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Oral history interview with Madeline M. Henderson

  • 1997-Jul-14

Oral history interview with Madeline M. Henderson

  • 1997-Jul-14

Madeline Henderson begins this interview with a description of her family and early years in Quincy, Massachusetts. Henderson attended Emmanuel College, receiving an A.B. in chemistry in 1944. After college, she worked briefly with DuPont in explosives research and as a chemist for Harrington Labs. She accepted a position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's (MIT) High Pressure Research Lab as a research associate.

In 1950, she switched gears at MIT and began working with James W. Perry in scientific information. One of her first tasks was to edit the first edition of his book, Punched Cards: Their Application to Science and Industry. Henderson worked with Perry and Allen Kent compiling and researching possibilities for a standard chemical notation system for IUPAC selection. Her search for terms for semantic factoring took her throughout the country, where she met many others involved with scientific information, including Eugene Garfield, Claire Schultz, and Saul Herner. Soon after, Henderson worked for the Batelle Memorial Institute at the Aberdeen Proving Ground helping them improve their information management. While there, she, Perry, and Kent initiated the use of telegraphic abstracts.

After working with the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a research analyst, Henderson joined the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) in 1972. There she served as a staff assistant in the Institute for Computer Sciences and Technology, and eventually became section chief of Computer Information. Later, she worked on the Federal Information Locator System (as a consultant for NBS). While with NBS, she joined the Federal Library Committee's Task Force on Automation, and attended American University, receiving an MPA in 1977. She received the Watson-Davis award in 1989 for her service to the American Society for Information Science (ASIS). Henderson concludes the interview with reflections on her fellowship with the American Association for the Advancement of Science and thoughts on pioneers in the field of information science.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 82 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

Robert V. Williams is a professor of library and information science at the University of South Carolina. He holds a PhD in library and information studies from the University of Wisconsin, Madison; an MS in library and information science from Florida State University; and an MA in history from New York University. Before joining the University of South Carolina in 1978, he was an archivist and information services manager for the Ford Foundation, and the Georgia Department of Archives and History. Williams has also been an information consultant for many organizations including Appalachian Council of Governments of Greenville, South Carolina, and Pontifical Catholic University Madre y Maestra, Dominican Republic. He came to the Chemical Heritage Foundation as the Eugene Garfield Fellow in the History of Scientific Information in 1997. He is a member of the South Carolina Historical Records Advisory Board, the American Library Association (ALA), and the American Society for Information Science (ASIS), where he served as chair of ASIS History and Foundations of Information Science Special Interest Group in 1994–1995. Williams is also a member of the Special Libraries Association (SLA) and Chair of the SLA Membership Committee. Williams has numerous publications on the historical role of information science.

Institutional location

Oral history number 0162

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • September 03, 1922
  • Merrimac, Massachusetts, United States
  • July 17, 2011
  • Frederick, Maryland, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1944 Emmanuel College (Boston, Mass.) AB Chemistry
1977 American University (Washington, D.C.) MPA Public Administration

Professional Experience

E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company

  • 1944 to 1945 Analytical Chemist

C.S. Batchelder Co.

  • 1945 to 1946 Organic Researcher

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • 1946 to 1950 Research Associate, Chemical Engineering
  • 1950 to 1952 Research Associate, Scientific and Technical Documentation

United States. Central Intelligence Agency

  • 1953 Consultant

Battelle Memorial Institute

  • 1953 to 1956 Research Engineer, Information Systems

National Science Foundation (U.S.)

  • 1956 to 1958 Research Analyst, Office of Science Information Service
  • 1958 to 1962 Consultant

United States. National Bureau of Standards

  • 1964 to 1969 Data Processing Applications Analyst, Center for Computer Sciences and Technology
  • 1964 to 1969 Consultant to Director, Center for Computer Sciences and Technology
  • 1972 to 1975 Staff Assistant for Computer Usage Information, Institute for Computer Sciences and Technology
  • 1975 to 1978 Chief, Computer Information Section, Information Technology Division, Institute for Computer Sciences and Technology
  • 1978 to 1979 Manager, ADP Information Analysis, Institute for Computer Sciences and Technology

United States. Department of Commerce

  • 1971 to 1972 Science and Technology Fellow


  • 1979 to 1991 Consultant


Year(s) Award
1977 Election to Pi Alpha Alpha
1989 Watson Davis Award, American Society for Information Science

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PDF — 410 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

10 Separate Interview Segments Archival-quality downloads