Joseph November

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I am on academic leave for the year 2007-2008 to serve as the DeWitt Stetten, Jr. Fellow at the National Institutes of Health. There my research explores the role of the NIH in promoting the development of computer technology in the 1960s. Specifically, I am investigating the NIH's Advisory Committee on Computers in Research (ACCR) during its tenure as the primary sponsor, and arguably the primary shaper, of American biomedical computing in the early-to-mid 1960s. Generously supported by a U.S. Senate trying to boost United States science vis-à-vis the USSR, the ACCR fostered the development of several major biomedical computing centers (at MIT, UCLA, and Washington University, among others) as well as exemplary computer systems, most notably the Laboratory Instrument Computer (LINC), a predecessor to the personal computer, and the Dendritic Algorithm (DENDRAL), an early expert system. For all of its influence, however, the ACCR's goals and workings remain opaque. By directly examining NIH archival collections, private collections, artifacts (e.g., computers and analog-to-digital conversion equipment), and interviewing surviving participants, I aim to elucidate the precise priorities of the ACCR and place those priorities into the context of the NIH's transformation into a major center and sponsor of research during the 1960s.

Department of History, University of South Carolina
Assistant Professor
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Primary Field of Interest
History of Biomedical Computing


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7 years 13 weeks