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Magazines > Searcher > April 2005
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Vol. 13 No. 4 — April 2005
Online Before the Internet, Part 9
Early Pioneers Tell Their Stories: Interview with Melvin S. Day

by Susanne Bjørner • Bjørner & Associates
& Stephanie C. Ardito • Ardito Information & Research, Inc.

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5
Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Home

Since June 2003, Searcher has published interviews with four pioneers who were instrumental in the development of early commercial online systems (Carlos Cuadra, SDC;Roger Summit, Dialog; Richard Giering, LexisNexis; and Jan Egeland, BRS).

In this segment, we feature Melvin S. Day, often mentioned by the pioneers in this series as a champion and facilitator of new technologies that appeared throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Mr. Day began his government information career in 1946 at the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. As documents from the Manhattan Project were declassified, he was responsible for their indexing, creating what later was known as Nuclear Science Abstracts. Mr. Day went on to managerial positions at other major government agencies, among them NASA, National Science Foundation, National Library of Medicine, and National Technical Information Service, which in turn were influential in the development of early online systems.

Stephanie Ardito met with Mel Day in November 2004 at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C., to hear and record his story.

Your name has come up in virtually every interview we’ve done. Roger Summit and Carlos Cuadra mentioned you....

I was in the right place at the right time, that’s all. I was no genius. Technology was pretty bare when I started. We didn’t have much technology.

We have seen certain patterns in each pioneer’s early years. What were the influences in your childhood that brought you to information, or did the influences come later on in your life? I know you were a chemist.

Yes. I was a chemist, and I planned to be a chemist.

From when you were a child?

I always liked chemistry, but I haven’t done much with it since I got my degree. When WWII started, I was in college. The Army said, “Finish your education first, because we need chemists.” I don’t know whether they needed chemists or not, but in the Army, it didn’t make any difference.

That’s one common theme among the pioneers: Many got into information because of WWII service. When were you in the Army?

From 1944–1946. In 1943, The Army came to my college and interviewed all the chemistry majors. They selected two of us, my roommate and me. We were told that we would still have to write a senior thesis — in those days, you had to write a thesis in order to get a bachelor’s degree — and that we had to finish early, even though we expected to graduate in June. We fulfilled all our college requirements early in February. It was a hectic time.

The Manhattan Project

Day: The Army sent my roommate and me to Beverly, Mass., where we went to work in a small plant called Metal Hydrides, Inc. When we first arrived, we were taken to a rear entrance where there was a flat bed Railway Express truck. The back end of the truck was dragging on the ground. Across the back, there were boxes that were about 12 inches long and maybe 4 or 5 inches high. That’s all there was on the truck, and it was dragging on the ground. I said, “Gee, don’t you think we ought to put some new springs on that truck?”

We didn’t know what we would be working on, but later, we found out that it was natural uranium. At that time, we weren’t told how the uranium was to be used.

After the end of World War II, we learned that the purified uranium ingots were used by Dr. Enrico Fermi’s group in the first successful reactor built in Stagg Stadium at the University of Chicago. At the plant in Beverly, we used a metal hydrides process to purify the uranium. This was a government contract, under the Manhattan Project.

Beverly is a beautiful little town, just across the river from Salem, Mass. But my roommate and I didn’t like our jobs, because in a small town, you couldn’t go into a restaurant — you couldn’t go anyplace — without people saying, “How come you’re not fighting in the war?”

Fighting for a Uniform

Day : It became very uncomfortable. We told the Army officer in charge of the plant that we were unhappy, and he said to me, “The Navy is looking for radar officers. With your background, you probably have most of the qualifications. Why don’t you go to the First Navy District in Boston and tell them you would like to get in?”

I went to the Navy office. I got a complete physical checkup, and the Naval officer, who was a lieutenant commander, said, “I have to send papers to Washington to get approved. It’ll probably take a week, and then I’ll call you. I want you to get measured for a uniform; we want you in the program right away.” I said, “Fine.”

Everybody else I knew was in the Army or Navy. In those days, it was the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. There was no U.S. Air Force; the Air Force was the U.S. Army Air Corps. I liked my work, and I liked Beverly, but “able-bodied” young men were not welcome. We were called slackers or worse. Why? We were losing our soldiers all the time. There were more gold stars being hung in the house windows up and down the streets, and it became very, very uncomfortable.

As I left the Navy office, the lieutenant commander said, “By the way, get a release from your Army officer.” I went back to my Army officer, but he said, “I can’t give you a release.” I asked why he had sent me to the Navy office. He responded, “I thought if they wanted you bad enough, they would find a way to get you a release from the Army.”

He went on, “I have to go to New York.” [That’s where the Army headquarters were. That’s why they called it the Manhattan Project.] “I’ll get in touch with you as soon as I can.” The next day, he came back and said, “I’m sorry, we can’t let you go into the Navy, but we have a great place for you down south. We’ll triple your pay.” I said, “What do you mean you’ll triple my pay?” I was making 90 cents an hour! [Laughter.]

The Army officer said, “You’ll love it. You’ll have a top job. We own a major laboratory down there.” I replied, “I’m not interested if I’m not going to be in uniform.” He said, “I can’t get you a uniform.” I said, “OK, I’m giving you 2 weeks’ notice. Get somebody here for me to train to take my place.” My roommate told the officer the same.

I went home. My mother wasn’t terribly happy when I told her what I was going to do. Mothers are rarely ready to send their sons into the military, versus a civilian job. I went to the draft board and said, “You can reclassify me.” I was 2B. “No problem,” they replied, “we can make you 1A.” When I left the draft board, the recruiter said, “Every 12 days, if you pick up the Lewiston morning paper” — that’s where I came from in Maine — “you’ll see about a dozen men going into the service. If it isn’t this next time, it’ll be the time after.”

I picked up the newspaper about 10 days later, and there were 12 guys listed, but Mel Day wasn’t in that group. I went back to the draft board. The recruiter said, “We can’t draft you.” I asked, “What do you mean you can’t draft me? The Army wants people. I’m in good shape. I’ve passed the Navy physical exam. Why can’t you draft me?” He showed me a letter and a thick file, and said, “We get correspondence and phone calls from the Army every week about Melvin Day.”

Then I, too, started getting phone calls from the Army, because they wanted to send me south to the laboratory. I kept saying, “If you want me down there, you’ve got to put me in uniform.” For 3 months, this argument went on, and, finally, they drafted me. I went into the Army. They sent me to Fort McLellan, Ala., an infantry replacement training center.

In the Army Now

Day : In 1944, everyone went in as infantry replacement, because we were losing lots of men. I went in, and I was a good soldier. I took my job very seriously. I was young and in good shape. I had had physical training in college as part of the Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP) or Naval Reserve Program.

After 17 weeks of basic infantry training, I was put in charge of 16 men and sent by train to Oak Ridge, Tenn. I was assigned to the same job that the Army tried unsuccessfully to get me to take as a civilian. I was a laboratory director, and I can’t tell you much about my assignment, but I was happy in that job. It was important and personally fulfilling.

