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Jacques-Emile Dubois

  • Born: April 20, 1920, Lille, France
  • Died: April 2, 2005, Paris, France

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0216
Interview Date: January 21, 2001
Location: Paris, France
Interviewer: Colin B. Burke
No. of pages: 31
Sponsor: Eugene Garfield Foundation
Eugene Garfield Foundation

  Abstract of Interview

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.

Oral history includes an introduction by Bernice Dubois.


1943 Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Lille
1944 Bureau of Liberation Committee of the Isère region of France
1947 Ph.D., Physical sciences, University of Grenoble
1948 Ramsay Fellowship University College London
1956 Fulbright Smith-Mund Scholarship Columbia University

  Professional Experience

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)

1948 - 1949 Scientific Advisor to the French Cultural Counselor, London, England

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)

1962 - 1963 Scientific Advisor to the French Minister of Education, Paris, France

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)

1963 - 1965 Joint Director of Higher Education in France

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)

1963 - 1975 Member Directorate

Saarland University

1949 - 1957

Professor of Physical Chemistry and Petrochemistry

Saarland University

1949 - 1957

Director of Chemistry Institute   

Saarland University

1953 - 1957

Dean of Science Faculty

Saarland University

1957 - 1958

Guest Professor of Physical Chemistry   

Paris Diderot University

1957 - 1988

Professor, Chair of Physical Organic Chemistry, later of Chemical Informatics

Paris Diderot University

1977 - 1988

Founding Director, ITODYS (Institut de Topologie et Dynamique des Systèmes)

Palais de la Découverte, Paris

1961 - 1975

Board of Directors

French Chemical Society, Paris

1965 - 1968


Ministry of Defense, Paris

1965 - 1977

Director of Research

International CODATA Committee on Elctrochemistry, Thermodynamics, and Kinetics

1966 - 1980


Institut de Biologie Physico-Chimique, Paris

1967 - 1997

Board of Directors


1969 - 1977

Chair, Interdivisional Committee on Machine Documentation

Association for Research and Development in Chemical Informatics (ARDIC), Paris

1972 - 1988

Founding President

French Physical Chemistry Society

1972 - 1974

Vice President

French Physical Chemistry Society, Paris

1974 - 1976


National Centre for Chemical Information (CNIC), Paris

1972 - 1989

Vice President

Curie Foundation, Paris

1977 - 1980


French National University Agency for Scientific and Technical Documentation and Information

1978 - 1981


Cie. Generale d’Electricité, Paris

1979 - 1983

Scientific Director

Novelerg Co.

1979 - 1983

Chief Executive Officer

International Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA)

1980 - 1988

French National Delegate, Vice Chair, and Chair, CODATA Artificial Intelligence and Graphics Task Group

International Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA)

1980 - 1988

Vice President, CODATA/ICSU

International Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA)

1994 - 1998


International Committee on Data for Science and Technology (CODATA)

2000 - 2005


University of Marne-la-Vallée

1993 - 2005

Vice President, Center for Scientific Defense Studies


1946 Médaille de la Résistance, France
1989 Commandeur de la Légion d'Honneur, France
1977 Commandeur de l'Ordre National du Mérite, 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
1982 Bruylants Chair, Louvain University, Belgium
1986 Grand Prix of Graphic Animation du Festival d'Angers, Angers, France
1989 Dr. honoris causa, University of Regensburg, Germany
1991 C.A.O.C. (Correlation Analysis in Organic Chemistry) Medal, Paris
1992 Herman Skolnik Award for Chemical Information, American Chemical Society

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Family History, Education, and World War II 1

Description of father's World War I experiences.Influence of family on education. Effect of World War II on education. Working to earn Ph.D. As a member of the French Resistance. Work in post-War French politics. Doing research in London.

The Ministry of Education 7

Being offered a professorship to the University of the Saarland by Pierre Donzelot. Thoughts on teaching in German territory after the War. Becoming director of the Chemistry Institute and dean of science faculty. Becoming scientific advisor to Minister of Education. Working to change the French education system.

Computers and Information Systems 12

Fast kinetics research. Working at the defense ministry. Early interest in computers. Studying hindered compounds and developing the chemistry information system DARC. Developing a topocoder and its limitations. Working with CAS and IUPAC on the Committee on Machine Documentation.

Work Within the DRME 17

Creating the CEDOCAR. Working with the CODATA. Working with CAS to create applied databases in chemistry. Teaching the difference between information and informatics. Academic resistance to information scientists. The creation of AUDIST. As scientific director of the CGE.

Conclusion 22

Attempts to advance the French library system. Creating EURECAS and linking it to CAS. Sending images and information through CODATA to the CODATA Conference in Kyoto, Japan. The successes and failures of various information systems in France.

Notes 27

Index 28

  About the Interviewer

Colin B. Burke

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 Ph.D. 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.

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