The paper [1] of Seidel in 1976 is commonly cited when peoples mention two-graphs, but Taylor wrote down the concept of regular two-graph, which is stronger than two-graph in his PhD thesis [2] in 1971, in where he mentioned that regular two-graph was due to his advisor D.G.Higman. Seidel himself also pointed out in [3] that the concept of regular two-graph is due to Higman.

Now if I want to mention regular two-graph, then certainly Higman is the original contributor. But if I want to mention two-graphs in my paper, whom should I identify as the original contributor of the concept of two-graph?


[1] J.J.Seidel (1976)-A survey of two-graphs, Coll. Intern. Teorie Combin., Atti dei convegni Lincei 17, Roma, pp.481-511.

[2] D.E.TAYLOR (1971)-Some topics in the theory of finite groups, Ph.D. thesis, Univ. Oxford.

[3] J.J.Seidel (1992)-More about two-graphs, in Fourth Czechoslovakian Symposium on Combinatorics, Graphs and Complexity (J. Nesetril and M. Fiedler, Eds.), pp. 297-308.

  • 6
    Why not cite all three?
    – avid
    Sep 14, 2021 at 9:21
  • 4
    Why not put in a footnote saying what you do here?
    – Buffy
    Sep 14, 2021 at 10:42

1 Answer 1


It's common to attribute things something like this:

The study of regular two-graphs was initiated by Higman (see [Taylor], [Seidel]).


The study of regular two-graphs was initiated by Higman, followed by work of Taylor [Taylor] and Seidel [Seidel].

Depending on what you want to say. The point is it's fine, and reasonably common, to attribute something to a person even if that person didn't write the reference you cite.

FYI it's common for people to mess up or omit proper attributions in such situations, because they don't read the original references carefully enough to see who originated the idea.

  • How about I need to write down the concept of two-graph first? Taylor directly wrote down what is regular two-graph without introducing what is two-graph. Higman's original work is not findable. It is Seidel who wrote down what is a two-graph.
    – Alan Lao
    Sep 14, 2021 at 16:25
  • @AlanLao Are you saying Higman wrote something down and possibly published it? And just that you can't find it? If so you can still reference it and put something like "(see also [Seidel])" afterwards. Otherwise, you can just say "two-graphs were introduced by Higman (see [Seidel])".
    – Kimball
    Sep 14, 2021 at 16:33
  • I think Roger Penrose mentioned some example where a result was named after Gauss, even though Gauss was literally not aware of the result at all!
    – Tom
    Sep 14, 2021 at 22:07
  • 1
    @Kimball My impression is that Don Higman did a lot of work that he never published. So "not findable" looks plausible to me. Sep 14, 2021 at 23:27
  • @Kimball Since other authors explicitly credited Higman for regular two-graph, so this is not a problem even he did not publish it. But the question is: regular two-graph wad due to Higman, while it is not known whether two-graph was due to him. Say, regular two-graph is something satisfying A and B, but that does not say anything about what is a two-graph. Later Seidel published a work defining what is a two-graph, say, it is something satisfying just A.
    – Alan Lao
    Sep 24, 2021 at 17:22

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