I put 2 years in the Army. They made me part of a group of 38 men who were sent to Oakland Army Base. We were supposed to go out on the Bikini tests. That’s when they planned to explode a nuclear device among a concentration of outdated Navy ships. But the day we got to San Francisco, President Truman postponed the tests for 8 weeks, because he wanted to invite the Soviets. Why? I don’t know. When you were involved in the Manhattan Project, you never asked questions. I knew what I was doing. I knew what my people were doing. I didn’t know what anybody else was doing. Only my boss knew what I was doing.Today, we would say it was a terrible communications system.

Becoming a Scientific Analyst

Day : When I was transferred to Oak Ridge, I was assigned to review and declassify Army reports. I was technical, so I knew something about what we were doing and how to do it. I consumed many reports. This is how I got into the information business as a scientific analyst.

One day, the major in charge of our plant said, “Day, what am I going to do with all these declassified reports?” I asked if we could distribute them to contractors. He said, “That’s a good idea, but I don’t know anything about that stuff.” I said, “Major, I don’t know anything about it either.” He said, “You find out about it.”

In those days, you could get any personnel you needed, so I said, “Get me a top notch librarian.”

Had you had any experiences with librarians?

I didn’t know much about them.

You just knew you needed a top notch one! [Laughter.]

I didn’t know anyone else in the business. They set up an operation, took me off reviewing classified reports, and assigned me to the director of that particular component.

Was there anything going on with computers then?

No. Nobody had computers. It was all paper in those days. The librarians catalogued and indexed reports that were declassified. At first when they indexed a report — it might have been 30, 40, 50, sometimes 60 pages in length — they would assign three subject headings. The librarians created three cards, but it became obvious, very shortly, that three cards wouldn’t satisfy the technical people. They couldn’t find what they were looking for! The technical people agreed that the librarians could use up to 30 subject headings, plus a card for each author name, and one for the report number. On average, a set of cards for each report totaled in excess of 35. The cards were provided to each AEC laboratory, AEC R&D contractor, and to cooperating U.S. government agencies. I soon found out that most of the catalog card sets were still in boxes, because there were no people to file them! Obviously, we had to do something else.

The Birth of Nuclear Science Abstracts

Day : We had a great librarian, Albert Warheit. He had a doctorate in librarianship. Warheit said, “Let’s put out a starter document; we’ll call it Abstracts of Declassified Documents, ADD. We began that in 1946, and soon changed the name to Nuclear Science Abstracts. We put a subject index, an author index, and a report number index in each monthly issue.

In those days, none of the abstract journals in science had indexes, except an annual index that might come out 6 months to a year later. We were the first scientific abstract journal to put indexes in each issue. I don’t claim credit for that; Albert Warheit did it. He was good.

This is all still without automation, but we had proportional spacing typewriters, so each page resembled the format of a traditional book page. Both the left and right margins on each page were “justified” to resemble traditional typesetting, and each page looked like it was fresh off the printing press. The Treasury Department had reduced the size of the $1, $5 and $10 bills—they were smaller. So they had surplus dies to cut cards for the big bill, and they wanted to get rid of them. That’s how we created the ADD format and columns.

Along the top of each card we would type the index entry; that way people could refer to the report number. We typed the cards, and every night we sorted them and sorted them and sorted them. Then we would lay them out, tape them, and take a picture of the page.

Wherever they overlapped, there would be a shadow line, which we would opaque out to have a good-looking page. We didn’t have any computers. We did it that way until we got an IBM 1401 computer in the early 1960s. We acquired one of the first ones.

This was a long story, but that’s how I got into the information field. And that is the genesis of Nuclear Science Abstracts.

Nearly every pioneer we’ve interviewed has mentioned Nuclear Science Abstracts as one of the first databases that went online, whether it was on Dialog or SDC.…

It isn’t that somebody just dreams up these things. It’s usually the result of analyzing to find out what the problems are and then trying to solve them. One problem leads to another. That’s how technology develops. We never would have had a 360 computer if it weren’t for the military. The government underwrote the development of those computers by IBM. The Department of Defense needed the powerful capabilities of the 360 family for its weapons and missile programs, as did AEC and NASA for their programs.

Automation at the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC)

When did you leave the Army?

I was discharged in 1946, but I agreed to come back immediately.

So you went back to the AEC in Oak Ridge as a civilian?

Yes. From 1946 until 1958, I worked for the AEC in Oak Ridge, and then, in 1958, the AEC transferred me to Washington, D.C. I was in the weapons program for 17 years.

You had a few positions at the Atomic Energy Commission. According to our research, you were assistant chief of the AEC’s Technical Information Service (TIS) and automated it. Can you tell me how the information systems were developed?

The overall direction and administration of the AEC was in Washington. I headed the Technical Information Service extension office in Oak Ridge, with 200 employees who created and maintained the central atomic energy databases. We had a large production facility for producing Nuclear Science Abstracts in microfiche and printed copies; it covered nuclear science reports (classified and unclassified), classified abstract journals, nuclear science books, and translations.

The AEC in Washington was pleased with the job I was doing in Oak Ridge and transferred me to Washington in 1958, as Director of the Technical Information Service. At that time, I was 35 years old and the youngest Division Director in the Headquarters Office. My indoctrination into the committee structure in Washington was immediate and a major learning experience. I made many new friends who were very helpful then, as well as for years later.

Did you start to work with mechanized systems and punch cards in Washington?

No. We were doing some of that at Oak Ridge in the late 1950s. A lot of the initial technology we had was developed in the late 1950s and the early 1960s. We didn’t get one of the IBM 360 series until the mid-1960s. From the serial number on our first 360 computer, I could tell it was one of the first models.

In 1958, you were using IBM punch card equipment?

Yes. We used IBM punch cards to sort. That’s it, for the most part. We used the computer as a printer, although in the beginning, we used a typewriter mostly. Al Warheit and Bernard Fry get credit for that. Bernard Fry was in Washington; he was the top librarian for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. When he left the government, he became dean of the school of information science at Indiana University. He was a very capable professional.

The Space Age: From AEC to NASA

How did you go from the AEC to NASA?

The top governance board of the AEC consisted of six scientists; reporting to them was a general manager. The general manager ran the overall AEC operations; policy came from the Commission. As a division director, I reported to the general manager. President Eisenhower selected a member of the AEC to be one of the first heads of NASA. The man Eisenhower selected liked the job I was doing; I always made it a point to take care of my bosses. After awhile, he knew that he could come to me and get what he wanted. I never turned down a job. Any time my bosses gave me one, I took it. If they had a tough job and nobody else would do it, I would, unless it was some technology where I was not proficient. Then, I wouldn’t take it, and I always explained why.

So, in 1960, I went to NASA.

And the jobs you took on still had to do with documents?

Yes. It was the information area. When the AEC transferred me to Washington in 1958, I had overall responsibility for both the Washington and Oak Ridge scientific and technical information operations. But, I had a lot to learn about working in Washington.

How did you learn? Did you have mentors?

You learn from everybody. When I was at Oak Ridge, I took on every single job they had. If our people were indexing, I’d spend time with them and learn how they indexed. And I would go on, no matter what it was. I would learn from the people doing the jobs.

Was it interesting?

Of course. I figured that someday, maybe, I would have a more responsible job in Oak Ridge, in the information wing. It was to my advantage to learn as much as I possibly could. I had been in situations where I had been in charge of technical people whose own interest was their number one priority, and that was not necessarily the program’s top priority. I learned early on. I worked at every job. I would go and wrap bundles. I would operate the cutting machine that cut the cards. I could understand the problems they had. And when they came to me with a problem, I could make a good judgment, not one out of ignorance.

