Cataloging the World
Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age
Working in an era when 'the closest thing anyone had ever seen to a database was a drawer full of index cards', the visionary Belgian information theorist Paul Otlet (1868–1944) aimed to create a global information network, the 'Mundaneum'. He had amassed some 15 million entries in a 'Universal Bibliography' and over 70,000 boxes of documentary material by 1940, when it was destroyed by the Nazis. Alex Wright introduces this extraordinary figure, his achievements and the legacy that survived.