July 8, 2009

Plagiarism, salami slicing, and Lobachevsky

Leonard Berlin
Department of Radiology, Rush North Shore Medical Center,

Skeletal Radiol (2009) 38:1–4, DOI 10.1007/s00256-008-0599-0

Who made me the genius I am today,
Who’s the Professor that made me that way?
One man deserves the credit,
One man deserves the blame,
And Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name.
In one word he told me the secret of success:
Plagiarize! Plagiarize! Plagiarize!
Let no one else’s work evade your eyes.
Only be sure always to call it please “Research.”
Tom Lehrer, “Lobachevsky,” 1953 [1]

A half century ago, then well-known humorist-songwriter Tom Lehrer composed and popularized a song parodying the subject of plagiarism. He named the song after Russian mathematician Lobachevsky (1793–1856), famous for his development of non-Euclidean geometry, not because Lobachevsky was a plagiarist but rather for “prosodic” reasons [1]. Why recall a 55-year-old song today? The answer is obvious: plagiarism has found its way into both the contemporary public news media and the scientific literature. >>>

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