CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 · Yearb Med Inform 2020; 29(01): 253-258
DOI: 10.1055/s-0040-1701972
History of Medical Informatics
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart

Donald A. B. Lindberg: Inspiring Leader and Visionary in Biomedicine, Healthcare, and Informatics

Casimir A. Kulikowski
1  Department of Computer Science, Rutgers University, USA
› Author Affiliations
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
17 April 2020 (online)


Background: As Director of the US National Library of Medicine (NLM) for 30 years, Dr. Donald A. B. Lindberg was instrumental in bringing biomedical research and healthcare worldwide into the age of genomic and translational medicine through the informatics systems developed by the NLM. Lindberg opened free access and worldwide public dissemination of all the NLM's biomedical literature and databases, thus helping transform not only biomedical research like the Human Genome Project and its successors, but also the practices of medicine and healthcare internationally. Guiding, leading, and teaching-by-example at national, regional, and global levels of biomedical and healthcare informatics, Lindberg helped coalesce a dynamic discipline that provides a foundation for the human understanding which promotes the future health of our world.

Objectives: To provide historical insight into the scientific, technological, and practical clinical accomplishments of Donald Lindberg, and to describe how this led to contributions in the worldwide interdisciplinary evolution of informatics, and its impact on the biosciences and practices of medicine, nursing, and other healthcare-related disciplines.

Methods: Review and comment on the publications, scientific contributions, and leadership of Donald Lindberg in the evolution of biomedical and health informatics which anticipate the vision, scholarship, research in the field, and represent the deeply ethical humanism he exhibited throughout his life. These were essential in producing the informatics systems, such as the Unified Medical Language System (UMLS), MEDLINE, PubMed, PubMed Central, and, which, together with NLM training programs and conferences, made possible the interactions among researchers and practitioners leading to the past quarter-century of rapid and dramatic advances in biomedical scientific inquiry and clinical discoveries, openly shared across the globe.

Conclusion: Dr. Lindberg was a uniquely talented physician and pioneering researcher in biomedical and health informatics. As the main leader in developing and funding innovative informatics research for more than 30 years as Director of the National Library of Medicine, he helped bring together the most creative interdisciplinary researchers to bridge the worlds of biomedical research, education, and clinical practice. Lindberg's emphasis on open-access to the biomedical literature through publicly shared computer-mediated methods of search and inquiry are seen as an example of ethical scientific openness.