National Library of Medicine (U.S.). Office of the Director

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Martin Marc Cummings (1920- ) medical educator, physician, scientific administrator, and medical librarian, made significant contributions to medical informatics and librarianship. As Director of the National Library of Medicine from 1964 to 1984, he guided the Library into the age of technology while broadening its mission.

Cummings was born in Camden, New Jersey on September 7, 1920. He received his bachelor of arts degree from Bucknell University in 1941 and his doctorate in medicine from Duke University in 1944. His medical research interests included the treatment of sarcoidosis and tuberculosis. In 1946 Cummings completed a U.S. Public Health Service internship and residency at the Boston Marine Hospital, after which he became a commissioned officer in the Public Health Service. In this capacity he received extensive training in bacteriology and tuberculosis at the Michigan State Health Department and the Serum Institute of Denmark. Upon completion of his training he served as Director of the Tuberculosis Evaluation Laboratory at the Communicable Disease Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

In 1949 Cummings joined the U.S. Veterans Administration's Department of Medicine and Surgery. He served from 1949 to 1953 as Chief of the Tuberculosis Section and Director of the Tuberculosis Research Laboratory at the V.A.'s Lawson General in Chamblee, Georgia. In 1953 he became Director of Research Services at the V.A.'s Central Office in Washington, D.C., serving until 1959.

During his time at the V.A. he also taught at several medical universities. Starting in 1948 he began teaching as an Instructor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia rising to the positions of Assistant Professor of Medicine and Associate Professor of Bacteriology by 1953. While at the V.A.'s Central Office he taught at the George Washington School of Medicine lecturing there in Microbiology until 1959. From 1959 to 1961 he was Chairman and Professor of the Department of Microbiology at the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine.

In 1961 Cummings accepted the position of Chief of the Office of International Research at the National Institutes of Health serving until 1963. Over the next year he served as Associate Director for Research Grants before becoming the Director of the National Library of Medicine in 1964.

As Director of the National Library of Medicine, Cummings embraced technology to improve the services offered by the Library. He oversaw the improvement of MEDLARS and developed new programs such as the Extramural Programs, Regional Library Network, Specialized Information Services, and the Toxicology Program. In addition, Cummings focused on gaining authority and funds for a Research and Development program which culminated on May 22, 1980 with the dedication of the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications. Other successes include his involvement with the passage of the Medical Library Assistance Act of October 22, 1965 authorizing the Library to aid the nation's medical libraries in expanding their services to the health community. During his tenure at the Library his research interests included John Shaw Billings and William Osler, National Library of Medicine programs and library operations, and biomedical communications, history, and administration.

It was under Cummings' directorship that the Library was involved in the historic Williams & Wilkins Co. v. The United States case. On February 27, 1968 the Williams & Wilkins Co., a major publisher of medical and scientific books and journals, filed a petition in the U.S. Court of Claims against the United States of America. They charged that the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health library violated the company's copyright by duplicating for interlibrary loan articles from journals published by Williams & Wilkins. When the case was finally settled by the Supreme Court in 1975 in favor of the government, it had become a landmark case concerning library photocopying and copyright.

Cummings retired as Director on September 30, 1983 but immediately assumed new duties as Director Emeritus. His new responsibilities included the organization and classification of the John Shaw Billings Papers and assisting the International Program activities in the wake of Dr. Mary Corning's retirement. In 1984 Cummings acted as a consultant to and member of the Council on Library Resources' Board of Directors. He then returned to teaching as Distinguished Professor at Georgetown University School of Medicine from 1986 to 1990.

Throughout his career he published over 100 articles, editorials, chapters, and speeches covering medical research and librarianship. Early publications from 1946 to 1963 discuss his medical research into sarcoidosis and tuberculosis. His writings from 1963-onwards include issues concerning library administration and technology, and the National Library of Medicine.

Cummings has also received over thirty awards, fellowships, and honorary degrees. Awards include Rockefeller Public Service Award, Modern Medicine Distinguished Achievement Award, and the Abraham Horowitz Award of the Pan American Health Organization. He was a fellow of the American College of Medical Informatics, the Medical Library Association, and the Royal College of Physicians. In addition, he received honorary degrees from Bucknell University, University of Nebraska, Emory University, Georgetown University, Karolinska Institute, Academy of Medicine, Lodz, Poland, and Duke University. He was also an active member of numerous medical and library professional associations through out his career and retirement including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Medical Library Association, and the Washington Society for the History of Medicine.

  • 1920: Born in Camden, New Jersey (September 7)
  • 1941: B.S., Bucknell University
  • 1942 - 1944 : U.S. Army
  • 1944: M.D., Duke University
  • 1944 - 1947 : Internship and Residency, Boston Marine Hospital
  • 1944 - 1946 : Resident, Tuberculosis Grasslands Hospital, Valhalla, NY
  • 1946: Received specialized training in bacteriology and tuberculosis, Michigan State Health Department and the State Serum Institute of Denmark
  • 1946 - 1949 : Commissioned Officer, U.S. Public Health Service
  • 1947 - 1949 : Director, Tuberculosis Evaluation Laboratory, Communicable Disease Center, Atlanta, GA. Treated tuberculosis in veterans, Lawson Veterans Administration Hospital
  • 1948 - 1953 : Instructor through Associate Professor of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine
  • 1949 - 1953 : Chief, Tuberculosis Section and Director Tuberculosis Research Laboratory, Veterans Administration Hospital, Atlanta, GA
  • 1953 - 1959 : Director, Research Services, Veterans Administration, Washington, D.C. Lecturer of Microbiology, George Washington University School of Medicine
  • 1958 - 1959 : Chairman, Committee on Medical Research, National Tuberculosis Association
  • 1958 - 1960 : Chairman, Panel Sarcoidosis National Research Council, National Academy of Sciences
  • 1959 - 1961 : Professor and Chairman, Department of Microbiology, University of Oklahoma
  • 1961 - 1963 : Chief, Office of International Research, National Institute of Health (NIH)
  • 1963 - 1964 : Associate Director for Research Grants, NIH
  • 1964 - 1983 : Director, National Library of Medicine, NIH
  • 1965: Medical Library Assistance Act
  • 1968: Williams & Wilkins Co. v. United States of America
  • 1980: Dedication of the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications
  • 1984: Director Emeritus, NIH, National Library of Medicine (NLM)
  • 1984: Consultant and Member, Board of Directors, Council on Library Resources
  • 1986 - 1990 : Distinguished Professor, Georgetown University School of Medicine

From the guide to the National Library of Medicine (U.S.). Office of the Director, Martin M. Cummings Papers, 1944-1989, (History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Frank Bradway Rogers Papers, 1949-1981 History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine
referencedIn Rogers, Frank B. (Frank Bradway), 1914-1987. Frank Bradway Rogers papers, 1948-1982. National Library of Medicine
creatorOf National Library of Medicine. Office of the Director. Deputy Director Records, 1936-1969 History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine
creatorOf National Library of Medicine (U.S.). Office of the Director, Martin M. Cummings Papers, 1944-1989 History of Medicine Division. National Library of Medicine
Role Title Holding Repository
Place Name Admin Code Country
Libraries, Medical--organization & administration
Copyright--legislation & jurisprudence
Libraries, Medical--history
Medical informatics
Information Dissemination--history
Medical Informatics--history
Libraries, Medical

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