The Father of the Internet – a Belgian?

The internet has many roots and several men aspire to the title “The Father of the Internet”. One name often suggested is Vint Cerf (now at Google), who was a program director at the US Defense research agency DARPA in the 1970s and did important research on data packet traffic. Another candidate would be Vannevar Bush, whose concept of hyperlinks in the 1940s was the template for the world wide web four decades later.

One equally qualified but less well-known thinker is a Belgian: Paul Otlet. Both in writing and in experiment, Otlet developed such concepts as search engines, hyperlinks and social networks (but with other names). As a librarian he developed a system to index the world’s knowledge (not so different from the mission statement of the company that dominates the internet today).

Otlet’s work is available to the public at the Mundaneum in Mons, Belgium.