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An example of part of an academic genealogy, a family tree, from Academic Family Tree (in this case from the Physics Tree), of four generations of Isaac Newton's academic ancestors and two generations of his academic descendants

Academic Family Tree, which began as Neurotree, is an online database for academic genealogy, containing numerous "family trees" of academic disciplines. Neurotree was established in 2005 as a family tree of neuroscientists. Later that year Academic Family Tree incorporated Neurotree and family trees of other scholarly disciplines.

Unlike a conventional genealogy or family tree, in which connections among individuals are from kinship (e.g., parents to children), connections in Academic Family Tree are from mentoring relationships, usually among people working in academic settings (e.g., doctoral supervisors to students).

Academic Family Tree has been used as sources of information for the history and prospects of academic fields such as psychology,[1] meteorology,[2] organizational communication,[3] and neuroscience.[4][5][6][7] It has been used to address infometrics,[1][4] to research issues of scientific methodology,[8] and to examine mentor characteristics that predict mentee academic success.[9]

Functioning and scope[edit]

The founders of the initial trees, including Neurotree, populated them from published sources, such as ProQuest. Later, they set up discipline-specific family trees of Academic Family Tree to be volunteer-run; accuracy is maintained by a group of volunteer editors. Hierarchical connections between mentors ("parents") and mentees ("children") are defined as any meaningful mentoring relationship (research assistant, graduate student, postdoctoral fellow, or research scientist). Continuous records extend well into the Middle Ages and earlier.

As of 29 September 2023, Academic Family Tree contained 871,361 people with 882,278 connections among them.[10]

Academic Family Tree encompasses a broad range of discipline-specific trees. As of 29 September 2023, there were 73 trees spanning science (e.g., human genetics, microbiology, and psychology), mathematics and philosophy, engineering, the humanities (e.g., economics, law, theology, and music), and business (e.g., organizational communication and advertising).[10]

All trees within Academic Family Tree are closely linked. A search for a person in one tree gives hits from all trees in Academic Family Tree.

The data in Academic Family Tree are owned by the nonprofit academictree.org, but they are shared under the Creative Commons License (CC-BY 3.0). This means a person may use the data in any tree for any purpose as long as the source is cited.[10]


All trees under Academic Family Tree have a set of tools similar to those of conventional genealogy applications.[3][4] One is Distance that allows a user to enter two scholars' names and to determine the number of degrees of separation between the two. For example, the number of degrees of academic separation between Isaac Newton and Marie Curie is 11.


Neurotree was founded in January 2005[11] by Stephen V. David, then an assistant professor in the Oregon Hearing Research Center[12] of Oregon Health and Science University, and by Benjamin Y. Hayden, an assistant professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Center for Visual Science, University of Rochester.[13] David and Hayden founded Academic Family Tree soon after founding Neurotree.[11]

In November 2014, David received funding for Neurotree from the Metaknowledge Network.[14] In November 2016, David received funding for Academic Family Tree from the National Science Foundation (NSF) SciSIP Program.[15] In July 2019, David again received funding for Neurotree from the NSF.[16]

Marsh (2017) pointed out that information for Neurotree and Academic Family Tree is provided by volunteers and it is not formally peer-reviewed.[1] She cautioned that this can mean their information is inaccurate.[1]

Relation to other academic genealogies[edit]

One other notable discipline-specific academic genealogy is the Mathematics Genealogy Project.[17] Academic Family Tree has its own mathematics tree, MathTree[18] but it is much less complete than the Mathematics Genealogy Project. As of 29 September 2023, MathTree contained 35,817 people[18] whereas the Mathematics Genealogy Project contained 297,268 people.[17]

One other general academic genealogy was PhD Tree.[19] PhD Tree ceased functioning some time after June 2017.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Marsh, E. J. (2017). "Family matters: Measuring impact through one's academic descendants". Perspectives on Psychological Science. 12 (6): 1130–1132. doi:10.1177/1745691617719759. PMID 29149581. S2CID 44835903.
  2. ^ Hart, R. E.; Cossuth, J. H. (2013). "A family tree of tropical meteorology's academic community and its proposed expansion". Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. 94 (12): 1837–1848. Bibcode:2013BAMS...94.1837H. doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-12-00110.1.
  3. ^ a b D'Urso, S. C.; Fyke, J. P. (2017). "Genealogy of the field". The International Encyclopedia of Organizational Communication. pp. 1–17. doi:10.1002/9781118955567.wbieoc086. ISBN 9781118955604.
  4. ^ a b c David, S. V.; Hayden, B. Y. (2012). "Neurotree: A collaborative, graphical database of the academic genealogy of neuroscience". PLOS ONE. 7 (10): e46608. Bibcode:2012PLoSO...746608D. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046608. PMC 3465338. PMID 23071595.
  5. ^ Patterson, M. M. (2011). "Two streams make a river: The rabbit in Richard F. Thompson's laboratory". Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. 95 (2): 106–110. doi:10.1016/j.nlm.2010.11.005. PMID 21111838. S2CID 34956906.
  6. ^ Soltesz, I. (2011). "The Brain Prize 2011: From microcircuit organization to constellations of brain rhythms". Trends in Neurosciences. 34 (10): 501–503. doi:10.1016/j.tins.2011.08.006. PMC 3392082. PMID 21917323.
  7. ^ Smith, G. P. (2011). "Stephen C. Woods: A precocious scientist". Physiology & Behavior. 103 (1): 4–9. doi:10.1016/j.physbeh.2010.12.027. PMID 21232549. S2CID 23118278.
  8. ^ Tebaykin, D.; Tripathy, S. J.; Binnion, N.; Li, B.; Gerkin, R. C.; Pavlidis, P. (2017). "Modeling sources of inter-laboratory variability in electrophysiological properties of mammalian neurons". Journal of Neurophysiology. 119 (4): 1329–1339. doi:10.1152/jn.00604.2017. PMC 5966732. PMID 29357465.
  9. ^ Liénard, Jean F.; Achakulvisut, Titipat; Acuna, Daniel E.; David, Stephen V. (2018). "Intellectual synthesis in mentorship determines success in academic careers". Nature Communications. 9 (4840): 4840. Bibcode:2018NatCo...9.4840L. doi:10.1038/s41467-018-07034-y. PMC 6258699. PMID 30482900.
  10. ^ a b c "Participating fields". The Academic Family Tree. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  11. ^ a b "About The Academic Family Tree". Academic Family Tree. Retrieved 29 September 2023.
  12. ^ "Oregon Hearing Research Center". Oregon Health & Science University.
  13. ^ "Benjamin Hayden | Experts Database". www.rochester.edu. Archived from the original on 2016-03-29.
  14. ^ "1.4 Million in Grants Awarded to Metaknowledge Projects – Knowledge Lab – The University of Chicago". www.knowledgelab.org.
  15. ^ "NSF Grants".
  16. ^ "NSF Award Search: Award # 1933675 - Collaborative Research: Social dynamics of knowledge transfer through scientific mentorship and publication".
  17. ^ a b "Welcome! - The Mathematics Genealogy Project". www.genealogy.math.ndsu.nodak.edu.
  18. ^ a b "MathTree".
  19. ^ "PhDTree: academic genealogy & family tree". 8 June 2017. Archived from the original on 8 June 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

External links[edit]