I'm currently looking for some advise concerning the correct way of mentioning people (i.e. inventors or scientists) in a (PhD) thesis. To clarify, I'm looking for a good way of phrasing "Method X was invented by Y". Which of the following sentences - if any - would be the best way?

  • Method X was invented by Doe
  • Method X was invented by John Doe
  • Method X was invented by John Doe (12 March 1899 - 22 April 1956)
  • Method X was invented by the Russian mathmatician and writer John Doe (12 March 1899 - 22 April 1956)

Personally, I think that it's appropriate to give some background (i.e. birth and death dates) for each newly introduced person. However, this might maybe be considered a bit too elaborated for a technical thesis.

  • I'd put such additional infos in a footnote, like everything else that is nice to know but clearly outside the topic of your work. – Karl Jun 5 '18 at 20:50
  • I put birth and date dates in a PhD thesis at first mention. Nobody cared. – Oleg Lobachev Jun 5 '18 at 22:42

Generally you should ask your advisor on that. It strongly depends on the discipline and probably the requirements of your parent institution. For example in my case the correct method was Method X was invented by Doe, but I have written a few works where the citation style was customarily Method X was invented by J. Doe as well as Method X was invented by John Doe.

On the other hand I can't remember any paper where an author would introduce biographical data of the people whose names are referred. You are generally not writing about those people but their ideas. Moreover, sometimes you may be unable to find the birth and death dates - what would you do in that case? Omit the data in case of few people where you were unable to find it?

  • 1
    This kind of minutia is not going to be regulated by "requirements of [the] parent institution", and shouldn't be up to the advisor. You need to choose your own writing style, and if you feel that it is appropriate to provide some background, as in your last suggestion, or even something more elaborate, go for it. – Andrés E. Caicedo Jun 5 '18 at 21:58

I think in non-STEM fields some biographical data can be accepted more likely than in STEM fields. However, if one writes that Doe invented method X, there's usually a publication to be cited, e.g. Method X, invented by Doe (1950), or Method X (Doe 1950), so this deals with explicitly mentioning the name of the inventor. On the other hand, if a numeric citation system (which I personally dislike) is used, than in many papers I've seen sentences like Doe [1] invented method X. An excerpt from my own paper:

The quantity H, introduced by H. E. Hurst in 1951 to model statistically the cycle of Nile floods [22,23], is...

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