Funny scientific footnotes and acknowledgements

Funny Scientific Footnotes (and Acknowledgements)

As a Terry Pratchett fan, I love a good footnote. Scientific footnotes are generally fairly dry things. However, every now and then you get a footnote that is in fact hilarious. I’ve already shared my favourite, which I love for its pure “Reviewer 3 made me do it” honesty. But there are several other great examples of funny scientific footnotes.

Funny scientific footnotes and acknowledgements

Some of these are even actually in the usual footnote positions

Roderick, Molecular Ecology

Order of authorship can be a pretty controversial question. Technically this is an acknowledgement, but it’s at the end so we’re calling it a footnote. (Yes most of these are technically endnotes, but it’s a catchy title.) Usually authorship is determined by the degree of contribution made by each individual. At least officially. Often there are actually complex internal politics involved. But you’re not supposed to go out and say it!

Unless you’re Roderick and Gillepsie who straight up admitted it.

Order of authorship was determined by proximity to tenure decisions.

I’m sure this isn’t the first time that’s been the deciding factor. Most people just try to be subtle.

Hassel, Animal Ecology

Tenure is not the only factor in deciding the order of authorship. Hassel and May devoted a considerable amount of time to determining their order of authorship. Specifically:

Order of authorship was determined from a twenty five game croquet series held at Imperial College Field Station during summer 1973

No word on how long it would have been if they’d had more than two authors.

croquet mallets and balls

Why are you looking for stock photos of croquet? Science.

Groupil, NASA report

This is, essentially, the opposite of the Reviewer 3 made me do it note. Since it’s a NASA report rather than an anonymously reviewed journal article, Groupil, Lochard, Samadi, Barbin, Dupret and Baglin were able to name names. And they named a very specific name in their acknowledgements.

We do not gratefully thank T. APourchaux for his useless and very mean comments.

And really, who hasn’t wanted to call someone out for that?

Stork, Organic Letters

We’ve discussed this particular Stork paper before for its amazingly brief abstract. It also has a simply amazing footnote explaining why they opted to publish the synthesis of an advanced intermediate rather than their original target.

At this point we realized that we did not have enough material (a few milligrams) to go through several steps for this conversion. One would have to restart the whole synthesis. But I (G.S.) am now 95 years old…

Sadly, Stork, and absolute giant in organic synthesis, passed away a few months after the paper was published. He was fondly remembered for the sort of wit that would lead a person to write that footnote and for the dedication which kept him in the lab long enough to write it.



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