Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Perspective
  • Published:

A century of physics

A Correction to this article was published on 03 November 2015

This article has been updated

An analysis of Web of Science data spanning more than 100 years reveals the rapid growth and increasing multidisciplinarity of physics — as well its internal map of subdisciplines.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Figure 1: The evolution of physics.
Figure 2: The evolution of impact.
Figure 3: The anatomy of physics.

Change history

  • 05 October 2015

    In the Perspective 'A century of physics' (Nature Physics 11, 791–796; 2015), the text in the legend in Fig. 3a was obscured. This error has now been corrected online 5 October 2015.


  1. Kuhn, T. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (Univ. Chicago Press, 1996).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  2. Barabasi, A-L. Nature Phys. 8, 14–16 (2011).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  3. Main, P. & Tracy, C. Phys. World 26 (4), 17–18 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Donald, A. Phys. Biol. 11, 053008 (2014).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  5. Lorenz, E. N. J. Atmos. Sci. 20, 130–141 (1963).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  6. Fortunato, S. Phys. Rep. 486, 75–174 (2010).

    Article  ADS  MathSciNet  Google Scholar 

  7. Zhu, X. Semi-Supervised Learning Literature Survey Tech. Rep. 1530 (Univ. Wisconsin-Madison, 2005).

    Google Scholar 

  8. Shen, H-W. & Barabasi, A-L. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 12325–12330 (2014).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  9. Hubbard, J. Proc. R. Soc. Lond. A 276, 238–257 (1963).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  10. Hopfield, J. J. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 79, 2554–2558 (1982).

    Article  ADS  MathSciNet  Google Scholar 

  11. Mehra, J. The Golden Age of Theoretical Physics (World Scientific, 2001).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  12. Bornmann, L. & Mutz, R. J. Assoc. Inf. Sci. Technol. (2015).

  13. Deville, P. et al. Sci. Rep. 4, 4770 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Wuchty, S., Jones, B. & Uzzi, B. Science 316, 1036–1039 (2007).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  15. Pavlidis, I., Petersen, A. M. & Semendeferi, I. Nature Phys. 10, 700–702 (2014).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  16. Radicchi, F. & Castellano, C. Phys. Rev. E 83, 046116 (2011).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  17. Wang, D., Song, C. & Barabási, A-L. Science 342, 127–132 (2013).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  18. Redner, S. Phys. Today 58 (6), 49–54 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Nakamoto, H. Synchronous and Diachronous Citation Distribution (Elsevier, 1988).

    Google Scholar 

  20. Burnham, J. C. J. Am. Med. Assoc. 263, 1323–1329 (1990).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Spier, R. Trends Biotechnol. 20, 357–358 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Pan, R. K., Sinha, S., Kaski, K. & Saramaki, J. Sci. Rep. 2, 551 (2012).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

  23. Arthur, W. B. The Nature of Technology: What it is and How it Evolves (Simon and Schuster, 2009).

    Google Scholar 

  24. Uzzi, B., Mukherjee, S., Stringer, M. & Jones, B. Science 342, 468–472 (2013).

    Article  ADS  Google Scholar 

Download references


R.S., M.S. and A.L.B. are supported by the AFOSR grant FA9550-15-1-0077. P.D. is supported by the National Foundation for Scientific Research (FNRS) and by the Research Department of the Communaute Francaise de Belgique (Large Graph Concerted Research Action). D.W. is supported by the AFOSR, grant FA9550-15-1-0162. R.S. is also supported by the James S. McDonnell Foundation. A.L.B. is also supported by the Future and Emerging Technologies Project 317 532 'Multiplex' financed by the European Commission. We wish to thank I. Georgescu for many fruitful discussions and ideas throughout this project and J. De Nicolo for support with handling the WoS data.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Roberta Sinatra or Albert-László Barabási.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Sinatra, R., Deville, P., Szell, M. et al. A century of physics. Nature Phys 11, 791–796 (2015).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing