Past Presidents of ASIS&T

Watson Davis
Davis was President and founder of ADI. He devised methods for popularizing the study of science in general. He was editor of Science Service and Science News Letter. He was also Director of the Science Clubs of America, which he saw as an "educational force for the future" (Current Biography). The documentation division of Science Services was established in 1935 and was the "nucleus of ADI" which was organized in 1937. Through ADI, Davis sought to solve the problems "surrounding publication, bibliography, library facilities, etc."

Glenn J. Seaborg, chairman of AEC, noted that "Watson Davis has done more for the popularization of science and the understanding of science by the general public than any other individual." According to Richards, Davis was "the pioneer microfilm enthusiast." Davis saw microfilm as "basis for a data and information revolution" (Burke). In 1934, Davis attempted to create an ILL program-the Bibliofilm Service at the NAL. He wanted to "create a constantly updated world bibliography of science" (Burke). 

More Information Science Pioneers

History of ASIS&T - Timeline

DRAFT 10/20/12*



1926: Watson Davis, Editor of Science Service, an organization established by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Academy of Science, and the National Research Council, and Edwin Slosson, first Editor of Science Service, issue a memorandum titled “Plan for a Film Record,” which called for developing services for the collection, duplication, and distribution of scientific and scholarly works on microfilm. Davis designated this memo as Document No. 1 for the later development of a “documentation institute.”

1930: Watson Davis drafts a plan for “A World Bibliography of Scientific Literature” that urges the use of microfilm and scanning devices to capture and distribute scientific information. 

1933: Davis proposes a “Scientific Information Institute” to deal with the current problems of collecting and distributing scientific information. This plan is distributed widely to the scientific community. 

1935 (Summer): The American Chemical Foundation provides a grant of $15,000 to the Documentation Institute of Science Service (which replaced the idea of the Scientific Information Institute) to support research and development on microfilm equipment, take over and operate the Bibliofilm Service of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, and operate the Auxiliary Publication Service of Science Service. 

1935 (September): Davis participates in the Congress of the International Institute of Documentation (IID) in Copenhagen and becomes familiar with the European documentation scene. 

1935 (December): The National Academy of Sciences and the National Research Council call a “Conference on Abstracting and Documentation” to address the need for improved bibliographic control of scientific information. 

1936 (January): The Auxiliary Publications Service is begun under the auspices of Science Service. Over its 30 year history it would copy and distribute over 10,000 documents. At the same time, Science Service, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, took over the operations of Bibliofilm Service. 

1936: The first American microfilm symposium, organized by Davis and Robert C. Binkley, a professor at Western Reserve University, is held in Richmond, VA.

1936 (December?): Davis issues a “Plan for a Documentation Institute.”

1937 (January, February): A series of conferences related to planning the “Documentation Institute” is held in Washington, DC, attended by representatives of about 29 governmental agencies and libraries. Detailed records of the discussions are recorded, including trying to satisfactorily define documentation.

1937 (March, 13): The Documentation Institute is officially established (the word American was added later in April) as a non-profit organization at a meeting held at the National Academy of Sciences building, Washington, DC, by vote of 45 in favor, 5 opposed, and 10 abstaining. Watson Davis was elected president at a meeting held in April. Offices are maintained at Science Service.

1937 (August): Davis participates in the World Congress on Documentation held in Paris, France. 

1938: The American Library Association establishes The Journal of Documentary Reproduction, which unofficially acts as a newsletter for ADI. Vernon Tate is editor for the life of the publication (1938-1943). 

1940-1945: Membership in ADI was based on an official listing of representative agencies which in turn, pro-forma, nominated a representative to the annual meetings for a three year period. Activities for the next few years were: operation of the Bibliofilm services (which ceased in 1941); operation of the Auxiliary Publications Service; continued development of microphotography and microfilm. These activities brought in some funding but money was always a problem. Small project funding was received from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation during this time. These ADI activities were very effective in providing needed documents to researchers all over the world. 

