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In Memoriam: Jacques-Émile Dubois (1920-2005)

(Chemical Information Bulletin vol. 57, No. 2, Fall 2005)


The chemical information community lost a pioneer, especially noted for advances in handling chemical structural information, when Professor Jacques-Émile Dubois died in Paris on April 2, 2005, in his 85th year.

A formal obituary was published earlier in the spring 2005 issue of the CINF E-News. While Prof. Dubois does not need an introduction to the international chemical information community, it is worth to refer to a wonderful article in the Fall 2002 issue of Chemical Heritage entitled "A Special Chemical Information Pioneer".

As the article highlights, he began to concentrate on the information problems in the late 1950s. Long frustrated by what he saw as inadequacies in chemical information systems, he started to search for new ways to organize and deliver chemical information.

Prof. Dubois created the DARC (Documentation and Automated Research of Correlations) system. It happened at the time when after World War II the amount of published chemical information dramatically increased and needed to be appropriately coded, classified, organized, and retrievable to answer specific questions. Computer hardware and software, however primitive, became available and it was obvious to a forward-thinking individual such as Prof. Dubois that they needed to be harnessed to counteract the information crisis. The DARC system, conceived in the early 1960s, became operational in 1977 as part of the EUROCAS, an online chemical substructure search service utilizing CAS files.

It is this interest in the use of computers in managing of chemical information that led to his participation on the international scene as chairman of the IUPAC Interdivisional Committee on Machine Documentation in the Chemical Field (1969-1977).

In this Chemical Information Bulletin, we wish to focus on Prof. Dubois' long association with the ACS Division of Chemical Information (CINF) and the ACS Journal of Chemical Information and Computer Sciences.

In 1992, Prof. Dubois was a winner of the divisional Herman Skolnik Award and the citation read:

"For the development of the DARC Topological System which led to various applications in search and retrieval of chemical substructures and structures and in artificial intelligence such as in applying sequences of substructure, structure, and hyperstructure to locate chemical entities in their structural context and in evaluation of their local and global properties according to topological or topographical information."

The Award was presented at the 204th ACS National Meeting in Washington, DC, at which Prof. Dubois presented his address as part of a special symposium commemorating the event.

His first paper, presented before what was then known as the ACS Division of Chemical Literature, on "National Center for Chemical Information in France" was at the 164th ACS National Meeting in New York in 1972.

His last appearance before CINF was at the 225th ACS National Meeting in New Orleans in 2003. He had graciously accepted our invitation to participate in the Michael O'Hara Memorial Symposium and presented a paper on the history of DARC system. He pointed out how DARC implementation profited by cooperation with nongovernmental institutions such as ACS, CAS and IUPAC, as well as with private industries, and stressed Mike O'Hara's contributions to the development of DARC products, especially to patent searching and retrieval.

Prof. Dubois contributed papers to the Journal of Chemical Information and Computer Sciences and its predecessor the Journal of Chemical Documentation. The 1973 paper in the latter described the then French national policy for chemical information and the DARC system as a potential tool of that policy.

Prof. Dubois contributed an important review to the Silver Anniversary issue of the Journal of Chemical Information and Computer Sciences in 1985. His last paper in that journal was published in 1998 and addressed virtual enhancement of a 13C NMR database and a method enabling spectral data transfer.

In 2002, Prof. Dubois participated in the Conference on the History and Heritage of Scientific and Technological Information Systems organized by the Chemical Heritage Foundation of Philadelphia.

All in all, he authored over 1000 articles and presentations in the fields of fast kinetics, thermodynamics, and chemical information. He also edited a number of scientific books, primarily in the field of scientific and technological information.

He was a member of the ACS since 1966 and a member of CINF since 1975.

He will be missed by his colleagues, students, and friends worldwide for his competence in numerous scientific fields, promotion of multidisciplinary endeavors, and his pioneering work in developing modern chemical information science.

W. Val Metanomski, CINF Archivist/Historian