Our reading and the other pioneers tell us that you are credited with expanding information services within the various government agencies where you worked.

Well, because I worked myself up to the top jobs in all of them. One of the reasons I left the Atomic Energy Commission was because I could see that I was not going to be able to continue to change what they were doing and how they were doing it. They had so much invested in the status quo that people claimed that was the only way that they could do it.

Well, that’s not necessarily true. New exciting technology was exploding around them, and many of them missed opportunities to adapt and use in new ways the nascent power that was theirs for the taking. So, when I got that chance to go to the space program, I did. I could almost start from scratch, and I wanted the chance to make our information programs the best in the world.


Day : My budget the first year at NASA was $75,000 — not much. The first thing I did was to develop two detailed plans on how to reorganize and set up the NASA information program. I spelled out every job description, the salaries, what it would cost if I did it on contract, and what it would cost if I did it in-house. I developed detailed implementation plans that I just knew the boss would love. When I made my pitch to him, I said, “This is what I recommend.” He bought it.

Were you directly involved with the publication of STAR, the Scientific and Technical Aerospace Reports?

Yes, I named the abstract journal, and I laid out the detailed specifications and implementation plan, including all physical space and system requirements. I did all of this by myself.

Working Through COSATI and ASIS

Throughout your government service, you awarded contracts to many companies. Roger Summit told us of Bunker-Ramo …

Roger Summit was a major supporter. Roger had an online system. He came to me. I wanted a top-notch online system.

But how did Roger know you?

I was very active. I was president of ASIS [1975–1976], and I knew all the top leaders in the business. They would come to me if I didn’t go to them.

Nearly everyone we’ve talked to has said, “We have to go to Mel Day. Mel’s got the money. He can give us the contracts.” How did you get known? How did you find out about ASIS? How did you become involved with the information groups?

When I went to Washington in 1958, I became a member of COSATI (Committee on Scientific and Technical Information), which reported to the President’s science advisor.

COSATI served as a coordinating mechanism for the major federal scientific and technical information activities. It was made up of all the leading officers of the government’s major scientific information programs. I represented AEC. Our COSATI office was in the Executive Office Building next to the White House. The chairman was a three-star general from the Department of Defense. It was a wonderful opportunity for me to interact and work with the major decision makers within the scientific and technical information field.

Through COSATI, we coordinated our growth and technical development. When I transferred to NASA to head up what was then its sleepy scientific and technical information program, I became the NASA member of COSATI, and, in 1970, I became the chairman of COSATI.

Dr. Burt Adkinson, who was head of the Office of Science Information Service, the National Science Foundation, was also an important player. He provided funding support mostly to not-for-profit science information services, such as the Chemical Abstracts Service, the American Physical Society, and BIOSIS. ASIS got its first funding from the National Science Foundation.

Ins and Outs of Government Contracts

I’m trying to get a feel for that time in the information industry history. Roger Summit is developing Dialog. Carlos Cuadra is developing ORBIT at SDC. But, it’s Roger who comes to you.…

Carlos was a contractor of the National Library of Medicine. Under contract to NLM, he was helping to develop the Library’s MEDLARS system.

When I got a software program, I would offer it to all my colleagues in the government. I wanted it to get used throughout the U.S. government. We also made some of our NASA information software available to the British, the French, and the European Space Agency. In return, they gave us their quarterly aerospace reports, which we wanted for our NASA database for use by U.S. contractors, government agencies, and other cooperating organizations.

This is the software for the RECON system?

Yes. When we at NASA installed our major online package, RECON, I offered it to a number of federal agencies who contracted with Roger Summit for the installation and modification of RECON in their working environment. By working together, we developed a network of the major agency information systems.

Each agency was the primary information processor of R&D technical reports in the subject area for which it had principal responsibility. We shared with our sister agencies, and they shared with my agency, NASA, machine readable records (abstracts and detailed indexing in a standard format) of reports. An example of this was the exchange arrangement that NASA had with the Department of Defense. Both NASA and DoD benefited, and, at the same time, the two agencies saved taxpayers the expense of duplicating the processing costs for those reports that we both needed for our agency programs.

Roger Summit was upset with me initially. He said, “You cut off all my contracts.” I said, “I haven’t cut off your contracts. Every organization that received our RECON software is looking for ways to improve it. They need help, and your package opens the door for you to help them.” Roger is most capable and he knew exactly what to do.

When we interviewed Roger, he said, “The largest database I knew about was the NASA database …”

Well that may be true.

“… Which was three hundred thousand citations …”

That’s right, 350 …

“… Mel Day was well-known for his work in developing the NASA database. I went to see Mel Day in Washington and said, ‘We have this new technology that’s really great.’” This is what Roger told us you said: “‘Look Roger, I have a couple dozen people a week come in here and tell me their computer programs can do everything but read my mind in terms of information retrieval. You have to demonstrate something to me.’”

That’s right, I told him that. He did exactly what he said he was going to do.

But then, Roger said he was surprised that when he came back to you, you had given a contract to Bunker-Ramo.

Bunker, that was nothing! That was only a little piece. I had lots of little contracts. [Laughter.]

You were giving out awards everywhere, right?

It’s hard to get everything that you need from one organization, that’s all.

Bunker-Ramo’s main business was with the Feds. They had developed some software for something, and I always tried to keep up with the latest developments. And sometimes, you couldn’t find out about them unless you gave them a small contract.

One of the things that Roger Summit said was that Bunker-Ramo didn’t do so great, at least for your agency.

No, they didn’t. So I dropped them.

Then he said there was a large RFP that came out in 1967, where you had 20 system requirements, and Dialog was able to meet 19 of them, and that’s when he got his first big contract.

That’s right.

Government-Commercial Cooperation and Competition

Tell me about your personal experience with computers and when you first became aware of the IBM.

We started using computers at the Atomic Energy Commission, some of the first models that came out. In order to get a computer, money had to be approved in advance by Congress. You prepared your budget a year ahead of time. I needed the computers, but I couldn’t get them right away. That was part of the problem. Networking is very important, and if I teach my kids anything, I say, “Network.” There are a lot of very capable people around. You never know when they can be of help to you, or you can be of help to them.

So was it in your nature to be outgoing?

Absolutely. I always gave others the credit. I didn’t take it. Roger deserved the credit. He developed the system; I didn’t develop any system.

The other pioneers also want to give you credit …

And I appreciate that.

… because you had the appreciation for information and you gave them opportunities.

That I would do. There’s no question.

Quite frankly, from what Roger said to us, I don’t know if there would have been a Dialog if you hadn’t given him that opportunity.

You know, there was an industrial information community. They would fight me every step of the way, because they thought the government was in competition with them. Because the government, as a matter of practice, was always building its information programs as internal systems.

In 1960, when I assumed responsibility for designing and implementing the new comprehensive NASA technical information program, other federal agencies were operating their own internal technical information programs. Many private sector information processing organizations at that time joined the Information Industry Association (IIA) feeling that the federal government was competing directly with them.