1947: Watson Davis ends his service as President of ADI and becomes Secretary-Treasurer. Waldo Leland becomes President of ADI. 

1948: Efforts to form a new organization, the American Council of Documentation, are defeated but these discussions (particularly at the Conference on Documentation this year) eventually lead to significant changes in ADI, principally to make it into an association of individual members. 

1950: Luther Evans, Librarian of Congress (and later, Director of Unesco) becomes President of ADI.

1950: ADI establishes, with the support of the Carnegie Corporation, the journal, American Documentation. Vernon Tate is the editor. 

1951: Two separate groups attempt to start a new documentation association but both are defeated. Those advocating for a new organization center their objections to ADI around the issue of membership representation. 

1952 (September): ADI constitution and bylaws are amended to make the organization one of documentalists instead of an association of documentation organizations. Officers and the Board are elected directly by members, now numbering 200. 

1953: Jesse Shera assumes the position of editor of American Documentation, a position he holds until 1960.

1953-1957: ADI begins to sponsor or co-sponsor documentation conferences in the US and to hold annual meeting in cooperation with related associations. 

1954: The first annual meeting of ADI to be held outside of Washington, DC is held at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, OH

1955: ADI becomes a member of the Council of National Library Associations (CNLA) and an affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

1957: ADI establishes a Committee on the Future to examine general trends in the field and make recommendations for continuing development.

1958: ADI is a co-sponsor of the International Conference on Scientific Information (ICSI) held in Washington, DC. This conference had broad national and international participation (approx. 1,000 attending and 75 papers presented). 

1958: The first regional chapter, the Potomac Valley Chapter, is established.

1959: ADI personal membership is now 1,221 with 64 institutional members.

1960: ADI receives funding from the National Science Foundation for general support purposes. These funds enable the hiring of a full time executive director and the establishment of its own (almost) permanent office in 1961. 

1961: An informal ADI membership newsletter becomes formal. 

1961: Luther H. Evans is appointed editor of American Documentation for a one year period. 

1962: ADI celebrates its 25th year. Watson Davis presents his “Documentation Unfinished” essay at the annual conference.

1962: James D. Mack is appointed editor of American Documentation, a position he holds for two years. 

1963: The Award of Merit is established. 

1963: ADI publishes preprints of its annual meeting, the first technical book ever composed on electronic processing equipment.

1964: Arthur W. Elias is appointed editor of American Documentation, a position he holds until 1977. 

1965: ADI sponsors a major conference on education for the field, the Working Symposium on Education for Information Science, known as the Airlie Conference .

1966: “Proto-SIGs” were established before this time but by this date 7 had been officially established.

1966: ADI in cooperation with the Special Libraries Association and the Chemical Literature Division of the American Chemical Society establish Documentation Abstracts (which soon becomes Information Science Abstracts).

1966: ADI publishes the first volume of the Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (ARIST); Carlos Cuadra is the first editor. 

1968: ADI becomes the American Society for Information Science (ASIS). This name change had been contemplated for several years but became official this year. 

1969: The Western Canada Chapter is established as the first chapter outside the U.S.

1969 (Fall): ASIS establishes its own headquarters operation in Washington, DC, terminating a management contract with James E. Bryan, Inc.. Headquarters location is 1719 S. St. NW.

1970: ASIS contracts to operate the Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) Clearinghouse for Library and Information Science (CLIS) for a period of 4 years. 

1970: American Documentation is renamed Journal of the American Society for Information Science (JASIS). 

1970 (April): Herbert R. Koller assumes the position of Executive Director of ASIS.

1972 (May): The first Mid-Year meeting of ASIS is held in Dayton, OH.

1973 (October): Herbert R. Koller resigns as Executive Director and Joshua I. Smith assumes the position. 

1974: ASIS loses the ERIC/CLIS contract and financial difficulties are encountered. Most of these difficulties are because of an overly optimistic estimate of the value of unsold books in inventory and because of poor financial reports. 

1974: The Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science replaces the former occasional membership newsletter. 

1974: The Northern European Chapter is established, making it the first chapter outside of North America.

