Steven Strogatz, the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences, is on the list for his 2001 work on random graph theory with postdoctoral researchers Mark Newman and Duncan Watts, Ph.D. ’97.

Random graph theory has been used for decades for mathematical purposes, but it’s been employed extensively in modeling real-world networks of various types.

The paper led to a host of other work, but Strogatz admits he had no idea it would be as influential as it has been. “We were just having fun, working together on a nice spring afternoon while sitting on the porch of my house,” he said. “Suddenly Mark Newman saw a neat way of approaching it, and the results just started pouring out of the three of us.”

Also in the top 50: Hans Bethe’s 1939 paper, “Energy Production in Stars,” for which 28 years later he won the Nobel Prize in physics; and a paper by the trio of Robert Richardson, David Lee and Douglas Osheroff, whose 1972 “Evidence for a New Phase of Solid He3” eventually earned them the 1996 physics Nobel.

*This story also appeared in the *Cornell Chronicle.