When I joined the NASA staff and learned this, I requested a joint meeting with all members of IIA in order to brief them on the NASA technical information program and to disabuse them of their mistaken judgment that NASA was competing unfairly. They were shocked that I would take on all the IIA member organizations, and they looked forward to lambasting and crushing me in an open meeting, with the press in attendance. From my work at the AEC, I had learned that the judicious use of “sweet reasonableness” in my opening statement would disarm them. When I finished with my statement, there was silence, then loud applause.

No one arose to challenge me, and no one officially objected to my plan to seek a contractor to operate the comprehensive NASA information program. After that meeting, I never received any complaints from IIA or any of its individual members. Thereafter, I had a standing invitation to attend IIA’s annual meetings.

You understood the importance of commercial developments.

Of course. Private enterprise can do things we can’t. They can get people we can’t get access to. And they had people I could do business with. I could trust them, and they could trust me.

Did you know that from the start, or was it just instinct?

Most of it was instinct. During World War II, every U.S. Army mess hall had a huge banner emblazoned with a painting of a terrapin with the statement, “The terrapin can’t take one step unless he sticks its neck out.” I was willing to stick my neck out, and it helped if somebody else was willing to stick his neck out, too. That gave one a little more reassurance. I knew these people; they were very capable.

Tell me what was happening inside the government at your own agencies. If you were involved with getting contracts from the outside, and networking to find.…

I had to go through the same budget cycle as any program in the government. I had to budget a year ahead. In most cases, Congress only appropriates money for 1 year. And not only that, if you as a government official spend more money than you’ve been authorized to spend, they can put you in jail. This protects taxpayers, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it makes it kind of rough at times when your political pressure is coming not from the taxpayer, but from the guy above you who’s a politician. I worked for the federal government for 35 years, and, when necessary, I would stick my neck out. At times, this was the only way to make any progress.

The Three C’s

What did you see in the information field that made you take those risks? Did you think information was a hot commodity?

I realized early on that information was a hot commodity. During my assignment for 14 years in the AEC technical information program, I planned and incorporated system improvements and cost savings. I maintained a blueprint of all the changes I wanted to make.

I’ve always felt that in my field, the three C’s are the most important: Content, Communication, and Computers. I wanted to have a strong personal leadership capability and job knowledge in all three C’s. My last job was as executive vice president of a telecommunications company. We were setting up a network in Latin America.

Was this GlobeNet?

Yes. At GlobeNet, we didn’t plan a major communication network for the U.S., because a number of U.S. organizations were already doing that very effectively. Instead, we concentrated on a plan to combine highly profitable, Latin American computerized electronic telecommunication systems into a single telecom network.

Communication is important. The big problem between human beings today is communication. I can talk to you and give you a message, but unless you receive the message the way I intend it to be received, it may not mean anything.

Tell me more about computers. Do you remember when you saw your first computer?

No. I didn’t mark it down. I was just so excited about seeing it.

Did you use computers yourself?

I would use them, but I always had people who could do it for me. When I went to school, only women took typing. The men would take shop, carpentry, something like that. Many of the women would become secretaries or clerks, and they needed to learn to type.

Carlos Cuadra said the same thing.

So I never learned how to type. If you watch me type, it’s painful.

Public vs. Government Interests

Can you tell me more about RECON — what it was, what it did, how you were involved. RECON keeps coming up in interviews with other pioneers.

RECON was the first move toward networking … a major move. At the same time that we were doing RECON, ARPA (Advanced Research Project Agency) set up a system for those who had R&D contracts with the Department of Defense. Subsequently, this became the major building block for the Internet. The government essentially underwrote a huge portion of the operating costs. Otherwise, it never would have happened. Even potential users in the most undeveloped countries in the world could get access to the same system. ARPA made a big difference.

You were at the Atomic Energy Commission for 14 years, then NASA for 10 years, and then you went to the National Science Foundation for 2 years. Can you talk more about the NSF experience?

People would come to get money to do things, and the things they wanted to do were things that I wanted to do. I would much rather be in the doing portion, than going after the money.

So your function at NSF was to look at RFPs and grants and to determine.…

Yes. NSF made grants to each of the major U.S. science information systems, like physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics. That was done by Burt Adkinson. Burt came from the Library of Congress. His approach was different from mine. This is what I didn’t like at NSF.

Burt said to just give them the money; it wasn’t important whether or not one system would talk to another. My position was, if you’re going to use public funds, then the public ought to benefit. And the way the public benefits is if they can talk to each other. You see, if we hadn’t done that, you wouldn’t have much of the national network that we have today.

This reminds me of today’s Open Access argument.

I’ve heard about that, but I don’t know very much about it.

Open Access and Page Charges

Major funding for scientific research comes from the government. University researchers who are awarded government funds publish in journals that are owned by for-profit publishers, for which libraries and individuals have to pay thousands of dollars for subscriptions or the purchase of individual articles. Many say now that if the government is funding so much of this research, the findings should be available to the public for free, or for very little money, because tax dollars are supporting the activity.

I think that probably makes sense. Commercial publishers will make money regardless. I guarantee you they’re not going out of business. They’ve taken advantage of that in the past, for some of the things that they charge. If the public didn’t provide the funds for them to publish, a lot of research would not get published.

I see the argument between the technical people and the librarians. Whose ox will get gored? It’s a problem. It seems to me that in order to respond to that, they have to come up with something where they both gain. And do it in such a way that it appears to be equitable to both parties and the communities they serve.

The prestige is to publish in peer-reviewed journals, such as The New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA, etc.

Of course. Burt Adkinson, in his role as head, Office of Science Information Service, National Science Foundation, testified repeatedly in support of Congress providing funds to federal science agencies to pay page charges. This policy would have ensured that results of federal research and development would always be available to the scientific community.

Research and development continually feeds on the results of other R&D, and, without the payment of page charges, there was no guarantee that the results would be published and available to science for use in supporting other R&D. I backed this policy, because, at that time, there was no satisfactory alternative. When Dr. Adkinson retired from NSF in 1970, I was selected to replace him.

NLM Backup: SUNY’s Biomedical Communications Network (BCN)

You were at NLM [National Library of Medicine] for 6 years, from 1972–1978. Can you tell me about that?

I was not a medical doctor, so in keeping with long-held federal practice, it was highly unlikely that I — or anyone else without a medical degree — would become director of NLM. I was deputy director. I could never become director.

There were a lot of things going on at NLM. Carlos Cuadra told us that SDC sued NLM. SDC had loaded the MEDLINE database, and, from what I understand, the National Library of Medicine wanted to distribute that database with the SDC software to any number of places and not pay SDC for it. Of course, SDC wouldn’t allow it because the software was proprietary. Were you involved in any of that with SDC?

No. During that period, I was heavily involved in a number of other issues of great importance to the Director.

Coincidentally, when I was at NLM, the State University of New York [SUNY] was set up to back up our information systems. If our system ever went down, we just pushed a button, and our users were instantly connected to the BCN computer that had our database and software program online. The user on the other end didn’t know anything about it. He didn’t see anything different. It looked the same, like he was in the National Library of Medicine. We underwrote those costs when I was there.

The July/August and November/December 2004 issues of Searcher have our interview with Jan Egeland, who worked at BCN and went on to co-found BRS.

Jan was very good.

So you knew her?

Yes. If you have a system, you have to have backup. Otherwise, it could have been disastrous. We assigned top priority to the quality of our service, and the quality of the backup service provided by BCN for online users of MEDLINE was of the highest importance. To the best of my recollection, we did not experience any major downtime with the backup service when I was at NLM.

