Paul Otlet

Paul Marie Ghislain Otlet (/ɒtˈleɪ/; French: [ɔtle]; 23 August 1868 – 10 December 1944)

Just a little bit late in getting to know him. Wikipedia calls him an author, entrepreneur, lawyer and peace activist but really he was a visionary of a kind.

Paul Otlet spent over half a century in designing a way to organize the world’s information back in late 19th/early 20th century! He was google nearly a 100 years before google.

Otlet and his lawyer friend Henri La Fontaine started creating a repository of all kinds of facts stored on index cards in 1892. By 1895 - they had collected over 400,000 such entries. All documented, referenced and collected by hand. Not even a typewriter.

He designed what he called Mundaneum - an enormous filing system to allow people to request information by mail orders. By 1912, his team were manually responding to over a 1000 such request per year.

If that wasn’t enough he also wrote about speech recognition, wireless networks, transmitting sensory smell and taste.

He was also a huge believer in collective progress of the world. He believed that inevitably free flow of information would make states immaterial.

His personal story is also quite something. By the time World War 1 ended, his son had been killed, his institute (IIB) was struggling and his country Belgium had been reduced to rubble.

For more reading on him 

The Birth of the Information Age: How Paul Otlet’s Vision for Cataloging and Connecting Humanity Shaped Our World
“Twenty-five years before the first microchip, forty years before the first personal computer, and fifty years before the first Web browser, Paul Otlet had envisioned something very much like…

And also this 

Let there be more biographies of failures
Let there be more biographies of failures, people who were ignored by the world, whose ideas came before their time, whose great work was left in ruins. The point of biography is to set an example, to teach us how other people did the things we want to do. That might be something grand like live a g…

And this book by Alex Wright is the inspiration of both of the above links.

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