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Healing words: Bob Dylan lyrics inspire medical writings

(TNS) Bob Dylan is turning up all over the place in medical research.

The Minnesota-born music legend's poetic lyrics apparently are music to the ears of medical researchers, who love to quote him in their work. The number of Dylan references in biomedical literature has increased "exponentially" since 1990, a new study found.

There were more than 200 examples of papers that "unequivocally" cited Dylan, and many more that referenced his songs, according to findings published this week in the medical journal BMJ.

The two most cited Dylan songs are "The Times They are a-Changin'" — with 135 articles — and "Blowin' in the Wind" — with 36 articles.

The first known article quoting Dylan was published in the Journal of Practical Nursing in 1970, eight years after his debut album was released. Since then, his lyrics have popped up again and again in medical writings.

Some of the Dylan-inspired references are downright painful, such as the paper titled: "Knockin' on pollen's door: live cell imaging of early polarization events in germinating Arabidopsis pollen." The title refers to the song "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" from 1973.

Despite Dylan's popularity, citing his words in a paper did not lead to more attention from other researchers. Dylan-inspired articles are cited less than other similar articles.

The unusual study was sparked by the revelation last year that a group of scientists at the renowned Karolinska Institute in Sweden had been sprinkling Dylan lyrics into their papers as part of a long-running bet. That discovery prompted another research group at Karolinska to take a closer look at how many more people in the biomedical research world turned to Dylan for inspiration.


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