Issue Date: July 30, 2007
CAS Special Feature
As a former volunteer abstracter for Chemical Abstracts, I offer my kudos to the writers and staff for producing so interesting a feature. It brought back pleasant memories (C&EN, June 11, page 38).
When I was a graduate student and young chemist, I was taught that being a volunteer abstractor was a professional obligation and contribution as well as a way of keeping up with the literature and maintaining proficiency in a foreign language. I also abstracted articles in Spanish.
Regrettably, you did not identify the people in the photograph at the top left of page 46 looking at the early computer equipment, two of whom are a young Malcolm Dyson (middle) and Dale Baker (right). The third person is Milton Harris, outstanding keratin chemist, research manager, and wonderful friend. He was chairman of the ACS Board of Directors.
I really enjoyed the C&EN article on the history of Chemical Abstracts Service. The essay also brought back memories of the time when I was a volunteer abstractor in the early 1960s while attending graduate school. I found the work quite interesting, especially when I was asked to translate and write abstracts from German patents on explosives developed during World War II.
I never knew there were thousands of fellow volunteers writing abstracts for the service in those days. The service has been important and valuable for everyone working in a scientific profession. Future generations of scientists should be grateful to the people who pioneered its development and to those who helped it evolve into a modern information tool.
Joseph A. Castellano
San Jose, Calif.
Congratulations to CAS on reaching its centenary. Where would we be without it? I have one minor criticism which also might be relevant to the input of 19th-century literature. In the history of abstracts, written by CAS's Eric Shively, no mention was made of British Chemical Abstracts (BCA). These started as abstracts published with the Journal of the Chemical Society (1871-77) and then as Journal of the Chemical Society, Abstracts (1878-1925), a separate journal which changed its name to British Chemical Abstracts in 1926 and continued until it closed in 1953.
As an English source BCA had value for the latter 19th century and provided a better coverage than Chemical Abstracts until about 1920. This is particularly true of the applied field.
A cross-check for the overlapping period plus input of the earlier period could provide a useful complement to the retrospective input of the Journal für praktische Chemie/Chemiker-Zeitung.
Shively responds: Moss makes an excellent observation. British Chemical Abstracts should be included in any history of En??glish-language abstracting publications for chemistry. We should have mentioned this important resource in our brief overview of the works that came before, and we regret the omission.
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