nobel Prize in Physics) rekindled a great interest in questions where dimensions are small and surface forces large.

What was once called colloid chemistry is now called soft-matter physics. And I hope it lives happily ever after.

Ian Morrison
Acton, Mass, .

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