The History of EI

Engineering Index (Ei) was founded in 1884 by Dr. John Butler Johnson, a professor of Civil Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.  In his memoirs, Dr. Johnson wrote that his greatest challenge as an engineering professor was his lack of knowledge of engineering literature. Thus, he started to index and write abstracts of "articles of permanent value."  Dr. Johnson's notes rapidly grew in popularity among his peers and students, and soon he was publishing his notes in a monthly column in the Journal of the Association of Engineering Societies.

In 1918, Ei was acquired by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.  That same year, under an endowment by Andrew Carnegie, Ei moved to the United Engineering Center in New York City.  Significantly, this move co-located Ei with the Engineering Societies Library.  This was the beginning of a tight collaborative relationship between Ei and technical libraries that continues to this day.

Ei was an early adopter of computerization.  In 1967, the first Ei electronic bulletin was posted in machine readable format.  Each "Current Information Tape for Engineers" (CITE) contained 1,000 electrical and 500 plastics abstracts and were mailed to 500 subscribers every month.  In January 1969, CITE evolved into a machine-readable program called COMPENDEX (COMPuterized ENgineering inDEX).  Over 5,000 digital records were mailed to subscribers once a month.  In 1995, launched, and currently serves as the online search platform for 12 databases. Today, COMPENDEX remains the world's foremost engineering bibliographic secondary database service, and contains information ranging from patents to e-books to conference proceedings.

Through the years, Ei kept pace with the information explosion.  In 1954, 70 years after Dr. Johnson's first publication, EI posted its one millionth abstract.  Just 21 years later, Ei published its two millionth abstract, reflecting the ever-increasing amount of information.  Today, Compendex has over 20 million records, with more than 800,000 added annually.

In 1998, Elsevier purchased Engineering Information, which continued to publish Compendex abstracts and the Engineering Index.  Since then, Ei and Engineering Village have continued to grow.  Now, with over 12 databases containing abstracts, patents, and e-books, Engineering Village is the gold standard for engineering researchers.

Over the years, significant enhancements have been added to provide researchers with better search tools.  Yet while the research, information, content and technology behind Ei have changed significantly since 1884, one thing remains the same:  the belief and vision that one consolidated resource of published information can make the engineer's job easier.


1884: Dr. John Butler Johnson of Washington University in St. Louis writes first volume of the Engineering Index

1918: Ei is acquired by the American Society for Mechanical Engineers

1967: The first "Current Information Tape for Engineers" (CITE) is published

1969: CITE evolved into a machine-readable program called COMPENDEX (COMPuterized ENgineering inDEX)

1975: Ei publishes its two millionth abstract

1995: launches, making Compendex available over the World Wide Web

1998: Elsevier purchases Ei

2007: EnCompassLIT & PAT, Chimica, CBNB, and PaperChem migrate to the EV platform

2009: Ei celebrates its 125th anniversary