What about MEDLARS?

The manager who oversaw the service was Kent Smith. He just retired. He’s very good. He became Deputy Director of NLM when I accepted the position of Director, National Technical Information Service, at the U.S. Department of Commerce. We have been very, very close friends.

NLM Research

Day : Congress strongly supported NLM and often appropriated more money for NLM than the President’s budget requested. At the National Library of Medicine, by law, the U.S. Congress established the Lister Hill Center for Biomedical Communications. We ran a research program in conjunction with the Indian Health Service in Alaska. We had our own 10-foot satellite dish. All the Indian villages in Alaska had somebody trained to provide some kind of health service, some more than others. All were tied into a central hospital in Alaska.

They had an open line, similar in functional ways to the telephone “party” lines that I used in the 1920s and 1930s. When I was a youngster and the telephone rang three times, I knew that the call was for the next-door neighbor. If it rang four times, it was for a neighbor down the street, etc. Everybody would listen to everyone’s conversations. Alaska had a similar system.

The big problem we had in Alaska was that it was close, relatively speaking, to the Northern Lights. Radio waves generally follow the curvature of the earth. Northern Lights can interfere with radio waves, so we had a lot of interference. Regular radio sometimes would work, sometimes not. In health situations, that could cost lives. So, everything was tied into the satellite system.

The health aide in each Alaskan Indian village had a designated time when he would call the medical doctors at the Indian Health Service Hospital. Using the satellite, the health aide would explain the patient conditions and ask the doctors for instructions on what to do.

If they wished, the other health aides could listen in, too, so this was a great education program. We at NLM in Washington, D.C., and the health aides in Alaska, were connected to the ATS-6 satellite physically located over Alaska. The experiment was a smash hit, and it saved lives. The State of Alaska, which had money because of the oil, then bought their own satellite. Today, the system is basically the same as when I was working at NLM. That’s what I liked about NLM — getting involved in projects like that. It was fun, and NLM did quite a bit of good.

On to NTIS [National Technical Information Service]

Day : When I got to NLM, I knew I wasn’t going to get the top job, but I figured I would stay on, contribute to my fullest, and then retire. I would have done that except I had a call from the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce one night when I was having dinner. He said, “I understand that you’re not terribly happy at NLM.” I said, “No. I don’t think it’s doing the job that it should be doing. I’m not pointing a finger at anybody, but the public is getting short-changed.” He said, “Tell me about it.” I said, “I don’t think you want to hear it.”

He said, “I wouldn’t have called if I didn’t want to hear it.” I talked to him nonstop for 40 minutes. The Secretary said, “If you think you’re so damn smart, why don’t you come over here and do something?” [Laughter.] I went and talked to my boss at NLM, Dr. Martin Cummings, and he said, “I hope you know what you’re doing.” I said, “There is no chance that I could ever get a director position at NIH.” Dr. Cummings said, “You know NIH. At NIH, if you have an MD, that’s the top layer; if you have a Ph.D., that’s a lower layer. After that, they may not pay any attention to you.”

So, in 1978, I accepted the director’s job at the National Technical Information Service [NTIS]. When I got there, the Assistant Secretary called me and said, “Mel, I’ve read some of the things you’ve been doing. You have 12 months to make this NTIS service self-supporting.”

Twelve months! This meant that after 12 months, I had to run NTIS with no funding support from the U.S. Congress.

That’s not very long.

We were shipping 22,000 items a day when I was there. And we were doing $30+ million worth of business. We made a lot of changes. I made NTIS self-supporting the first year I was there. After I left, they became non-self-supporting again. Today, I don’t know whether it’s self-supporting or not, but it’s only a shadow of what it was before.

At NLM or NTIS, were you involved with the automation systems that were being developed?

I didn’t have hands-on. I had the top job, and you have to let staff people do their work. We had a great staff of computer and automation experts at NLM, and I learned a lot from the NLM experts. At NTIS, our automation and computer expert staff were not as strong, and its systems and development staff required a larger segment of my time.

Contracting Out

We talked earlier about contracts.…

NASA was set up completely as a contract operation. I had NASA operating fully in 30 days. In 30 days, we were putting out an abstract journal that looked like the AEC nuclear energy abstract journal, but the NASA abstract journal covered space science and technology reports. But I couldn’t do that within the government. I would have been hiring people for the next 8 or 10 months and then training them.

Did the National Library of Medicine contract out very much?

Yes. They had contracts out for abstracts and indexes.

What about NTIS in comparison?

NTIS didn’t contract out much. Let me explain about contracting. I had a fight at NASA.

NASA was built on the old NACA, the National Advisory Committee of Aeronautics, that supported all aviation and aviation-related research. Everything they did was in-house. All the wind tunnels in the country were owned by the government. Why does the government own all the wind tunnels? I don’t know, but they do. Somebody passed a law, and they own all the wind tunnels. [Laughter.] As a result, NASA never contracted out.

So when Mel Day came into NASA as this new guy, and the boss approved my request to contract out, most NASA senior staff wouldn’t talk to me. They figured, “If NASA is going to go this way now, we may be next.” When we were fully operational in just 30 days, I had a call from Dr. Hugh Dryden, the Deputy Director of NASA. He was formerly the chief operating officer of NACA. When this new space agency was set up, the NACA aeronautic programs were merged into NASA. Dryden became the Deputy. Good man, there’s no question about that. He called me in, and said, “Mel, I want you to know that I lobbied strongly against contracting. I also want you to know that you had 60 days to get the work done or you were out of the job. Did anybody ever tell you?” Well, nobody ever told me a thing. They didn’t say I had 5 days, or 60 days, or 6 months. I just figured that we had to operate as fast as we could, which we did. Dryden said, “I just want you to know that I have become your supporter.”

So, how do you get things done? That’s how you get things done. I could always get what I needed, but I didn’t abuse my own lobbying power.

Intuition and Choices

You jumped from agency to agency. At NLM, you said you would never be the director,so you knew you had to move on, but was there something else that motivated you to keep going to different agencies?

The choices were there.

In your experience with all these agencies, when Dialog started up, SDC, and then BRS….

Let me tell you about SDC. When we set up at the Atomic Energy Commission, our basic system back then was not the best after the Space Agency came along. Not because I wasn’t there. It was just a mess. I could start from scratch, which we did. I gave my software, briefings, and any help that was needed to any federal agency that wanted it.

To any federal agency?

Any federal agency. Who else was I going to give it to? It was federal funds. I could justify that. I didn’t have to get anybody’s approval. I offered it to the National Library of Medicine.

I offered my colleagues the whole software program, and told them they could start from this point and move it on. When I was introduced to the staff at the directors staff meeting at NIH, I was introduced as a chemist. I wasn’t a working chemist in those days. I was a professional information specialist. But my boss knew that if he introduced me as an information specialist, everybody would yawn and go to sleep. Although I wasn’t an active, practicing chemist at that time, I was, hopefully, a productive information scientist who was pushing technology to its limits.

Roger Summit and Carlos Cuadra had psychology backgrounds, but if you ask them — and this is another similarity among you all — they will say that first and foremost they are information scientists.

Yes. They started something new. They made a major contribution, no question.

