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  • The History and Heritage of Scientific and Technological Information Systems: Proceedings of the 2002 Conference
  • John E. Dockall
The History and Heritage of Scientific and Technological Information Systems: Proceedings of the 2002 Conference. By W. Boyd Rayward and Mary Ellen Bowden . Medford, N.J.: Information Today, Inc., 2004. xv, 423 pp. $45.50 (paper). ISBN 1-57387-229-6.

This edited volume represents the proceedings of the 2002 conference on the history and heritage of scientific and technological information systems. The volume places squarely before the reader the importance of considering the pedigree of information sciences as a discipline as well as the ever-growing significance of scientific and technological information systems to the continued progress of science and private industry. The editors and authors of this compendium of papers have in no small measure contributed a significant resource to the history of science. The volume makes apparent the link between the conduct of science and the structure and management of the resulting information. Throughout the volume the reader will recognize the parallels between the way we have thought about science and the manner in which we have tried to organize our thoughts and findings in coherent or not so coherent patterns.

This book is organized into six sections, each with several contributed papers. Four papers are presented to illustrate different perspectives on information systems in different disciplines. Ronald Kline's paper on information theory is suitable as a starting point for this section and for the remainder of the book, as he addresses the theories behind data quantification and the effective communication of that data. In many respects the development of information theory can also be viewed as the foundation of information science. Papers by Andrew Pickering and Michael Buckland are devoted to the founders of significant theoretical thought related to cybernetics and information technology: Stafford Beer, W. Ross Ashby, and Emanuel Goldberg. Each paper emphasizes the diverse backgrounds of Beer, Ashby, and Goldberg as examples of the development of the theoretical and practical foundations of information science and systems. Jeffrey Yost's paper on the development of early medical information systems begins by examining the evolving issues of new technology and personal privacy and concludes with a review of RAND representative William Ware's efforts to address individual privacy in regard to medical information systems.

The papers in the second section address aspects of organizing, managing, and presenting different types of information and the structure of associated data systems. The historical aspects of managing information are also not ignored, as they ultimately have contributed to the way we currently organize and present information. Papers address topics such as the material culture associated with early information systems devoted to patent models, the practical difficulties of scientific database accessibility, the post–World War II production flurry of government technical publications, the development of science and technology abstracts databases, medical information, and scientific databasing.

One of the more significant aspects of the last thirty years has been the development and management of databases and technical information related to chemistry as well as commercial research and development in various sciences relying on chemistry. The papers devoted to chemical informatics address a wide variety of topics, including historical retrospectives, applications of topology, the Chemical Abstracts, and the interplay between chemistry-based research and information systems. [End Page 344]

The section on national developments in information systems and services represents the largest portion of the book, at least in the number of contributed conference papers included. It can also be considered the most eclectic in terms of topics. Bertrum MacDonald explores the historical ties between the rise of nineteenth-century nationalism and American and Canadian infrastructures for disseminating scientific information. A nice counter to this paper is by Dave Muddiman, who similarly explores nationalistic influences on the development of information science in Britain. William Mitchell's paper on the origins of NASA RECON is a fascinating historical look at the first online bibliographic scientific database accessible from remote workstations. British information science is also explored in a series of three papers by Alexander Justice, Alistair Black, and Rodney Brunt, who consider pre– and post–World War II developments and contributions. Finnish and...


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