MeSH 50th anniversary: Win an iPod Shuffle, and more!

On Thursday, November 18, 2010, the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM) marks the 50th anniversary of its Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) with a talk by Robert Braude, PhD. The talk entitled “MeSH at 50 – 50th Anniversary of Medical Subject Headings” will be videocast with captioning at The event is scheduled from 12:00 noon  – 1:30 PM in the Health Sciences Library. No need to register. Following the videocast, we invite you to join us in celebrating this achievement from 1:30 – 4:00 PM. There will be a contest, prizes (including an iPod Shuffle), and of course, cake!

MeSH was first published in 1960; in 2010 we observe 50 years of this subject control authority. The seeds of MeSH were planted in December 1947. The Army Medical Library, the NLM predecessor, sponsored a Symposium on Medical Subject Headings in 1947. Participants, who included Seymour Taine, Thelma Charen, and Eugene Garfield, considered the challenges of the bibliographical control of publications. It was noted that the increasing complexity of scientific literature necessitated increasingly sophisticated approaches to organization and access. The participants recognized that the issue of a subject authority was not an academic exercise. Rather, subject cataloging and the subject indexing of journal articles were acknowledged as the essence of bibliographic control. The needs of the user of scientific information is to be always at the forefront in creating a set of medical subject headings that were made equally for subject description of books and for indexing of journal articles.

That first edition of MeSH represented a departure from the then usual library practice. MeSH contained 4,300 descriptors, and it was designed to be used for both indexing and cataloging. It is likely the first vocabulary engineered for use in an automated environment for production and retrieval. MeSH continues to evolve and grow. The 2011 edition contains more than 26,000 subject headings in an eleven-level hierarchy and eighty-three subheadings. Annual revision and updating are ongoing to assure that MeSH remains useful as a way to categorize medical knowledge and knowledge in allied and related disciplines for retrieval of key information. MeSH is 50 years old and new each year.

For more information, contact:
Health Sciences Library Information Desk

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