Licensing Databases

Were you involved with the marketing and licensing of the databases?

Yes. In fact, when I was at NTIS, we licensed government patents for a number of agencies; they gave us the responsibility to license their patents.

Did you directly negotiate licenses for online databases that went up on Dialog, SDC, and BRS?

Yes. If you’re the private sector, that’s fine, but I expected them to pay the same rates that anybody else pays to do the same thing. By the same token, I expected the public to recoup some of the investment it’s made. This is developed with public funds and the public ought to get something back. I don’t believe in giving it away. The public paid high taxes for it.

You always seemed to champion going to the outside, which is different than our other pioneers.

Right. The good lord put me in certain places at certain times. I could have had the same ability, the same genes, the same everything, and nobody ever heard of me.

We have that discussion all of the time. Is it fate, is it planning, or is it luck?

Well, it’s a little of everything. You have to look back in order to look ahead.

But it’s interesting to me that you had a chemistry degree, but you go totally into the information field

Because it was there.

… because it was there and your inner core took advantage of that.

That’s exactly right. I saw certain things other people didn’t see.

Consulting Experience

Let’s talk about the early 1980s. This is when you went out on your own.…

People came after me; I didn’t have to go out on my own.

In 1982, you were the vice president of the Information Technology Group?

Information Technology Group was a contract. I’ll tell you what I refused to do. This may be one of my weaknesses. I had a fantastic government career. One thing that I swore I would never do was to go and be a salesman. In a way, I was a salesman. I sold my people, I sold my management, I sold other organizations. But I wasn’t selling me. I was selling a program.

A lot of government people, when they retire, get a job for a year and the company that hires them wants them to go out and get the contracts from the place where they worked before. I wouldn’t do that. I said I wouldn’t.

So when you left the government, it was your own choice?

Yes. At that stage of the game, because of my position and because I had international jobs, I had a pretty good reputation.

You had a reputation for asking tough questions?

I didn’t think they were tough questions. [Laughter.]

Reasonable questions?

Reasonable questions, yes. Not all my questions were tough. I would ask my people tough questions. I was probably a pretty good manager. My people liked me, I took care of them and gave them all the credit. I never took any credit.

When you left the government, how did you decide what consulting projects to take on?

All of a sudden, the private sector people became close allies. In the past, they always held me at arm’s length because they were afraid of me. With the systems that I set up and with the support that I had, I could have given them a bad time.

Look at all of the information you knew!

I did not go out looking for jobs, because frankly, I was tired, even though I was relatively young. I worked 6 days and 6 nights a week, and I’m afraid the ones that may have suffered were my children. Although they claim they didn’t, I know they did. There’s only so much time, you know. But I was living at home, and that was a big advantage. I always set aside 1 day on a weekend that was nothing but the family. The kids grew up, and then it worked out fine.

People came after me, and when they wanted me to sell stuff, I would tell them, “I hope you don’t misunderstand. This is no reflection on the government or the offer that is being made, but this is not what I want to do.” This thing that I wanted to do down in South America appealed because we could do something for that part of the world. This country is too far advanced; I’m not going to add to its technology. I don’t have the money to start that kind of research.

I did a lot of traveling; I did a lot for the government, a lot of volunteer work. People would call me in to evaluate things they were doing. What they really wanted to know was how they could beat the government agency, but I wasn’t going to do that … because I didn’t think that was my job.

The Internet and Beyond

You worked right up to the late 1990s. Did you get involved directly with the Internet?

No. I followed what was going on. ARPA came. When the Internet came along, those were giant steps with the technology that had developed. All the government had to do was put up the money. It wasn’t necessary to do a major system redesign. They had to have a better communication system; it had to be much faster. ARPA was going down the drain because the system was too slow. With all the people that wanted to get on the network, forget it!

Nobody was going to move. That was the problem. But they solved that problem, and the way they solved it was with money.

You bring the government perspective to the history of online. On the commercial side — with Dialog, SDC, BRS, LexisNexis — there were some efforts to reach end users, but they weren’t very successful. They also said that the everyday person is not going to want to sit for hours at a time at a computer and search. Then the Internet came along and blew that idea away. You have spoken about the government developing information systems for defense, for government purposes, and it didn’t matter about the public. And yet, MEDLINE, with the development of PubMed, available through the Internet, is one of the most user-friendly systems.

Yes. No question. But that was developed by the contractor’s firm.

So the contractors understood the public?

You can get much better people under contract. That’s unfortunate. There are some very good people with the government, don’t misunderstand me, but if you’re planning on the long term, and you really want to get things done from a technical standpoint, don’t go to the government.

If the Internet was available in the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s, do you think information systems would have been completely different, in the ways they were developed?

Well, I don’t know. You can’t stop technology from developing. That’s why I say that nuclear weapons probably saved my life.

Are you currently retired?

I retired from the government. For the last few years, I’ve been working for a member of the family. He’s a very good construction engineer.

So you go over to his office a few times a week to help him?

I go every day. I go every single day, and people ask, “Why do you do that?” I say that it builds discipline. If I hadn’t built discipline into my system I would never have worked 6 days a week. I started working in 1936. I was a kid, and I’ve always worked 6 days a week.

You don’t know anything better?

I don’t know anything better. When I retired, I retired for a week. My wife said, “You seem itchy or nervous.” I said, “I don’t know why. Every day is Saturday or Sunday to me.” I didn’t like that. [Laughter.]

Do you still have your own company?

Yes. I keep that.

During your career, who did you feel were pioneers?

We have named a number of people; they are true pioneers, there is no question about that. There are some that should be added. They just didn’t live long enough. A lot of the good things that they did — like Al Warheit, Bernie Fry, and even a major that I reported to when I went to Washington, his name was Alberto Thompson — got swallowed up by the people who took their place. And that just became part of the continuum. I remember them, and a lot of the people that I worked with remember them.

I suspect that some got a little shortchanged. The majority failed. Don’t let anybody think that just because they happen to have a good idea, it’s going to go over. Most of them fail. Part of it is because it was the wrong time — or there was something that was better. Some fail because the other guys have too much of a head start, and they can’t catch them.

Who’s Who

Key People mentioned in this installment

Adkinson, Burton W. 1947–1949: Chief, Map Division, Library of Congress. 1949–1957: Director, Reference Department, Library of Congress. 1957–1970: Head, Office of Science Information, National Science Foundation (NSF). 1970–1973: Director, American Geographical Society. Died in 2004.

Cuadra, Carlos — See “Online Before the Internet, Part 3: Early Pioneers Tell Their Stories: Carlos Cuadra,”

Cummings, Martin Marc. 1961–1963: Chief, Office of International Research, NIH, U.S. Public Health Service. 1964–1984: Director, National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Dryden, Hugh Latimer. 1918–1947: Various positions, National Bureau of Standards. 1947–1949: Director, Aeronautical Research, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). 1949–1958: Director, NACA, until the creation of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). 1958–1965: Deputy Administrator, NASA. Died in 1965.

