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John V. McMillin II Papers

Identifier: RG99.0023

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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.


  • Creation: 1952-1980


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

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

Language of Materials



Project engineer and engineering manager, University of Iowa Measurement Research Center. Product development at the MRC, including standardized test sheet scoring, electronic ballots, and other applications of scanning technologies. Reports, patent applications, press releases, newspaper clippings, photographs, extensive annotations in finding aid by donor.

Physical Access Requirements

The University of Iowa Libraries supports access to the materials, published and unpublished, in its collections. Nonetheless, access to some items may be restricted by their fragile condition or by contractual agreement with donors, and it may not be possible at all times to provide appropriate machinery for reading, viewing or accessing non-paper-based materials. Please read our Please read The University of Iowa Libraries' statement on Property Rights, usecoll Law, and Permissions to Use Unpublished Materials

Method of Acquisition

The Papers of John V. McMillin II were donated to the University of Iowa Archives in three accessions during 2006 and 2007. Finding aid posted to the Internet April 2007.

Related Materials

Folder, "McMillin, John V., II", Faculty and Staff Vertical Files collection (RG01.0015.003)

Lindquist, E.F. "The Iowa Testing Programs--A Retrospective View." Education 91 (September-October 1970): 4, 6-23, illus.

Lindquist, E.F. "Oral History Interview." University of Iowa Oral History Project, 22. 38 pp. 1976.

Papers of E.F. Lindquist (RG 99.0227) Peterson, Julia J. "The Iowa Testing Programs: The First Fifty Years." Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1983.

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242