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History of SIG/HFIS

Members of Special Interest Group, History and Foundations of Information Science, have created Web sites focused on historical issues:


sums up a large number of initiatives in IS history, most of which were generated by HFIS and its members.

In Sept., 1994, the ASIS Special Projects Fund granted $4,000 to the University of South Carolina College of Library and Information Science to fund a project to identify the early "pioneers" of information science in North America. The project had initially been suggested during a business meeting of the SIG and the School was given the task of implementing it. The project was supposed to be a one year effort but it quickly became apparent that it would take a longer period of time to complete. The final report on the project was made to ASIS in August of this year. The three major purposes of the project were:

  1. to identify the early (defined as roughly 1900 to 1970) "pioneering" individuals and organizations associated with information science in North America;
  2. to determine the location of the personal/professional papers and archives of these people and organizations;
  3. compile a comprehensive bibliography of the history of information science in North America.

The project used a broad definition of information science and efforts were made to be inclusive of all the various sub-fields in information science (e.g., chemical information, linguistics, information theory). An advisory board of twenty people, most with a long history of involvement in ASIS, was formed to assist the project.

The project identified at least 103 persons and 28 organizations which we consider "pioneers" in information science in the US and Canada for the period 1900 to about 1970. This initial listing, however, should be considered simply a beginning point in identifying the individuals and organizations that have had a significant influence on the development of information science. As our knowledge of the history of the field continues to develop and deepen through more in-depth historical research, it can be expected that this list will substantially increase.

It was for this reason, encouraging historical research in the field, that the SIG initiated the project. We realized that very little was known about the papers and archives of the people and organizations which had played critical roles in the development of the field. We also realized that many of the early pioneers were still alive and very likely would soon be making decisions about the disposal of their papers. Thus, one of the central purposes of the project was to identify those papers that already existed in depositories and to encourage those persons still living to make efforts to preserve their papers.

The final report on the project has been submitted to ASIS and Bob Williams has requested that the results be made available on the ASIS home page or the SIG/HFIS home page. When this is done it will enable anyone with an interest in the history of the field to see what is available, inform us of mistakes or omissions, and, particularly, advise and assist the process of further preserving the historical record of information science.

Robert V. Williams, Prof.
College of Library and Information Science
University of South Carolina

For a link to this project, please click on: Pioneers of Information Science in North America

Chronology of Chemical Information Science


Bob Williams, with Mary Ellen Bowden compiled a Chronology of Chemical Information Science. This chronology presents, in colorful poster format, the major breakthroughs in chemical information science, from the founding of societies and journals; to the defining and refining of nomenclature; to the labor-saving features of mechanical sorters, electronic computers, and online databases; to the accessibility of the Internet. The chronology illustrates how, at least since the days of Robert Boyle (1627-91), chemical scientists have been at the forefront of efforts to facilitate and expedite communication. As science has become ever larger and more complex and the technologies of information storage and retrieval more advanced, these scientists have had to develop and refine specialized information systems to meet their research needs.

For more information contact:   Dr. Thomas Froehlich.
Comments may be sent to:  tfroehli@kent.edu