Philip R. Bagley (1927-2011)

Philip R. Bagley was an American computer scientist and business data processing professional. His most notable contributions were some of the earliest work in electronic database searching, and coining of the term "metadata."

He was born in Pennsylvania and raised in Hanover, New Hampshire. His father, Charles Rutherford Bagley, was a Professor of French at Swarthmore, and then Dartmouth College, and his mother, Florence Kennedy Bagley, had, unusually for that era, obtained a bachelor's degree in Chemistry from Swarthmore, graduating first in her class. After serving briefly in the US Navy in 1945, Philip attended MIT, receiving his BS and MS in Electrical Engineering. His 1951 MIT MS thesis, entitled "Electronic Digital Machines for High-Speed Information Searching," contained some of the earliest work in that area.

In the January 1981 issue of the Journal of the American Society for Information Science, Bagley wrote:

Charles Bourne in the May 1980 issue of JASIS [31(3): 155-160; 1980] incorrectly credits me with the idea of online bibliographic searching. My masters thesis (M.I.T., 1951) was concerned with how general-purpose digital computers might be used to search magnetic tapes linearly. The response time was presumed to be several minutes at best.

If I am to be given credit for anything, it might be for having written the first computer program to search for a Boolean combination of terms; but even then, only a tiny bit of credit, because the program has errors in it.

Following graduation, he was employed at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and then at MITRE Corporation, where he worked on the SAGE air defense system. In 1964 he moved to the Philadelphia area to enter graduate school in Computer and Information Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

He submitted his PhD dissertation work, which coined the now widely familiar term, "metadata"; the thesis was not accepted, and published only as a report under contract with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, entitled, "Extension of Programming Language Concepts" (University City Science Center technical report, November 1968).

During his graduate studies and afterwards, he supported himself by consulting and by leading a series of small business data processing companies, variously named Information Technology, Information Engineering, The Automated Office, and EMCSoft, the last of which he co-ran with Bruce Bergeron. Among his various projects, he typeset into Braille administrative manuals of the Social Security Administration and a chess book (Kenneth S. Howard, One Hundred Years of the American Two-Move Chess Problem, Dover, 1962). In his later work, he designed software to check and submit Medicare claims forms. He also taught systems analysis and business data processing at Temple University.

Philip R. Bagley bibliography: (pdf, bibtex)

Author: Steven Bagley

Created: 2017-05-29 Mon 09:46