NAME: Calvin Northrup Mooers
DATES: 1919-1994
WORKED AT: Rockford Research Inc.
OTHER INFORMATION: Mooers coined the terms "information retrieval" (1950) and "descriptors." He promulgated "Mooers' Law" on the use of information. He advocated assigning random superimposed codes to reduce the possibility of false drops and assure greater accuracy. He was the son-in-law of Watson Davis. He worked on early information retrieval experiments during WWII (Farkas-Conn). He worked at: Pres., Rockford Research (Cambridge, MA); Worked in Naval Ordnance Lab building an electronic computer-the NOL (WWII).

Mooers developed his own coding and indexing ideas. He was a pioneer of IR systems, establishing a new approach to intellectual organization of knowledge. By 1947, Mooers was an "influential figure in the early information science community" (Burke). His Zatocoding system used superimposed random codes to improve information retrieval from a file of edge-notched cards. He began his own information management company.

"In the 1940's Taube, Mooers, and Perry were the leaders among Americans...investigating subject analysis, the coding of subject terms, and their relationship to information retrieval. Their approach combined a pragmatic view and abstract thinking" (Farkas-Conn). He was editor ADI? (Bellardo).

AWARDS: 1978 Award of Merit(ASIS)

University of Minnesota, Babbage Institute, Minneapolis, MN 55455.
PAPERS DATES: ca. 1930-1975
INCLUDES: His papers covering 1930-1975.
SOURCE: gopher://

Papers, 1930-1978.
CBI 81

THIS FILE CONTAINS ONLY THE GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE MOOERS PAPERS! The remainder of the sections can be found in this directory in files:

Mooers Papers: A-C {CBI 81};
Mooers Papers: D-L {CBI 81};
Mooers Papers: M-R {CBI 81};
Mooers Papers: S-T {CBI 81};
Mooers Papers: U-Z {CBI 81};
Mooers Papers: Publications, A-M {CBI 81};
Mooers Papers: Publications, N-Z {CBI 81};

25 boxes
24.25 cubic feet

June 1994
By: Kevin D. Corbitt

ACQUISITION: The records were given to the Charles Babbage Institute by Calvin N. Mooers in 1991, accession 985-27.

ACCESS: The collection is unrestricted.

COPYRIGHT: CBI holds the copyright to all materials in the collection, except for items covered by a prior copyright (such as published materials). A few folders are restricted to those individuals having written permission from Calvin N. Mooers or the Institute's archivist until 1 July 2005. Consult archivist for details. Researchers may quote from the collection under the fair use provisions of the copyright law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Please cite the collections as follows: Calvin N. Mooers Papers (CBI 81),Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


Calvin Northrup Mooers, born in Minneapolis in 1919, completed his undergraduate degree in mathematics at the University of Minnesota before joining the Naval Ordnance Laboratory (NOL) in 1941. In May 1945, Mooers became a member of the NOL computer project lead by John V. Atanasoff. [Mooers details his observations about the project in "Atanasoff at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory," IEEE Annals of the History of Computing 15:2 (1993): 54-55.]

After a year and half, Mooers left NOL to pursue graduate work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). While at MIT he began developing Zatocoding, a mechanically sorted digital system for information retrieval, utilizing descriptors to provide intellectual access to collections of specialized information, such as technical reports.

Mooers founded the Zator Company in 1947 and served as its research director. In 1948, Mooers applied for a patent forhis system which was granted many years later. After several years of marketing Zatocoding and advocating that librarians should convert to systems compatible with the technological revolution associated with electronic digital computers, Mooers turned his energies to other pursuits in the fields. Mooers, together with Ray J. Solomonoff, completed numerous studies in information theory, information retrieval, and artificial intelligence under the aegis of Zator Company and Rockford Research Institute, a private research institute that Mooers founded.

Mooers developed the TRAC language in the early 1960s. In his attempts to protect the intellectual property of TRAC, Mooers became an advocate for copyrighting software and his papers include some limited correspondence with Bill Gates.

Researchers should consult the Calvin and Charlotte Mooers oral history interview for more detailed biographical data and historical information on Zator Company and Rockford Research Institute.


The Mooers Papers contains the personal correspondence of Mooers, the records of Zator Company, founded in 1947, and Rockford Research Institute, founded in 1961, as well as publications and artifacts related to Mooers' research.

The papers and records are arranged by subject and most accessible through a database maintained on-site at CBI. In the printed format offered here, each entry contains an original or supplied title, location in the collection, type of documents, and subject headings relevant to these documents.

There are separate files that provide author, title, and subject access to Mooers's publications and those of Zator Company, Rockford Research Institute, and individuals associated with these firms. The entries are arranged by author. A database with these entries is also maintained at CBI.

Prominent subjects found in the Zator Company and Rockford Research Institute records include information processing and retrieval, a punched card information retrieval system known as Zatocoding referred to in the "Biography and History" note above, library and information science, the TRAC (Text Reckoning and Compiling) language that Mooers designed, programming languages, standards, and reactive typewriters.

Researchers should note that this information is maintained in database form on-site at CBI.


Page updated 14 January 1998