New Search

Madeline M. Henderson

  • Born: September 3, 1922, Merrimac, Massachusetts
  • Died: July 17, 2011, Frederick, Maryland

  Interview Details

Interview no.: 0162
Interview Date: July 14, 1997
Location: Mechanicsville, Maryland
Interviewer: Robert V. Williams
No. of pages: 82
Minutes: 308
Sponsor: Eugene Garfield Foundation
Eugene Garfield Foundation

  Abstract of Interview

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.


1944 A.B., Chemistry, Emmanuel College
1977 M.P.A., Public Administration, American University

  Professional Experience

E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company

1944 - 1945 Analytical Chemist

C. S. Batchelder Co.

1945 - 1946 Organic Researcher

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1946 - 1950 Research Associate, Chemical Engineering

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

1950 - 1952 Research Associate, Scientific and Technical Documentation

United States Government

1953 - 1953 Consultant

Battelle Memorial Institute

1953 - 1956 Research Engineer, Information Systems

United States Department of Commerce

1971 - 1972 Science and Technology Fellow

National Science Foundation

1956 - 1958 Research Analyst, Office of Science Information Service

National Science Foundation

1958 - 1962 Consultant

National Bureau of Standards

1964 - 1969 Data Processing Applications Analyst, Center for Computer Sciences and Technology

National Bureau of Standards

1969 - 1971 Consultant to Director, Center for Computer Sciences and Technology

National Bureau of Standards

1972 - 1975 Staff Assistant for Computer Usage Information, Institute for Computer Sciences and Technology

National Bureau of Standards

1975 - 1978 Chief, Computer Information Section, Information Technology Division, Institute for Computer Sciences and Technology

National Bureau of Standards

1978 - 1979 Manager, ADP Information Analysis, Institute for Computer Sciences and Technology


1979 - 1991 Consultant


1977 Election to Pi Alpha Alpha
1989 Watson Davis Award, American Society for Information Science

  Table of Contents

Title and Description Page

Early Years 1

Growing up in Quincy, Massachusetts. Parents. Attending Emmanuel College. Interest in chemistry. Working at DuPont and Harrington Labs.

Career Beginnings 4

Working in the High Pressure Research Lab at MIT. Beginning scientific information work with James W. Perry. Chemical notation systems. Funding. Editing Perry's punched cards book.

Information Classification 10

Compiling book of chemical abstracts, formulas, and notation schemes. Evaluating systems for IUPAC. Dyson system. Wiswesser system. Semantic factoring. Librarians vs. information specialists. Cataloguing.

Managing Information 20

Working for Battelle Memorial Institute. Aberdeen Proving Ground contract. Telegraphic abstracts. Selector equipment. Vocabulary control. Meeting Dick Henderson. Handling chemical information. Working for the National Science Foundation. Chemical Abstracts.

Politics of Information Science 35

Helen Brownson. Funding and grants. Chemical Abstracts Service. Writing abstracts. Women's position in the information world. Attending American University.

Later Career 49

Mary Elizabeth Stevens. Working for the National Bureau of Standards. Serving on the Task Force on Automation. Federal Library automation. Copyright roundtable. Consulting. Winning Watson-Davis award. Secretary of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Final Thoughts 63

Influential people in the field of information science. Comparing searching methods. Reflections on career. Standardization.

Notes 73

Index 76

  About the Interviewer

Robert V. Williams

Robert V. Williams is a professor of library and information science at the University of South Carolina. He holds a Ph.D. in library and information studies from the University of Wisconsin, Madison; an M.S. in library and information science from Florida State University; and an M.A. 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.

Hear It Firsthand

The Center for Oral History captures and preserves the stories of notable figures in chemistry and related fields, with over 425 oral histories that deal with various aspects of science, of scientists, and of scientific practices. For more information please visit CHF’s Oral History Program or e-mail oralhistory@

Annual Report

Annual Report
Take a look back at a year of preservation, research, and outreach in CHF’s annual report to supporters.

Support CHF

Help us preserve and share the history of chemistry and related sciences. Make a tax-deductible tax-deductible gift online.