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Oral history interview with Carlos A. Cuadra

  • 2001-May-21

Oral history interview with Carlos A. Cuadra

  • 2001-May-21

Carlos A. Cuadra, a pioneer in the field of information sciences, begins the interview by discussing his family and educational background. He describes how he continued his education while serving in the Navy during World War II. He did his undergraduate and graduate work in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and wrote his dissertation on the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory. Upon graduation, Cuadra worked at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Downey, Illinois. While still in Downey, he was recruited by the RAND Corporation to work on projects related to the United States Air Force. He began work for RAND in the System Development Division, which split off and became System Development Corporation (SDC). Dr. Cuadra began to learn about computers and programming while he was working on intelligence project 466L for the Air Force. He was made head of the Intelligence Systems Branch of SDC and worked on various information systems such as MEDLARS II, MEDLINE, ORBIT, and ELHILL. He became interested in the developing field of information science. After meeting some of the pioneers of information science, he was surprised to learn that an annual review did not exist for that field. With the support of Hans Peter Luhn, IBM; Helen L. Brownson, National Science Foundation; and the American Documentation Institute, he started the Annual Review of Information Science and Technology. Cuadra briefly worked as a consultant for the National Academy of Science's Committee on Scientific and Technical Information (COSATI), and was later appointed to the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS), on which he served for thirteen years. By the time he became a member of NCLIS, he was the manager of the Education and Library Systems Department at SDC. During this time, Cuadra began to see a possible market for online information services. Within SDC, Cuadra created SDC Search Service, one of the first online retrieval services. In 1978 he founded his own company, Cuadra Associates (CA). CA was quite ahead of its time in that it foresaw the need for powerful information retrieval systems for in-house use. CA developed STAR, which was one of the first such systems. CA also published a directory of databases called the Directory of Online Databases. Cuadra concludes the interview with some thoughts about his work habits.

Property Value
Place of interview
  • 39 pages
  • 01:28:00
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 0221

Related Items

Interviewee biographical information

  • December 21, 1925
  • San Francisco, California, United States
  • August 31, 2022
  • Los Angeles, California, United States


Year Institution Degree Discipline
1949 University of California, Berkeley BA Psychology
1953 University of California, Berkeley PhD Psychology

Professional Experience

Philadelphia Veterans Administration Hospital Medical Center

  • 1953 to 1956 Staff Psychologist

System Development Corporation

  • 1957 Training Specialist
  • 1957 to 1959 Head, Personnel Planning and Training Group, Air Force Project 466L
  • 1960 to 1962 Head, Project Team, Intelligence Systems
  • 1963 to 1964 Staff Member, Special Projects Departments
  • 1965 to 1966 Technical Assistant to the Head of Special Development Division
  • 1966 to 1967 Head, Information Systems Technical Staff
  • 1968 to 1970 Manager, Library and Documentation Systems Department
  • 1971 to 1974 Manager, Education and Library Systems Department
  • 1974 to 1978 Manager, SDC Search Service

The Annual Review of Information Science and Technology

  • 1964 to 1975 Editor

National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)

  • 1968 Consultant, Committee on Scientific and Technical Communication

United States. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science

  • 1971 to 1984 Member

Cuadra Associates

  • 1978 to 2002 Co-Founder and President

University of California, Los Angeles

  • 1979 to 1980 Adjunct Professor, Graduate School of Library and Information Sciences

American Chemical Society

  • 1991 to 1997 Member of Governing Board, Chemical Abstracts Service
  • 1997 to 2000 Member of Governing Board for Publishing


Year(s) Award
1948 Phi Beta Kappa, University of California, Berkeley
1949 Highest Honors, University of California, Berkeley
1968 Merit Award, American Society for Information Science and Technology
1969 Best Information Science Book Award, American Society for Information Science and Technology
1970 Distinguished Lecturer, American Society for Information Science and Technology
1975 Information Product of the Year, Information Industry Association
1980 Hall of Fame Award, Information Industry Association
1980 Miles Conrad Memorial Lecture Award, The National Federation of Abstracting and Information Services
1987 Pioneer of Information Science, American Society for Information Science
1997 Honorary Fellow, The National Federation of Abstracting and Information Services
2001 Roger Summit Award, Association of Independent Information Professionals

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PDF — 556 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