Skip Navigation Bar

NLM Mourns Loss of Clifford A. Bachrach, MD, Editor and Division Chief at the National Library of Medicine

The National Library of Medicine (NLM) mourns the loss of physician and researcher Dr. Clifford A. Bachrach, who died of pneumonia at a health care center in Gaithersburg, Maryland on June 16, 2015. He was 98 years old.

From 1966 until his retirement in 1985, Dr. Bachrach was on the staff of the NLM, a component of National Institutes of Health. He began his tenure as chief of the Bibliographic Services Division and was appointed in 1974 to head the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) Section. In that capacity, he was responsible for the development of the vocabulary used in indexing and cataloging, and for overseeing the selection of journals cited in Index Medicus, the major bibliography of current journal literature concerned with all aspects of medicine. In 1979, he was also named editor of Index Medicus, assuming responsibility for all aspects of the publication’s format and for instituting measures to ensure high quality in all steps of production. Index Medicus formed the basis for MEDLINE, an online index to the world's medical literature. Today, MEDLINE/PubMed is the world’s largest biomedical database, used by millions of people around the globe.

At his 1985 retirement party, then-NLM Deputy Director Kent Smith hailed Dr. Bachrach as “one of the pillars of this organization. We all recognize the awesome responsibility he holds as editor of the world’s most comprehensive bibliography of the medical literature…[and] the quality of his efforts underpins much of what NLM does and stands for.”

Dr. Bachrach was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 29, 1916. He received both his bachelor's and medical degrees from Cornell University. In 1940, he studied tropical medicine and parasitology at the University of Havana, Cuba. After serving in the US Army Medical Corps for four years during World War II, he joined the New York State Department of Health as an apprentice epidemiologist where in 1947 he participated in the control of the last naturally occurring outbreak of smallpox in the United States. This was followed by graduate work at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. Dr. Bachrach remained on the faculty of the School for ten years as a member of the Department of Biostatistics and served concurrently as director of medical records and statistics of the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Dr. Bachrach left Hopkins to become director of the Research Statistics Division of the Veterans Administration Department of Medicine and Surgery, where he was responsible for the statistical support of the VA's program of cooperative clinical trials of new drugs. He then transferred to the National Heart Institute (now the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at the National Institutes of Health) to participate in a large-scale study of risk factors in ischemic heart disease.

Dr. Bachrach is survived by his wife of 54 years, Dr. Leona L. Bachrach, formerly research professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland Medical School. He is also survived by a daughter, Susan Bachrach Coney and her husband, William Coney, of Watertown, Massachusetts; and two grandsons, William Coney of Halifax, Nova Scotia and Nathan Coney of Watertown, Massachusetts.

Since its founding in 1836, the National Library of Medicine has played a pivotal role in translating biomedical research into practice and is a leader in information innovation. NLM is the world's largest medical library, and millions of scientists, health professionals and the public around the world use NLM services every day.