NAME: Mortimer Taube
DATES: 1910-1965
WORKED AT: LC; AEC; Documentation Inc.
OTHER INFORMATION: Taube founded Documentation, Inc. (Doc Inc) in 1951-52?. Lilley-Trice quote Wilfred Lancaster (p.19): "There is little doubt that the real impetus to modern methods of information retrieval was given by Mortimer Taube...". They say the "significant" contribution was breaking with traditional information systems such as the UDC and LC Classification System. Wilfred Lancaster considers Taube's great contribution to be the computer-based Uniterm system of subject retrieval. He was editor, American Documentation 1952-53.

Current Biography calls him the "Dewey of mid-twentieth century librarianship." Taube gave coordinate indexing and uniterms currency and practical applicability. He pioneered development of information retrieval systems. Taube was among the first to advocate standardizing procedures and coordinating efforts of information services which would be helpful for all agencies and for users. He investigated subject analysis, the coding of subject terms, and their relationship to information retrieval.

AWARDS: 1952 (first) Distinguished Contributions to Special Librarianship (SLA).

INCLUDES: His daughter has some of his personal papers but apparently not of much significance to information science history; Includes scrapbooks, genealogical work, and reprints of his articles; No address for his daughter.
SOURCE: Phone conversation with Jerry Sophar, 9/95.

1910 - 1965

Mortimer Taube was born in Jersey City, New Jersey on December 6, 1910. He received a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Chicago in 1933, and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1935. He earned a certificate of librarianship from the same institution in 1936.

Taube worked as a teaching fellow and as a librarian at various colleges before moving to the Library of Congress in 1944. He held diverse positions at the Library, one of which was head of the Science and Technology Project from 1947-1949. He was a member of the Research and Development Board of the Department of Defense in 1948. Taube spent time as a consultant in science documentation, and was an editor of the journal American Documentation in 1952-1953.

In 1952, with the foundation of his company Documentation, Inc., Taube took a leadership role in the documentation field. The tremendous explosion of scientific literature during and after World War II overwhelmed existing indexing and retrieval methods. New methods, including machines to search for and store information, were needed. Taube's company helped to meet this need. He developed the system (and later the theory) of coordinate indexing, and helped to establish the its use as a major tool in library and documentation work.

Taube's writings provoked considerable discussion in the library press, and contributed to recognition of him internationally. Of Taube's series Studies in Coordinate Indexing, particularly Volume 5 (Emerging Solutions for Mechanizing the Storage and Retrieval of Information), Frank B. Rogers commented, "Taube's writing is of brilliant clarity ... loaded with seminal ideas of great power."

Mortimer Taube died suddenly of a heart attack on September 3, 1965. His colleague and friend Maurice F. Tauber, who considered Taube one of the library and information science professions' most valuable members, said of him, "his contributions will remain with us as landmarks in the growth of information science."

Some of Taube's works:

Computers and Common Sense, the Myth of Thinking Machines. 1961.
Studies in Coordinate Indexing. Washington, D.C.: 1953-1959. (series)
Information Storage and Retrieval: Theory, Systems, and Devices. 1958.
"Coordinate Indexing of Scientific Fields." (Paper delivered at the Symposium on Mechanical Aids to Chemical Documentation, Division of Chemical Literature, American Chemical Society, New York, Sept. 4, 1951.)


Page updated 14 January 1998