Online Before the Internet, Part 9
Early Pioneers Tell Their Stories: Interview with
Melvin S. Day
by Susanne Bjørner • Bjørner &
& Stephanie C. Ardito • Ardito Information &
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
Was there anything going on with computers
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
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
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
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
Automation at the Atomic Energy Commission
When did you leave the Army?
I was discharged in 1946, but I agreed to come back
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
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
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
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
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
NASA and STAR
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Well that may be true.
“… Which was three hundred thousand
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
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.
Government-Commercial Cooperation and Competition
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
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
The other pioneers also want to give you
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
You were at NLM [National Library of Medicine]
for 6 years, from 1972–1978. Can you tell me
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Yes. They started something new. They made a major
contribution, no question.
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
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
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.
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
Yes. At that stage of the game, because of my position
and because I had international jobs, I had a pretty
You had a reputation for asking tough questions?
I didn’t think they were tough questions. [Laughter.]
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
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
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.
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
Cuadra, Carlos — See “Online
Before the Internet, Part 3: Early Pioneers Tell
Their Stories: Carlos Cuadra,” https://www.infotoday.com/searcher/oct03/CuadraWeb.shtml.
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
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
Summit, Roger — See “Online
Before the Internet, Part 4: Early Pioneers Tell
Their Stories: Roger Summit,” https://www.infotoday.com/searcher/oct03/SummitWeb.shtml.
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.
Names, Acronyms, and Abbreviations
mentioned in this installment
of Declassified Documents. 1947: Index
of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission’s
(AEC) research reports. Name
changed to Nuclear Science Abstracts (NSA) in
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
“Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers:
Dr. Simon Ramo,” Air Force Space Command
History and Heritage, https://www.peterson.af.mil/hqafspc/history/ramo.htm.
American Society for Information Science & Technology
(ASIST), “Atomic Energy Commission,” http://www.asis.org/Features/Pioneers/aec.htm.
American Society for Information Science & Technology
(ASIST), “Bernard M. Fry,” http://www.asis.org/Features/Pioneers/fry.htm.
American Society for Information Science & Technology
(ASIST), “Burton W. Adkinson,” http://www.personal.kent.edu/~tfroehli/sighfis/adkinson.htm.
American Society for Information Science & Technology
(ASIST), “Israel A. Warheit,” http://www.asis.org/Features/Pioneers/warheit.htm.
American Society for Information Science & Technology
(ASIST), “Melvin Sherman Day,” http://www.asis.org/Features/Pioneers/day.htm.
American Society for Information Science & Technology
(ASIST), “National Aeronautics and Space
“ARPA-DARPA: The History of the Name,” http://www.darpa.mil/body/arpa_darpa.html.
“Biographical Sketch, Kent A. Smith,
Deputy Director, National Library of Medicine,” http://www.nlm.nih.gov/archive//20050209/od/roster/smith.html.
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, http://www.atomictraveler.com/HistoryofAEC.pdf
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, http://www.chemheritage.org/explore/ASIS_documents/ASISbook.pdf.
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
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
“Enrico Fermi Biography,” Fermi
National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), http://www.fnal.gov/pub/about/whatis/enricofermi.html.
Hane, Paula J. “The SPA-IIA Merger Is
Now Official,” NewsBreak (Information
Today), Jan. 25, 1999, https://www.infotoday.com/newsbreaks/nb0125-1.htm.
“History of NACA,” http://naca.larc.nasa.gov/?method=about.
“The IBM 1401,” Columbia University
Computing History, http://www.columbia.edu/acis/history/1401.html.
Indiana University Bloomington Libraries, University
Archives, “Papers of Bernard M. Fry, 1930–1992,” http://www.indiana.edu/~libarch/Personal/166pers.html.
“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, http://www.nclis.gov/govt/ntis/kadec.html.
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., http://books.nap.edu/books/NI000518/html/R5.html#pagetop.
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, http://history.nasa.gov/biosa-d.html,
April 2, 2002.
“The Manhattan Project: An Interactive
History,” U.S. Department of Energy, History
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,” http://www.nlm.nih.gov/about/nlmhistory.html.
Mitchell, William. “The Genesis of NASA
“NASA History,” NASA History Division, http://history.nasa.gov/.
“National Science Foundation History,” http://www.nsf.gov/about/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,
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,
“Scientific & Technical Aerospace
Reports (STAR),” NASA, http://www.sti.nasa.gov/Pubs/star/Star.html.
“A Short History of the National Institutes
of Health,” http://history.nih.gov/exhibits/history/index.html.
“Short History of the Office of Scientific
and Technical Information (OSTI)” (including
the beginning of Nuclear Science Abstracts), http://www.osti.gov/ostihist.html.
University of Maryland, Clark School of Engineering, “Dr.
Hugh L. Dryden,” http://www.engr.umd.edu/~jpereira/414/dryden.html.
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, http://www.osti.gov/promo/doeosti11673.pdf.
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, http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/picrender.fcgi?
“World War II Army Specialized Training
Program (ASTP),” http://www.astpww2.org/.
Key Dates in Mel Day’s
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,
1972–1978: Deputy Director, National
Library of Medicine (NLM), Washington, D.C.
1978–1982: Director, National Technical
Information Service (NTIS), Department of Commerce,
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