John Rothman, Who Made The Times’s Archives Accessible, Dies at 95


The Information Bank’s retrieval capability, at its inception, went back three years. Users at The Times and at locations elsewhere were able to get full articlesthrough microfiche cards that were part of an institution’s Information Bank subscription.

The Times was not alone in recognizing the promise of electronic data retrieval. Mead Data Central started its Lexis legal information service in 1973; its Nexis news and information service began six years later.

The Information Bank was a pioneering venture. But financially speaking, Mr. Rothman told the Graduate Center, “it wasn’t a rousing success.”

In 1983, The Times made a deal for Mead to exclusively license and distribute the Information Bank. The company shut the Information Bank’s computer facilities and let Mead handle the transmission and dissemination of the Times’s data as part of Nexis.

Hans Rothmann was born on April 21, 1924, in Berlin. He and his parents — who were Jewish and designated by the Nazis as resident aliens because his grandfather was a Polish immigrant — had their property and possessions seized and were expelled in 1939. They fled to Brooklyn, where his father, Max, sold refrigeration equipment to restaurants, and his mother, Johanna (Marcuse) Rothmann, known as Hennie, was a homemaker.

Hans learned English by working at a movie theater and attended Queens College before enlisting in the Army. (At 19, he changed his name to John Rothman, which he felt sounded more American.) While serving in military intelligence for the Fourth Armored Division in Europe, he used his native language to interrogate German prisoners of war and civilians.

After his discharge, Mr. Rothman went back to Queens College to finish earning his bachelor’s degree, in English and comparative literature, and then sought a job at The Times. He wanted to be a theater critic — he would earn a master’s degree in 1949 at New York University for a thesis about drama criticism at The Times — but was offered a job as an indexer. Within a few years, he was assistant editor of The Times Index.

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