Medical subject headings used to search the biomedical literature

J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2001 Jul-Aug;8(4):317-23. doi: 10.1136/jamia.2001.0080317.


The National Library of Medicine's MEDLINE (MEDLARS Online) database was the first database to be searched nationwide via value-added telecommunication networks. Now available on the World Wide Web free of charge from the National Library of Medicine and from many other sources, it is the world's most heavily used medical database. MEDLINE is unique in that each reference to the medical literature is indexed under a controlled vocabulary called Medical Subject Headings (MeSH). These headings are the keys that unlock the medical literature. MeSH multiplies the usefulness of the MEDLINE database and makes it possible to search the medical literature as we do today. This paper commemorates the 40th anniversary of the introduction of MeSH and salutes some of the farsighted persons who conceived and developed the MEDLINE database.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Abstracting and Indexing / history
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / history
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / methods*
  • Internet
  • MEDLARS / history*
  • MEDLINE* / history
  • Subject Headings*
  • Vocabulary, Controlled