- Otlet, Paul
- (1868-1944)Born in Brussels on 23 August 1868, Paul Otlet came from a wealthy family, his father having made a fortune in the tram business. He studied at the Collège Saint-Michel and earned a law degree in 1890 from the Université libre de Bruxelles. Keen to establish a system by which to classify all recorded knowledge, Otlet, together with Henri La Fontaine, aimed to build on Dewey's classification scheme to develop a subject index for the world's print materials, including books, reports, periodicals, pamphlets, and conference proceedings. Their efforts culminated with establishment on 12 September 1895 of the Institut international de Bibliographie, a documentation center that, as the Mundaneum, is now located in Mons. The scheme they adopted was first known as the "Brussels Expansion" and is now the Universal Decimal Classification (UDC). The first edition in French was published in 1905 and it remains a large and important classification structure. Otlet's books Traité de documentation (1934) and Monde: Essai d'universalisme (1935) serve as central texts in the early development of information science.A fervent pacifist, Otlet joined with La Fontaine in founding in 1910 the Office central des Associations internationales, the precursor to the Union of International Associations. He published in October 1914 a "Traité de paix générale," which outlined a scheme for an international organization that constituted a forerunner of the League of Nations. Otlet spent the years during World War I in France and Switzerland, where, in 1916 in Lausanne, he presided over a congress of nationalities. His son was killed on the Yser front. Otlet died on 10 December 1944.
Historical Dictionary of Brussels. Paul F. State.