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Oral history interview with Jacques-Emile Dubois

  • 2001-Jan-21

Oral history interview with Jacques-Emile Dubois

  • 2001-Jan-21

Jacques-Emile Dubois begins the interview with a discussion of his family and early education. He discusses his paternal grandfather's and father's roles in World War I and his family's influence, his father's in particular, on his education. Dubois then details his experiences during World War II. He describes how he studied chemistry and medicine during the German invasion of France and elucidates his active roles in the French Resistance and in post-War French politics.

Next, Dubois discusses how he came to be an essential figure in the creation of the University of Saarland. He details the reasons he accepted a professorship at the university and eventually the directorship of the Chemistry Institute. He also discusses his work at the University of Paris, which he did in parallel. Dubois then describes his work in the French Ministry of Education. He describes, in particular, the need for change in the French education system and his efforts to bring it about. He also talks about his role in the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique [CNRS] and France's underdevelopment of instrument technologies at that time.

Next, Dubois discusses his involvement in the creation of the chemical information system, DARC, and his important role in the Ministry of Defense. He describes how his fast kinetics research and his work at the defense ministry gave him an interest in computers and how that interest eventually led to his work in information systems. In addition, Dubois discusses his development of a topocoder instrument and his work on various information systems, including his cooperative efforts with the Chemical Abstracts Service [CAS]. He describes his work as head of IUPAC's [International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry] Committee on Machine Documentation, the creation of CEDOCAR [Centre de Documentation de l'armement], and his creation of the Bureau of Scientific Information [BIS]. In conclusion, Dubois discusses the successes and failures of various information systems in France.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 31 pages
Rights Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
Rights holder
  • Science History Institute
Credit line
  • Courtesy of Science History Institute

About the Interviewer

Colin B. Burke had recently retired from the history department at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County and held a research fellowship at Yale University when he came to CHF. He spent his residency working on his book on the history of computer-based scientific information systems and related government policies, from the 1950s through the early 1990s. He received his PhD from Washington University in St. Louis and currently serves as associate professor emeritus at the University of Maryland. He also served as a Fulbright Scholar in Poland and as a scholar-in-residence at the National Security Agency.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0216

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • April 20, 1920
  • Lille, France
  • April 02, 2005
  • Paris, France


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1943 École Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Lille
1944 Bureau of Liberation Committee (Isère)
1947 University of Grenoble PhD Physical sciences
1949 University College, London Ramsay Fellowship
1956 Columbia University Fulbright Smith-Mund Scholar

Professional Experience

Universität des Saarlandes

  • 1949 to 1957 Professor of Physical Chemistry and Petrochemistry
  • 1949 to 1957 Director of Chemistry Institute
  • 1953 to 1957 Dean of Science Faculty
  • 1957 to 1958 Guest Professor of Physical Chemistry

Université de Paris

  • 1957 to 1988 Professor, Chair of Physical Organic Chemistry, later Chemical Informatics

France. Ministère de l'éducation nationale

  • 1962 to 1963 Scientific Advisor to the French Minister of Education
  • 1963 to 1965 Joint Director of Higher Education

Centre national de la recherche scientifique (France)

  • 1963 to 1975 Member Directorate

Société chimique de France

  • 1965 to 1968 Board Member

French Ministry of Defense

  • 1965 to 1977 Director of Research

International CODATA Committee on Electrochemistry, Thermodynamics, and Kinetics

  • 1966 to 1980 Member
  • 1980 to 1988 French National Delegate, Vice-Chair, Chair, Artificial Intelligence and Graphics Task Group
  • 1980 to 1988 Vice-President
  • 1994 to 1998 President
  • 2000 to 2005 President

Palais de la découverte (Paris, France)

  • 1967 to 1978 Board of Directors

Institut de biologie physico-chimique

  • 1967 to 1997 Board of Directors

International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC)

  • 1969 to 1977 Chair, Interdivisional Committee on Machine Documentation

National Centre for Chemical Information (CNIC)

  • 1972 to 1989 Vice President

Association for Research and Development in Chemical Informatics (ARDIC)

  • 1972 to 1988 Founding President

French Physical Chemistry Society

  • 1972 to 1976 Vice President; President

Curie Foundation

  • 1977 to 1980 Co-Director

Institut de Topologie et Dynamique des Systèmes

  • 1977 to 1988 Founding Director

French National University Agency for Scientific and Technical Documentation and Information [AUDIST]

  • 1978 to 1981 Director

Compagnie générale d'électricité

  • 1979 to 1983 Scientific Director

Novelerg, Co.

  • 1979 to 1983 Chief Executive Officer

University of la-Vallée

  • 1993 to 2005 Vice-President, Center for Scientific Defense Studies


Year(s) Award
1946 Médaille de la Résistance, France
1948 Ancel Prize, French Chemical Society
1950 Stas Medal, Belgian Chemical Society
1953 Prix Le Bel, French Chemical Society
1954 Gold Medal, Society for the Encouragement of National Industry
1962 Commander of the Senegal Order of Merit
1962 Commander of the Order of Merit of the Ivory Coast
1965 Jecker Prize and Berthelot Medal, Academy of Sciences
1967 Commander des Palmes Académiques, France
1975 Commander of the German Order of Merit
1975 Grand Prix Technique for DARC System, City of Paris
1977 Commandeur de l'Ordre National du Mérite, France
1982 Bruylants Chair, Louvain University, Belgium
1986 Grand Prix of Graphic Animation du Festival d'Angers, Angers, France
1989 Commandeur de la Légion d'Honneur, France
1989 Dr. Honoris Causa, University of Regensburg, Germany
1991 CAOC (Correlation Analysis in Organic Chemistry) Medal, Paris
1992 Herman Skolnik Award for Chemical Information, American Chemical Society

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PDF — 261 KB

The published version of the transcript may diverge from the interview audio due to edits to the transcript made by staff of the Center for Oral History, often at the request of the interviewee, during the transcript review process.

Complete Interview Audio File Web-quality download

3 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads