Nature News has compiled a list of the 100 most highly cited papers, using data from Science Citation Index. Of the 58 million items analysed, only 14,499 have more than 1,o0o citations – the 1985 discovery of the hole in the ozone layer has 1,871 citations. It takes over 12,119 citations to make the top 100. Watson & Crick’s paper on the structure of DNA misses the cut (5,207 citations) although the first observation of carbon nanotubes is ranked 36th in the list (22,899 citations). Only three papers have more than 100,000 citations.
- 1951 Protein measurement with the folin phenol reagent: 305,148 citations
- 1970 Cleavage of structural proteins during the assembly of the head of bacteriophage T4: 213,005 citations
- 1976 A rapid and sensitive method for the quantitation of microgram quantities of protein utilizing the principle of protein-dye binding: 155,530 citations
The most highly cited paper describes an assay to determine the amount of protein in a solution; papers on experimental methods and software dominate the list.
http://www.nature.com/news/the-top-100-papers-1.16224#/interactive has more information, including full citations for the papers mentioned, a spreadsheet with the whole list, and interactive graphics.