New NIH Museum Acquisitions: Benjamin to Buttons

Monday, May 2, 2016

Not as portable as a contact list on your phone but perhaps more durable, this Rolodex contains the names and numbers of hundreds of Dr. Alan Rabson’s colleagues from Aikman to Zuurbier. As Deputy Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Rabson was known for his openness to answering questions from patients all over the world and referring them to physicians in their area. A noted pathologist, Rabson came to the National Institutes of Health in 1955, and was married Dr. Ruth Kirschstein. Read his oral history.

Known as the “Ben Franklin,” this folder contained information about the services offered by the National Institute of Health’s Division of Computer Research and Technology (now CIT). There were several versions of the folder as the services, fees, and equipment changed, but the Franklin image remained. This version includes inserts from November 1992.

The folder also includes a booklet about computer history at NIH and in general. The first computer at NIH was an IBM 650 in 1958.

In 1970, the Nursing Service at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), created “A Guidebook for Nursing in a Metabolic Research Unit” with an explanation of the unit layout, research protocols, tools and equipment, and staff assignments. To help write it, they of course contacted an NIH librarian, who put together a bibliography of articles written on the subject—an early kind of Google search. They still had to physically retrieve the articles, though.

It’s hard to imagine that just 26 years ago, getting email capability was a big achievement, because connectivity and computers go hand in hand. In 1990, the National Institutes of Health Utility Network (NUnet) connected all 36 NIH buildings on and off campus. By 1991, 60 networks were joined through the system designed by the Center for Information Technology’s Roger Fajman—some of them international.

Category: Science