History of Biomedicine Lecture at the NIH May 16, 2008, 3:30 p.m. Building 10 (Clinical Center), Room: Hatfield 2-3750
Dr. Joseph A. November, Ph.D., will present the 2008 DeWitt Stetten, Jr. Lecture, titled “The Forgotten Revolution: The Early History of NIH Biomedical Computing,” on Friday, May 16 at 3:30 p.m., in Building 10 (Clinical Center), Room 2-3750 (Hatfield side). All are welcome.
About the Speaker:
Dr. November is the current DeWitt Stetten, Jr. Memorial Fellow and an Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina’s Department of History. He received his doctorate in history from Princeton University in 2006. At NIH his research focuses on how NIH promoted the development of computer technology in the 1950s and 1960s. He is preparing a book on the early history of biomedical computing.
At NIH today, digital electronic computers are a vital, necessary component of almost all aspects of research and administration. However, there was nothing inevitable about NIH’s adoption of computers or the ways the machines came to be used. As late as 1956, the majority of NIH’s leadership was firmly against dedicating resources to computing in research. It took a hard-fought campaign throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, led by Drs. Frederick Brackett and Arnold “Scotty” Pratt, and supported by Director James Shannon, to overcome NIH’s reluctance to adopt the new technology.
The campaign bring computers to NIH may be long forgotten, but its consequences profoundly altered not only biomedical computing beyond the NIH campus but also computing in general.
This lecture will cover three interconnected stories. First, it will examine how the Division of Computer Research and Technology (now CIT) grew out of Brackett and Pratt’s long struggle to computerize research at NIH. Second, it surveys the far-reaching activities of the Advisory Committee on Computers in Research (NIH-ACCR), which was established in 1960 and generously funded by the U.S. Senate for the purpose of introducing computers to laboratories and hospitals worldwide. Third, it describes NIH’s important but seldom-discussed role in the development of the Laboratory Instrument Computer (LINC), a small, general-purpose, real-time digital computer built in 1963 at MIT especially for biomedical researchers; the roots of many aspects of personal computing can be traced back to the LINC.
This presentation is sponsored by the Office of NIH History. The NIH Biomedical Computing Interest Group (BCIG) will be recording the lecture. For more information about the Biomedical Research History Interest Group (BRHIG) and upcoming events, please visit the websites at http://history.nih.gov or http://www.nih.gov/sigs/brhig.
For more information or special accommodations, please contact Deborah Kraut at 301-496-8856 or [email protected].