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NLM Announces Online Resource, "In His Own Words: Martin Cummings and the NLM"

Former Director Guided National Library of Medicine into the Computer Age 

The National Library of Medicine announces In His Own Words: Martin Cummings and the NLM (//, an online edition of selected speeches and articles by the man who served as its director from 1964 to 1983. During his tenure, Dr. Cummings guided NLM, the world's largest medical library and a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), into the age of technology and significantly broadened its mission.

Martin Marc Cummings (1920-2011), MD, was a medical educator, physician, scientific administrator and medical librarian. Highly respected in all of these disciplines, he made significant contributions to medical informatics and librarianship.

Born in Camden, New Jersey, Cummings received his BA degree from Bucknell University in 1941 and his MD from Duke University in 1944. Over the next five years, he completed a US Public Health Service internship and residency at the Boston Marine Hospital, and, as a commissioned officer in the Public Health Service, received training in bacteriology and tuberculosis at the Michigan State Health Department and the Serum Institute of Denmark. He then served as director of the Tuberculosis Evaluation Laboratory at the Communicable Disease Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

In 1949, Cummings joined the US Veterans Administration's Department of Medicine and Surgery, as chief of the Tuberculosis Section and director of the Tuberculosis Research Laboratory in Chamblee, Georgia. In 1953, he became director of research services at the VA's Central Office in Washington, DC, serving until 1959.

From 1959 to 1961, he was chairman and professor of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine. Then from 1961 to 1963, he served as chief of the Office of International Research at the NIH, and then as NIH associate director for research grants before becoming the director of the National Library of Medicine in 1964.

In His Own Words: Martin Cummings and the NLM is enriched by comments that Dr. Cummings himself provided on selected items in recent years. The site also provides a short sketch of his life and accomplishments. The digital collection is based on the materials held in the Library's Modern Manuscripts collections, and represents one of the ways that the National Library of Medicine is digitizing its holdings for the benefit of its users.

Through these many documents, one gains an appreciation of Dr. Cummings' deep engagement with the new digital technology of the 1960s and 1970s. He became a strong advocate for the potential of technology to widely disseminate medical information quickly and efficiently. One of his legacies is the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications, which opened at NLM in 1980; another was the Library's embrace of audiovisual methods for conveying information and supporting professional training. Through Cummings' efforts, the modern digital era of medical librarianship and information dissemination began to come into being.

The genesis of this project came from Cheryl Dee, PhD, at Florida State University School of Library and Information Science and San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science. Over the course of more than five years, Dr. Dee worked with Dr. Cummings, researched the collection of his papers at the Library, and interviewed Dr. Cummings on the events and people mentioned in these documents. This improved metadata provides additional context to the materials. NLM staff technically enhanced her work, and the resulting collaboration is mounted as a permanent online edition. In 2012, the Library plans to add Dr. Cummings's annual Congressional appropriations testimonies, as well as his recent commentary-work that Dr. Dee assembled, transcribed, analyzed, indexed, and edited. These materials will provide insight into significant turning points in the Library's history.

The functionality supporting In His Own Words is provided through the DLXS software, which provides access to a variety of Archives and Modern Manuscripts electronic texts via Archives and Modern Manuscripts Texts Collections. The new site was created by NLM's History of Medicine Division.


 Martin Cummings 

Martin M. Cummings, MD, with printed volumes of the Index Medicus and in the background, the computer tapes that he intended would replace them (1968).