Vannevar Bush has been referred to on this site, but despite him being Belgian (I am Dutch, which is almost Belgian😀), I never heard of Paul Otlet, who seems to have pre-dated Bush by at least a decade. There is no evidence that Bush knew of Otlet, but seeing that Otlet in his time was rather famous I would not be surprised if that was the case.
Read this article about Vannevar Bush to understand the importance of his work.
Paul Otlet’s name is currently more connected to his work on created a cataloguing system for libraries, which has become the UDC (Universal Decimal Classification) that libraries all over the world still use, an extension of the Dewey Decimal Classification.
Otlet set out his visionary work on libraries and the management of information, which is very similar to my own interest in the web and computers, being the next phase in time-binding, that uniquely human faculty as defined by Korzybski.
The story of Otlet is also one that struck me as particularly tragic, all the work being done in indexing those 12 million indexes destroyed in one sweep by the Nazis! I cannot imagine how he must have felt, but that he died a broken man is clear… This was a man whose vision was too advanced for his time. And the similarities between his work and that of Vannevar Bush and others is evident. It is definitely worthwhile to visit the museum in Mons, Belgium, and to gather more information on the ideas of Paul Otlet.
The video below (with voice-over available in Dutch, French and English) explains why the Mundaneum was so special:
More on the museum can be found at http://www.mundaneum.org/en