A Congress at Harvard

Robert A. Fairthorne

    My transition from the lower levels of Aeronautical Research to Information Science took some decades, of chance rather than of choice, in the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough, England. During these years series of tools for the previous tasks themselves became the main task. There came a time when either computation or information was the main task. The changeover to information was consolidated in 1950, after a visit to USA centred on the International Congress of Mathematicians held in Harvard.
    My brief was to report on this and to visit some pioneering computer projects that were around; also to find out about an interesting type of superimposed coding devised by one Calvin Mooers. The Congress Proceedings also contained a paper by him called "Information Retrieval viewed as temporal signaling" which, apart from being of seminal importance, was the first appearance between hard covers of Calvin's coinage "Information Retrieval".
    Personally this visit was memorable because it was the first time I had flown as a passenger rather than as an observer. Even more so because it was my first visit to USA from a Britain still afflicted with strict rationing and acute shortages. Above all, it included my first visit to a USA home, as opposed to hotel. This was the home of Calvin and Charlotte Mooers. Thus began a friendship that lasted till his death a few years ago.
    Though this was a milestone in my progress towards Information Science, the journey was not complete, and a new one begun, till I resigned from the Establishment in 1963.

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