AFOSR Program

[MouseSite Editorial Note:The following text is a section from a brochure titled , "AFOSR Program" providing a general overview of programs for research on information processing sponsored by the Air Force Office for Scientific Research. It was marked by Engelbart. He received funding from the Air Force a couple of years later. The second text which is in the same folder as the section on 'Information Complexes' was written by Harold Wooster, the director of the Air Force Office for Scientific Research, with whom Engelbart corresponded.]


The information complexes research program is concerned ultimately with the structure of knowledge, as reflected in language, using the broadest possible definition of language as any ordered area of symbols. The most probable application of this research effort will be in the areas of automatic language-processing systems--systems which use the resources of modern technology, including both general and special- purpose computers, digital, and analog storage devices for automatically abstracting, indexing, cataloging, and retrieving the evergrowing volume of scientific information.

The research program is interdisciplinary in nature, bounded by such standard disciplines as biophysics, psychology, physics, solid state sciences, mathematics and mathematical logic, philosophy, and even library science. Within this area the research program ranges from extension of the best in modern library practices (including certain specialized bibliographic and abstracting services), through the use of present generations of large digital computers in language processing ( in such new areas as special recognition and pattern recognition), to modest efforts in certain aspects of artificial intelligence relevant to information processing and fundamental investigations on the structure of information.

The information-handling problems of AFOSR are used as a pilot plant for experimentation. Two operating mechanized technical information systems have been built: One using an external index to a computer store of information on all AFOSR research contracts; the other using tape-controlled typewriters and a simple magnetic tape-searching device to exploit fully the latent resources of existing research documentation.

The future research interests of this program lie in the relevant areas of mathematical logics applied to computers, in the form of algorithms, and, in some cases, even debugged programs for language processing. Any new and interesting area of interactions between computers and living systems is approached in this program usually from the aspect of logical analysis and mathematical models, rather than through direct experimentation with living systems.

[MouseSite Editorial Note: Engelbart attached the following abstract to the AFOSR-brochure]

Abstracts and Biographies

Dr. Harold Wooster, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, OAR, Directorage of Mathematical Sciences (SRMI), Washington 25, D. C.

Information, for the purpose of this paper, is defined as knowledge which man uses to operate on his environment. It is not limited to the usual meaning of marks on paper, but subsumes all forms of analog and digital data; but also what are many of the triumphs of 20th Century technology and engineering but peculiarly expensive and complicated devices for obtaining and transmitting information. There are only three weapons available for tackling information problems --people, money and machines. In the ambience of non-limiting funds, the central problem in information processing is how best to use the peculiar abilities of people and machines -- of how to use machines to relieve, to emulate, and perhaps some day in the future, even to equal or, mirabile dictu, surpass some of the mental abilities of people in processing information. Research in the information sciences is a problem-oriented trans-disciplinary cut across the boundaries of many new and old scientific specializations. It is a search for new understanding of neural, mental and intellectual processes --understanding which can lead to a sounder technological basis for the intelligent use of people and machines in the information systems of the future.

Dr. Wooster is Chief of the Information Sciences Division, Directorate of Mathematical Sciences, Air Force Office of Scientific Research. He manages a multi-disciplinary basic research program in the advanced non-numerical uses of computers in such areas as pattern recognition; lexical processing (including data or information processing, storage and retrieval and translation); encoding for communication and control; and decision making. He received an A.B. in Chemistry degree, magna cum laude, from Syracuse University in 1939. He received his M.S. in 1941, and his Ph.D. in 1943, for research in clinical endocrinology, from the University of Wisconsin. The war years were spent working for the National Defense Research Committee, OSRD, at the Toxicity Laboratory, University of Chicago, in classified research on novel chemical warfare agents. In 1946, he went to the Pepper Laboratory of Clinical Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, under an Office of Naval Research contract, to study the pharmacology and toxicology of various nitrates, including a new type of flashless explosive. He joined the Mellon Institute, Pittsburgh, in 1947 as Senior Fellow on the Food Varieties Fellowship. There he combined laboratory re se arch in nutritional and food biochemistry with writing and editing in nutrition. He edited the quarterly journal, Nutritional Observatory, and produced the standard reference work and teaching aid, "Nutritional Data." In 1956, Dr. Wooster joined the staff of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Since then, in addition to managing the principal Air Force basic research program in the information sciences, Dr. Wooster has edited four books: "Vistas in Astronautics," "Information Storage and Retrieval,""Basic Research Resumes - A Survey of Air Force Basic Research," and the "Air Force Scientific Research Bibliography." He is a member of many professional and honorary societies, including Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi, and he is a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society. His name is listed in American Men of Science, Who's Who in the South and the Who's Who Supplement, and the 4th edition of Leaders in American Science. His hobbies include sports cars and trucks, calligraphy and carpentry.