Paul Otlet

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Paul Otlet 1937.

Paul Otlet (born August 23, 1868 in Brussels ; † December 10, 1944 there ) was a Belgian pioneer of information management and the founder of modern documentation science .


Note box cabinet of the Mundaneum in Mons (Belgium)

Paul Otlet comes from a family of industrialists. He spent his childhood in libraries . He was initially taught by private tutors - he only attended a public school since he was twelve. Otlet studied law . During his studies he recognized the weaknesses of the library system in the 19th century . Together with Henri La Fontaine , Paul Otlet founded the Office International de Bibliographie on September 12, 1895 with the aim of creating a universal library - the Mundaneum . At that time, 15 million works were handwritten in the Mundaneum and sorted by subject area. As early as 1912, 1500 written inquiries on numerous areas of knowledge could be answered. Looking back, the Mundaneum appears to be the first analog search engine .

In the First World War, Paul Otlet lost his son. His personal fate made him a pacifist and a pioneer of the League of Nations . Otlet pursued the idea that an archive of world knowledge could secure peace. In 1934 his activity in the Mundaneum ended. In a publication earlier this year, he expressed the idea that televisions should be connected to radios, books and telephones to provide a worldwide knowledge network for all.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Otlet coined the term documentation as the collection, organization and utilization of documents of all kinds .

The Otlet Glacier in Antarctica has been named after him since 1959 .

Publications (selection)


  • Steffen Ducheyne: Paul Otlet's Theory of Knowledge and Linguistic Objectivism . Knowledge Organization 32, 2005, pp. 110-116.
  • Frank Hartmann : From index cards to a networked hypertext system. Paul Otlet, Architect of World Knowledge. From the Early History of the Information Society . In: Telepolis . 10/2006 ( online ).
  • Frank Hartmann : (Ed.): From book to database: Paul Otlet's utopia of knowledge visualization. Avinus, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-86938-025-4 ( publisher information ).
  • Françoise Levie: L'homme qui voulait classer le monde. Paul Otlet et le Mundaneum . Les Impressions Nouvelles, Brussels 2006, ISBN 2-87449-022-9 ( publisher information ).
  • W. Boyd Rayward: The Universe of Information. The Work of Paul Otlet for Documentation and International Organization. Moscow 1975 ( online ).
  • Zurita Sánchez, Juan Manuel: El paradigma otletiano como base de un modelo para la organización y difusión del conocimiento científico . Colegio de Bibliotecología ( Facultad de Filosofía y Letras , UNAM), Tesina 2001.
  • Alex Wright: Cataloging the World. Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age, Oxford University Press 2014, ISBN 978-0-19993-141-5

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. 10 things you don't know about television on