1975: SIG CON, an infamous riff on conference behaviors and presentations, is initiated. Dr. Llewellyn C. Puppybreath, III, is the founder—but there is no documentation showing that he ever made an appearance at the program. 

1976 (July): Joshua I. Smith resigns as Executive Director of ASIS and Samuel B. Beatty, formerly Assistant Executive Director, is named as Managing Director, and later as Executive Director, a position he held until 1984. ASIS has to borrow money from the American Chemical Society and the American Federation of Information Processing Societies to tide it over until finances improve. Headquarters staff is drastically reduced, from 15 to 10. 

1976: The Watson Davis Award is created to recognize individuals who have given continuous service and made outstanding contributions to the Society. 

1976: ASIS licenses JASIS to Wiley, Inc. for a $350,000 advance against royalties.

1976: Martha Williams is appointed editor of the Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (ARIST

1978: Charles T. Meadow is appointed editor of JASIS, a position he holds until 1984. 

1979: ASIS membership reaches 4,000. However, shortly after this time, membership begins a slow decline, reaching about 2,500 in 1999. 

1981: After years of discussion of a possible merger with the Special Libraries Association (SLA), including forming a joint operating group for several years, ASIS terminates the discussion. Although there was considerable overlap in membership between the two organizations, ASIS members decide that the nature and focus of the two organizations are considerably different. 

1982: The Taipei Chapter is established, representing the Far East, as the first chapter in the Asia-Pacific area. 

1984: Linda Resnik assumes the position of Executive Director of ASIS. 

1985: Donald H. Kraft is appointed editor of JASIS, a position he holds until 2008. 

1987: ASIS celebrates its 50th anniversary and publishes a special issue of the Bulletin to document many of the accomplishments over the years. 

1989 (March): Richard Hill is appointed Executive Director of ASIS.

1999: The last Mid-Year meeting is held in Pasadena, CA. These annual meetings had apparently lost focus and were becoming more like the Annual Meeting (AM) than was initially intended when they began in 1972.

2000: ASIS, at the initiation of Pres. Eugene Garfield, renegotiates the Wiley, Inc. contract for JASIS, from a 5% royalty fee to 20%, resulting in an improved financial situation. 

2000: The first Information Architecture (IA) Summit is held in Boston, MA

2000 (August): ASIS becomes ASIS&T by adding “and Technology” to the name, a move that had been suggested in earlier years but only accepted now. 

2002: Blaise Cronin is appointed editor of the Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (ARIST). 

2005: The first European Information Architecture Summit is held in Brussels, Belgium.

2008: The Wiley, Inc. contract for JASIST publication is renegotiated and opened up for new bids from other publishers but Wiley, Inc. retains the contract.

2009: Blaise Cronin is appointed editor of JASIST

2011: Decision is made to discontinue annual publication of ARIST and instead include these types of articles in JASIST. Last volume is Vol. 45. 

2012 (October): ASIS&T celebrates its 75th anniversary and holds a history pre-conference that explores the history of ASIS&T and information science worldwide. 

2013 (February):  ASIS&T changes its name from the American Society for Information Science and Technology to the Association for Information Science and Technology to reflect its growing international membership.

*Please send revisions, corrections, and suggested additions to Bob Williams (

Farkas-Conn, I. S. (1990). From Documentation to Information Science: The Beginnings and Early Development of the American Documentation Institute—American Society for Information Science. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 229pp. 

Redmond, A.D. (1985). American Society for Information Science—History. In: Allen Kent, ed., Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, Vol. 38, pp. 11-31. NY: Marcel Dekker. 

Schultz, C.K. (1976). ASIS: notes on its founding and development. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science 2(March), 49-51. 

U.S. Library of Congress. Science, Technology and Business Division. Technical Reports and Standards, American Documentation Institute. Available: . Includes a brief history of ADI. 

Williams, R.V. (2012). The Changed and Changing ADI/ASIS/ASIST) After 75 Years. Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 38(5; June/July), 32-38.