It's easy to find online citation indices; however they typically only cover recent articles, e.g. Scopus has coverage since 2004. Indeed citation indices in paper form seem to have been introduced in the 1950s. It's easy to find papers that cite old texts (e.g. search Google Scholar for "Euclid's Geometries"), but rather than the earliest cited publications, I'm interested in the earliest citing publications.

I've been able to find out about when certain citation styles were introduced: Wikipedia describes Vancouver-style citations as "over a hundred years old" but does not cite a source for that assertion. I also know that there is a long history of scientists corresponding with each other and publishing that correspondence in the journals of their societies.

But when was the citation in its current form - an inline reference, footnote or endnote acknowledging the author, title and publication details of the work being cited - introduced? What is the first citation as it would now be recognised?

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    What about in-line citations?
    – Semaphore
    Mar 11, 2018 at 19:44
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    In addition to what Semaphore said, what about footnotes and endnotes that wouldn't be considered proper citations today, or inline references that don't name their authors because of potential repercussions? Mar 11, 2018 at 21:25
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    Certainly, 100+ year old papers (e.g. Rutherford) cite other pspers. I’m not really interested in digging back to early Royal Society Proceedings, but those would be a good place to start...
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 12, 2018 at 0:05
  • 1
    This book looks very relevant: amazon.com/Footnote-Curious-History-Anthony-Grafton/dp/…
    – Brian Z
    Mar 12, 2018 at 0:22
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    Maybe depending on what you mean by "science," but Bede used footnotes. bl.uk/collection-items/bedes-ecclesiastical-history
    – rougon
    Mar 12, 2018 at 1:54

1 Answer 1


The book Brian Z mentions claims the 17th century:

http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/12/07/reviews/971207.07mckittt.html Grafton traces the history of the modern footnote to rather an unlikely quarter -- from Ranke back to David Hume in the 18th century, then to Pierre Bayle and Jean Le Clerc in the late 17th.

  • Yes, but what about inline citations, as already pointed out in the comments and acknowledged by OP? The practice may have been different but they were scientific articles of sorts nonetheless. Mar 12, 2018 at 21:51

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