Alex Wright is the author of Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages. He currently works as an information architect for the New York Times.
In 1934, years before Vannevar Bush dreamed of the memex, decades before Ted Nelson coined the term “hypertext,” Paul Otlet envisioned a new kind of scholar’s workstation: a mechanical desk that would let users search, read, and write their way through a vast database stored on millions of 3×5 index cards.
Long before anyone was looking for “godfathers” of information architecture, our fellow species were wrestling with some of the same problems we face today. The real godfathers of information architecture, as it turns out, emerged a very long time ago with the earliest origins of life on this planet.