In His Own Words: Martin Cummings and the NLM


In His Own Words: Martin Cummings and the NLM, created by Cheryl Dee, Ph.D. is a searchable, online presentation of the annual Congressional appropriations testimonies and selected speeches and articles written by the former National Library of Medicine Director Martin M. Cummings, M.D.

In His Own Words – About the Project states, “This collaborative project has its roots in the interests and expertise of Dr. Cheryl Dee, at San Jose State University School of Information and Florida State University School of Library and Information Services. 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 about the events and people mentioned in these documents to provide context to the materials. She then assembled, edited, analyzed, and indexed the commentaries.”  The project’s sketch further describes the Senate Appropriations Commentaries. “Commentaries provided by Dr. Cummings, through interviews with Dr. Dee, enhance his Senate appropriations’ statements. These enhancements document Dr. Cummings’ opinion that together, the testimonies and commentaries offer the most valuable window into NLM’s program development from the 1960’s to the 1980’s. After reflecting on those testimonies, and the subsequent question and answer sessions defending them, Dr. Cummings’ commentary provides contextual insight on significant turning points in the Library’s history and the political personalities that influenced them.”

Martin Marc Cummings (1920-2011), medical educator, physician, scientific researcher, and Director of the National Library of Medicine from 1964 to 1983, guided the Library into the age of technology.

Highlights of Dr. Cummings’ career include his early work to achieve access to the world’s biomedical literature with the completion of the Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System (MEDLARS). 

Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System (MEDLARS)

He subsequently directed the development of NLM’s Medical Literature Analysis and Retrieval System Online (MEDLINE), designed to store and retrieve medical information on demand.

Dr. Cummings’ political expertise obtained passage of the 1965 Medical Library Assistance Act (MLAA) creating NLM’s authority to award grants, most significantly, the ground-breaking grant for the formation of the Regional Medical Library network. He also engineered the establishment of NLM’s research and development program that transformed the NLM into a national biomedical communications center and the building to house it, the Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications.

Lister Hill National Center for Biomedical Communications

Dr. Cummings directed the doctrine of “fair use” applied to photocopying and disseminating medical literature all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won the groundbreaking case which benefits biomedicine, and also library and information centers nationwide.

Dr. Dee extends her sincere appreciation and thanks to Douglas J. Turk, for his extensive technical development and metadata support and also to her student assistants credited on the In His Own Words website.

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