Egeland, Jan — See “Online Before the Internet, Part 8: Early Pioneers Tell Their Stories: BRS—An Interview with Jan Egeland,”

Fermi, Enrico. Considered the “father of modern nuclear physics.” Italian physicist who received the Nobel Prize in 1938 for “his discovery of new radioactive elements produced by neutron irradiation, and for the discovery of nuclear reactions brought about by slow neutrons.” During World War II, worked on developing a nuclear reactor at the University of Chicago. At the end of the War, continued to work and teach at the University of Chicago’s Institute for Nuclear Studies, which was later renamed The Enrico Fermi Institute. Died in 1954.

Fry, Bernard M. 1941–1942: Chief Bibliographer, Legislative Reference Service, Library of Congress. 1942–1946: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Manhattan Project, Los Alamos, New Mexico. 1947–1955: Chief Librarian, Technical Information Service, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). 1956–1958: Director, Technical Information Service, AEC. 1959–1963: Deputy Head, Office of Science Information Service, National Science Foundation (NSF). 1963–1967: Director, Clearinghouse for Scientific and Technical Information, Department of Commerce. 1967–1980: Dean, Graduate Library School, Indiana University. Died in 1994.

Smith, Kent A. 1968–1971: Executive Officer, Division of Research Resources, National Institutes of Health. 1971–1978: Assistant Director for Administration, National Library of Medicine (NLM). 1978–2004: Deputy Director, NLM.

Summit, Roger — See “Online Before the Internet, Part 4: Early Pioneers Tell Their Stories: Roger Summit,”

Thompson, Alberto F. Major, Manhattan District of the U.S. Corps of Engineers during WWII (worked on the development of the atomic bomb). 1947–1957: Chief, Technical Information Service, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). 1957: Head, Office of Scientific Information, NSF. Died in 1957.

Warheit, Israel Albert . 1941–1946: Librarian, Allison Library, General Motors. 1946–1952: Chief, Library Section, Technical Information, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Died in 1973.

What’s What

Names, Acronyms, and Abbreviations mentioned in this installment

ADD. Abstracts of Declassified Documents. 1947: Index of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission’s (AEC) research reports. Name changed to Nuclear Science Abstracts (NSA) in 1948.

AEC. U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. The Atomic Energy Act of 1946, signed by President Harry S. Truman, established the civilian-controlled AEC to advance the peacetime development of atomic science and technology. When President Gerald Ford signed the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, the AEC came to an end, with its research and development responsibilities transferred to the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA), and the regulatory and licensing functions to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

AEC/RECON. Atomic Energy Commission/REmote CONsole. Online bibliographic system used to create the Nuclear Science Abstracts (NSA) database.

ARPA. Advanced Research Project Agency. 1958: Established by the U.S. Department of Defense, with the responsibility “for the direction or performance of such advanced projects in the field of research and development as the Secretary of Defense shall, from time to time, designate by individual project or by category.” 1972: Name changed to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); the organization became a separate defense agency under the Office of the Secretary of Defense. 1993: Redesignated as the Advanced Research Projects Agency. 1996: Name reverted back to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

ASIS. American Society for Information Science. Founded in 1937 as the American Documentation Institute (ADI). Name changed to ASIS in 1968, and to the American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIST) in 2000.

ASTP. Army Specialized Training Program. December 1942: Established by the U.S. Army to identify, train, and educate enlisted men as technical specialists during World War II (specialties were mainly in the sciences, medicine, engineering, and linguistics). Shortages in manpower forced the Army to disband the program in early 1944. Most ASTP soldiers were then assigned to the infantry, where they fought in the European and Pacific Theaters of Operation.

BRS. Bibliographic Retrieval Services. Begun as a commercial outgrowth of the SUNY Biomedical Communication Network (BCN) in 1976. In 1994, BRS was purchased by Ovid Technologies. In 1998, Wolters Kluwer bought Ovid.

Bunker-Ramo. Company’s original name was Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation, formed in 1953 by Simon Ramo and Dean El Wooldridge, who formerly worked at Hughes Aircraft Company. The company provided technical direction and systems engineering for the Air Force’s ballistic missile program. 1956: Ramo-Wooldridge merged with Thompson Products to become TRW, Inc. 1964: TRW’s Computer Division and Martin-Marietta’s Electronics Division merged to form The Bunker-Ramo Corporation. Expanding into computer and communications technology fields, Bunker-Ramo developed the NASA/RECON system in 1966 and 1967.

Dialog. 1972: At Lockheed, Roger Summit offered DIALOG as a commercial online service. 1981: Dialog Information Services, Inc. became a subsidiary of Lockheed Corporation. 1988: Dialog was acquired by Knight-Ridder, Inc. 1995: Dialog became Knight-Ridder Information, Inc. (KRII). 1997: M.A.I.D. plc acquired Knight-Ridder; The Dialog Corporation was formed by the merger. 2000: The Thomson Corporation purchased the Information Services Division of The Dialog Corporation.

GlobeNet Communications Group Ltd. Operated an undersea network between the U.S. and Bermuda. Acquired by 360 networks in 2000.

Information Industry Association. Founded in 1968 by seven member companies “to build the information industry.” Merged with Software Publishers Association in 1999, to form the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA).

Manhattan Project. U.S. effort to develop the first nuclear weapons during World War II. Research was directed by physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, and overall by General Leslie R. Groves. More than 30 research and production sites were involved, but development of the atomic bomb was mainly carried out in three cities: Hanford, Wash.; Los Alamos, N.M.; and Oak Ridge, Tenn. By 1945, the Project employed more than 130,000 people and cost nearly $2 billion.

MEDLARS. Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System. Computerized bibliographic system, originally used in the National Library of Medicine (NLM), and named by NLM’s Frank Rogers and Seymour Taine in 1960. MEDLARS was designed by General Electric, which completed the system in 1964. MEDLARS II was designed and developed by SDC, which completed the system in 1974.

MEDLINE. MEDLARS on LINE . Online system of indexed journal citations and abstracts developed for users outside the National Library of Medicine (NLM) in 1971. MEDLINE is the major component of NLM’s PubMed database, which is now searchable via the Internet.

NACA. National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. Chartered in 1915; operational from 1917 to 1958. In 1958, NACA became the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

NASA. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Established in 1958, from the earlier National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), including three major research laboratories (Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, Ames Aeronautical Laboratory, and Lewis Flight Propulsion Laboratory) and two smaller test facilities.

NASA/RECON. National Aeronautics and Space Administration/REmote CONsole. NASA ’s “first multisite” online bibliographic system, created in 1968.

NIH. National Institutes of Health. In 1930, the Ransdell Act changed the name of the Hygienic Laboratory to the National Institute of Health. After World War II, Congress created various research institutes within NIH, prompting the pluralization of the name. Currently organized under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting medical research. See NLM.

NLM. National Library of Medicine. Founded in 1836 as the Library of the Office of the Surgeon General of the Army. Renamed the Army Medical Library in 1922, the Armed Forces Medical Library in 1952, and National Library of Medicine in 1956. In 1968, NLM became part of NIH. NLM produces the MEDLINE and PubMed databases.

NSA. Nuclear Science Abstracts. Collection of international nuclear science and technology literature for the period 1948 through 1976, including scientific and technical reports of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA). NSA is the forerunner of the Energy Science and Technology Database.

NSF. National Science Foundation. Established by Congress in 1950. During the 1950s and 1960s, NSF funded a number of significant information retrieval projects.

