Where Alex Wright introduces us to Melvil Dewey

An “irrepressible reformer” (as his biographer, Wayne A. Wiegand, calls him), Dewey devoted most of his life to pressing for social change: railing against alcohol and tobacco, promoting the metric system, and even agitating to simplify English spelling (even going so far as to change the spelling of his own name to the phonetically correct Melvil Dui). Dewey invented his Decimal Classification while still an undergraduate at Amherst College, drawing on the earlier work of important library thinkers like Cutter and William T. Harris, whose cataloging scheme for the St. Louis Library had drawn directly on the concept of Francis Bacon and his division of all learning into three high-level categories: history, poetry, and philosophy.

Cataloging the World: Paul Otlet and the Birth of the Information Age, Alex Wright. Chapter 1 The Libraries of Babel, pg 37.

Could there have been a librarians version of the PayPal mafia?

Frederick Winslow Taylor inspired Melvil Dewey, who collaborated with Charles Cutter, and both of them were inspired by Francis Bacon’s division of learning.

Dewey didn’t stop after the success of the Dewey Decimal System. He later founded the Library Bureau, the 18th century version of Staples. Which is still in business today!


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