Carlos A. Cuadra

Born: December 21, 1925 | San Francisco, CA, US

Carlos A. Cuadra, a pioneer in the field of information sciences, 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. He began to work for RAND in the System Development Division, which split off and became System Development Corporation (SDC). He learned about computers and programming while he was working on intelligence project 466L for the Air Force and was made head of the Intelligence Systems Branch of SDC, working on various information systems such as MEDLARS II, MEDLINE, ORBIT, and ELHILL. 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). Within SDC, Cuadra created SDC Search Service, one of the first online retrieval services. 

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Interview Details

Interview no.: Oral History 0221
No. of pages: 39
Minutes: 88

Interview Sessions

Colin B. Burke
21 May 2001
Los Angeles, California

Abstract of Interview

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. 

Education

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

1968
Consultant, Committee on Scientific and Technical Communication

National Commission on Libraries and Information Science

1971 to 1984
Member

Cuadra Associates, Inc.

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

Honors

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

Table of Contents

Family Background and Education
1

Growing up in San Francisco. Education while serving in the Navy during WWII. Undergraduate and graduate work in psychology at UC Berkeley. Post-graduate internships in clinical psychology.

Beginning to Work in Intelligence
5

Working for RAND Corporation and the US Air Force. Working at SDC and learning about computers. Air Force intelligence system project 466L. Working on other intelligence system projects at SDC.

Gaining Interest in Information Science
10

Developing information systems, including MEDLARS II, MEDLINE, ORBIT, and ELHILL. Attempting to develop fingerprint analysis techniques. Creating the Annual Review of Information Science and Technology. Becoming manager of Library and Documentation Systems Department at SDC.

Work on Government Committees
16

Participating on COSATI. Sitting on NCLIS. Disagreements within NCLIS. Attempts to establish a National Periodicals Center.

Developing Online Databases
23

Beginning to develop ideas for online information services. Managing SDC Search Service. Founding Cuadra Associates. Publishing the Directory of Online Databases. Creating STAR. Concluding thoughts.

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 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.