Dr. John Bryden was the executive officer of European Federation for Medical Informatics for a decade between 1998 and 2008. When he retired from active work within the federation, he was awarded an honorary fellowship. In one of his early papers from the 1960s, he described how some relatively novel machines called computers might replace the punched cards that were being used at the time. He saw, before many others, that computers could be used for the care of individual patients and even more so for groups of patients. He implemented a unique patient identifier (community health index) which has enabled Scotland to link electronic medical record data for clinical management of chronic disease deterministically. An example was the development of the Glasgow Coma Scale. One benefit of demonstrating significant value in projects such as this at an early stage of record linkage was that the governance framework for the use of data became relatively permissive. Another major success was diabetes care; it became possible to apply insights from the aggregate data to improve services and make them more efficient. Scotland has developed safe havens for data where not only the physical environment but also the people, mechanisms and projects are all subject to control to ensure safety and confidentiality. Similar moves are under way in Europe. TRANSFoRm (www.transformproject.eu) led by King's college in London is mainly focused on primary care data. Excellence in medical informatics is possible as a result of the work of its pioneers, including John Bryden's first paper suggesting that computers might be useful.