NTIS. National Technical Information Service. Database of government-funded scientific, technical, engineering, and business-related information. Formerly called the Clearinghouse for Federal Scientific and Technical Information (CFSTI), created by the National Bureau of Standards in 1965. Since 1970, the database has been maintained by the U.S. Department of Commerce as a self-supporting clearinghouse.

SDC. System Development Corporation. Evolved out of the Systems Development Division of the RAND Corporation. The Division was spun off in 1957 and became the nonprofit company System Development Corporation. In 1968, SDC became a for-profit operation, acquired by Burroughs Corporation in 1980.

STAR. Scientific and Technical Aerospace Reports. Citations and abstracts of worldwide aerospace-related research, published from 1963 to date by NASA.

SUNY Biomedical Communication Network (BCN) — See BRS.

Further Reading

“Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers: Dr. Simon Ramo,” Air Force Space Command History and Heritage,

American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIST), “Atomic Energy Commission,”

American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIST), “Bernard M. Fry,”

American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIST), “Burton W. Adkinson,”

American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIST), “Israel A. Warheit,”

American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIST), “Melvin Sherman Day,”

American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIST), “National Aeronautics and Space Administration,”

“ARPA-DARPA: The History of the Name,”

“Biographical Sketch, Kent A. Smith, Deputy Director, National Library of Medicine,”

Bourne, Charles P. and Trudi Bellardo Hahn. “Lockheed DIALOG and Related Systems, 1961–1972” (sections on NASA/RECON and the Bunker-Ramo Corporation), in A History of Online Information Services, 1963–1976. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pages 156–157.

Buck, Alice L. A History of the Atomic Energy Commission. Washington, DC: US Department of Energy, 1983,

Day, Melvin. “Information processing in NASA’s Library,” Wilson Library Bulletin, vol. 41, December 1966, pp. 396–400.

Day, Melvin S. “Factors Related to a National Information Policy,” In Government Information: An Endangered Resource of the Electronic Age. Proceedings of the 1st Annual State-of-the-Art Institute , Washington, D.C., October 19–22, 1986. Washington, D.C.: Special Libraries Association, 1986 (ERIC number: ED281569).

Day, Melvin S. “NASA’s Developmental Program for Selective Dissemination of Information,” In Godfrey, Lois E. and Keller, Helen S. (eds.), Proceedings of the Regional Workshop on the Report Literature, held at Albuquerque, New Mexico, November 1–2, 1965 , co-Sponsored by the Rio Grande Chapter Special Libraries Association, and Science- Technology Division, Special Libraries Association. North Hollywood, CA: Western Periodicals Co., 1966, pp. 1–7.

Day, Melvin S. “Pioneers’ Reminiscences: A Moment in Time,” in Bowden, Mary Ellen; Hahn, Trudi Bellardo; and Williams, Robert V. (eds.), Proceedings of the 1998 Conference on the History and Heritage of Science Information Systems . Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc. (published for the American Society for Information Science and the Chemical Heritage Foundation), 1999, pp. 261–262,

Day, Melvin S. “Prepared Statement” (as the former Deputy Director, National Library of Medicine). In Scientific and Technical Information: Policy and Organization in the Federal Government. Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Science, Research and Technology of the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, House of Representatives, One Hundredth Congress, First Session, July 14–15, 1987. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Congress, 1987 (ERIC number ED294593).

Day, Melvin S. “Sharing — The Hope of the Seventies” (March 5, 1975), In Neufeld, M. L.; Cornog, M.; and Sperr, I. L. (eds.), Abstracting and Indexing Services in Perspective: Miles Conrad Lectures, 1969–1983. Arlington, Va.: Information Resources Press, 1983, pp. 143–150.

“Dr. Hugh L. Dryden,” NASA History Division,

“Enrico Fermi Biography,” Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab),

Hane, Paula J. “The SPA-IIA Merger Is Now Official,” NewsBreak (Information Today), Jan. 25, 1999,

“History of NACA,”

“The IBM 1401,” Columbia University Computing History,

Indiana University Bloomington Libraries, University Archives, “Papers of Bernard M. Fry, 1930–1992,”

“ISU Interviews II: Melvin S. Day,” Information Services & Use, vol. 3, December 1983, pp. 325–331. Kadec, Sarah T. “Chronology/Bibliography Of Events Relative To NTIS’ Position In Commerce,” Jan. 26, 2000, U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science,

King, Gilbert W. “In Memoriam” (Dr. Alberto F. Thompson), In Proceedings of the International Conference on Scientific Information, November 16–21, 1958 . Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences, 1959, p. V.,

Launius, Roger D. and Garber, Steve. “Biographies of Aerospace Officials and Policymakers, A–D” (see Melvin S. Day), National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Office of Policy and Plans,, April 2, 2002.

“The Manhattan Project: An Interactive History,” U.S. Department of Energy, History Division,

Marquis Who’s Who (Dialog File 234): Cummings, Martin Marc.

Marquis Who’s Who (Dialog File 234): Day, Melvin.

Marquis Who’s Who (Dialog File 234): Smith, Kent.

Miles, Wyndham D. A History of the National Library of Medicine: The Nation’s Treasury of Medical Knowledge. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, 1982, pp. 448, 472. “Milestones in NLM History,”

Mitchell, William. “The Genesis of NASA RECON,”

“NASA History,” NASA History Division,

“National Science Foundation History,”

“NTIS: The Door to the Federal Gold Mine” (including a profile and interview with Mel Day), Government Executive, vol. 13, no. 8, August 1981, pp. 14–20.

Palmer, Robert R.; Wiley, Bell I.; and Keast, William R. The Army Specialized Training Program and the Army Ground Forces: United States Army in World War II — The Army Ground Forces: The Procurement and Training of Ground Combat Troops. Washington, D.C.: Department of the Army, Historical Division, 1948,

Scientific & Technical Aerospace Reports (STAR),” NASA,

“A Short History of the National Institutes of Health,”

“Short History of the Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI)” (including the beginning of Nuclear Science Abstracts),

University of Maryland, Clark School of Engineering, “Dr. Hugh L. Dryden,”

Vaden, William McGill. The Oak Ridge Technical Information Center: A Trailblazer in Federal Documentation . Oak Ridge, Tenn.: U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Scientific and Technical Information, 1992, 389 pages,

Warheit, I. A. “The Library Program of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Technical Information Service,” Abridgement of Address given at 50th Annual Meeting, Medical Library Association, Denver, Colorado, June 29, 1951,

“World War II Army Specialized Training Program (ASTP),”

Key Dates in Mel Day’s Government Career

1943: Metal Hydrides, Inc., Beverly, Mass.

1944–1946: U.S. Army, Oak Ridge, Tenn.

1946–1958: U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), Oak Ridge, Tenn.

1958–1960: Director, Technical Information Service, AEC, Washington, D.C.

1960–1970: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Washington, D.C.

1970–1972: Head, Office of Science Information, National Science Foundation (NSF), Washington, D.C.

1972–1978: Deputy Director, National Library of Medicine (NLM), Washington, D.C.

1978–1982: Director, National Technical Information Service (NTIS), Department of Commerce, Washington, D.C.

Susanne Bjørner is an independent consultant to publishers, authors, and librarians and writes about the information professions and industry. Contact her at

Stephanie C. Ardito is the principal of Ardito Information & Research, Inc., a full-service information firm based in Wilmington, Delaware. Her e-mail address is

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