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University of Iowa News Release


May 3, 2007

Early Days Of Testing Research Chronicled In UI Engineer's Papers

Every spring, schoolchildren around the country fill in the bubbles on the score sheets of standardized tests, which were pioneered by Everett F. Lindquist in the University of Iowa College of Education. Now, the public can see some of the early documents and designs for the machines used to score the tests.

The UI Archives has acquired the papers of John V. McMillin, who was part of a small group of engineers that Lindquist employed to create the first high-speed optical mark reader (OMR) in the early 1950s. The Iowa Testing Program and other standardized tests would eventually use the technology.

McMillin, who graduated in 1957 with high distinction from the UI College of Engineering, was project engineer at the UI Measurement Research Center (MRC), the first to design solid-state circuitry for updating Lindquist's vacuum-tube era scoring machines.

After his retirement, McMillin donated his papers to the UI Archives. The documents include an original copy of the 1952 proposal for the design of the first large-scale, high-speed scoring machine, with a one-page analysis written by Lindquist. Original photographs of early MRC scanning equipment are also included in the collection.

"This collection documents the long history of innovation at the University of Iowa," says Meredith Hay, UI Vice President for Research. "Lindquist and his team took applied research and created a revolutionary system that has benefited the education of millions of children."

In the early 1950s the test-answer sheets were fed through a machine that Lindquist called an "electronic brain." But the technology, which relied upon vacuum tubes, was fast becoming obsolete. Taking its place was transistorized, or solid-state, circuitry, permitting even faster scoring and in much greater quantities. McMillin's papers document this critical period in the development of large-scale test scoring.

The papers will be available for public research in the University Archives, Department of Special Collections, located on the third floor of the Main Library. To learn more about the contents of the collection, see

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: George McCrory, 319-384-0012,; Program: Kristi Bontrager, Public Relations Coordinator, University of Iowa Libraries, 319-335-5960.