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THE CONFERENCE owes more perhaps to Dr. Alberto F.Thompson than to any other individual, for he transformed the initial conception into a plan that others finally carried out. As Head of the Office of Scientific Information of the National Science Foundation he was deeply involved in the planning of the Conference, possibly too deeply, for he gave himself with boundless enthusiasm to all that interested him, regardless of limitations of time and health.
An organic chemist, Dr. Thompson received his Ph.D. degree at Harvard, did post-graduate work at the University of Munich, and taught at the University of Minnesota and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As a major in the Manhattan District of the US Corps of Engineers during World War II, he worked on the development of the atomic bomb. He became Chief of the Technical Information Service of the US Atomic Energy Commission and in November, 1955, he joined the staff of the National Science Foundation. Among his achievements were publication of the National Nuclear Energy Series and the establishment of Nuclear Science Abstracts.
His infectious good humor and the brilliant range of his interests (from limericks and model railroads to the works of Mozart and the cultivation of roses) won the affection of all, even of those who disagreed with him.
Too energetic and too wise to see science in terms less than international, he saw the information problem on the same scale; yet he searched always for the most effective immediate measures. Operations research on the flow of scientific information received strong encouragement from him: he was deeply interested in mechanical translation and electronic data processing systems. At the same time, he had utmost respect for the physically simple retrieval systems.
Alberto Thompson’s expectations for the Conference combined high hopes with New England practicality. We hope that the Conference succeeded in achieving what he would have wished: to inspire us with the vision of the future without letting us forget the realities of the present.