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NIH Computer Pioneer Pratt Dies

Dr. Arnold "Scotty" Warburton Pratt, first director of the Division of Computer Research and Technology (DCRT, the forerunner of the Center for Information Technology), died at the age of 83 on Jan. 4. He retired from NIH in 1990, after 42 years of distinguished service.

Dr. Arnold "Scotty" Pratt
Born in Binghamton, N.Y., in 1920, he was an alumnus of Hobart College and received his medical degree from the University of Rochester School of Medicine in 1946. He served on the staff of New York Hospital until 1947, and as a research associate at Cornell Medical School from 1947 to 1948.

Pratt joined NIH in 1948 as a member of the Laboratory of Physical Biology. One year later he moved to the National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Physiology, where he became head of the energy metabolism section. There he investigated many biomedical research areas where computer technology was applied. He subsequently published several papers on computational analysis of ultraviolet absorption spectra and the use of computers in cancer chemotherapy.

In 1966, he was appointed the first director of DCRT by then NIH director Dr. James Shannon. Pratt's leadership was instrumental in introducing an enduring vision for the application of computer science and technology to NIH programs.

Pratt received many awards over the years, including a Department of Health, Education, and Welfare Superior Service award in 1968, an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, N.Y., and a Meritorious Executive Presidential Rank Award for the Senior Executive Service in 1980.

Upon his retirement from NIH, he remarked, "As fruitful as the past has been, the future promises even more as the ideas and aspirations of computer science are realized in the laboratory and the clinic." His vision of computers becoming an integral part of biomedical research endures at NIH.

Survivors include his wife, Frances S. Pratt, three daughters, Mary H. Grant of Pittsburgh, Susan B. Ahart of Charlotte and Janet S. Oliver of Philadelphia, and five grandchildren.

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