John V. McMillin II Papers
Scope and Contents
The Papers of John V. McMillin II primarily chronicle developments at the Measurement Research Center (MRC), which was founded in 1952 by Prof. Everett F. Lindquist of the University of Iowa College of Education. Prof. Lindquist pioneered the design and use of standardized tests in American public schools, beginning in the late 1920's. By 1953, he and his staff developed an optical mark reader (OMR) for scoring students' test answer sheets. The electronic brain, as the OMR was called at the time, was a breakthrough in providing, for the first time, large-scale high-speed test scoring. However, its vacuum-tube technology was becoming obsolete, and by 1959 MRC began work on the design and development of solid-state, or transistorized, circuitry to replace the less stable vacuum tubes.
The bulk of the papers document activities at the MRC from 1959 to about 1980 from the perspective of a project engineer, and later engineering manager, who was closely involved with assignments leading to the expanded use of standardized tests and test scoring, electronic balloting, and other applications of scan-related technologies. Development of the American College Testing program, a project of the MRC, is included. The papers also offer a glimpse into the corporate culture of Westinghouse Corporation, which acquired MRC in 1968 as Westinghouse Learning Corporation (WLC). WLC was, in turn, acquired by National Computer Systems in 1983. Later, in 2000, it was acquired by NCS Pearson and became Pearson Educational Measurement in 2002. Documents in this collection pertain mainly to the MRC-WLC era.
Items of interest include a 1952 proposal for an electronic high-speed test-scoring machine, accompanied by notes by Prof. Lindquist (Box 2, Folder 1) correspondence concerning patent filings and technical and project reports. In addition to documents, the collection includes several artifacts that represent the state of technology at the time of their design and manufacture, including an early-1960's era computer memory module with a capacity of less than 1 kilobyte. Photographs depicting early automated test-scoring apparatus of the 1950's and 1960's located in the basement of East Hall (later renamed Seashore Hall) are in Box 2, Folder 4.
The collection is organized into four series: Series I and II, which reflect two accessions of documents prepared by Mr. McMillin; Series III, which consists of collection inventory and supporting information, digital surrogate copies of items in this collection, and donor's commentaries; and Series IV, consisting of artifacts. Materials in Series II are generally arranged in chronological order. Many of the folder titles in Series II (e.g., "1953_11_03_SUI" in Box 2, Folder 2) reflect their matching digital file titles on DVD.
- McMillin, John V. (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Biographical or Historical Information
John V. McMillin II was born in 1934 in Wapello County, Iowa, and graduated from Bloomfield (Iowa) High School in 1952. On June 12, 1955, he married Lois G. Cossel of rural Bloomfield at her family's home; they had three sons. He graduated from the State University of Iowa in 1957, receiving the Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering with high distinction honors. While a student in 1956 and 1957 he was employed at the Measurement Research Center (MRC) as a part-time engineer.
His professional career began in March 1957 as a field engineer with Sandia Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM. Sandia, a unit of the Bell Telephone System, was a sub-contractor with the Atomic Energy Commission. In March 1959 Mr. McMillin returned to Iowa City to accept the position of Project Engineer at MRC. Following the acquisition of MRC by the Westinghouse Learning Corporation in June 1968 he was appointed WLC/MRC Engineering Manager, a position he held until 1978. From then until 1980 he was a consultant to WLC, National Computer Systems (NCS), and other companies, and in June 1980 began full-time employment with NCS in the engineering department. When NCS acquired WLC in November 1983, he was named Engineering Manager of its Iowa City operation. He retired in 1996.
Mr. McMillin received the Westinghouse Patent Award in 1972 for five inventions granted U.S. patents. Early in his career, between 1960 and 1963, he also published several journal articles pertaining to technical and electronic design. An avid conservationist, he has maintained native prairie grasses, wildlife wetlands, and maturing trees on his family's 340 acre farm in Davis County, Iowa.
David McCartney, April 2007
14.50 linear feet
Physical Access Requirements
Method of Acquisition
- Lindquist, E. F., 1901-
- American College Testing Program
- Archives (groupings)
- Clippings (information artifacts)
- Design patents
- Drawings (visual works)
- Iowa Tests of Basic Skills
- Measurement Research Center (Iowa City, Iowa)
- Pearson Education, Inc.
- University of Iowa -- Publishing
- Language of description
- Script of description