Information Management & Systems
 Previously School of Library & Information Studies

 Wilhelm Ostwald and The Bridge

Wilhelm Ostwald was born in Riga in 1853, studied Chemistry at the University of Dorpat, and taught at the University of Dorpat, 1875-1881, Riga Polytechnic 1881-1887, and at the University of Leipzig, 1887- 1906. In 1909 he received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry. (Emanuel Goldberg graduated from Ostwald's institute in 1906).
    Ostwald discussed problems of information management with Paul Otlet, co-founder of the International Institute for Bibliography in Brussels, in 1910. He used most of his Nobel Prize money to finance a similar organization, Die Bruecke ("The Bridge"), an "international institute for the organizing of intellectual work," which he founded in Munich with Karl Wilhelm Buehrer and Adolf Saager in June 1911.   The manifesto of the The Bridge, entitled, the "The Organizing of Intellectual Work" was published in German and in Esperanto ("everybody's second language") in 1911.
    They advocated "the monographic principle" (hypertext), technical standards, the use of the Universal Decimal Classification, and the idea of a World Brain. The Bridge ended in 1913 after publishing numerous pamphlets. Ostwald died in 1932. One lasting legacy of his work is the international standard for paper sizes (A4 etc.).
Sources:
T. Hapke. Wilhelm Ostwald, the "Bruecke" (Bridge), and connections to other bibliographic activities at the beginning of the 20th century". Illustrated lecture notes in English.
Hapke, T. (1997). Wilhelm Ostwald und seine Initiativen zur Organisation und Standardisierung naturwissenschaftlicher Publizistik : Enzyklopädismus, Internationalismus und Taylorismus am Beginn des 20. Jahrhunderts [Wilhelm Ostwald and his initiatives for the organization and standardization of scientific journals: Encyclopedism, internationalism and Taylorism at the beginning of the 20th century]. In Meinel, C. (Ed.). Fachschrifttum, Bibliothek und Naturwissenschaft im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (pp. 157-174). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Lewandrowski, Peter. 1979. Der Kampf Wilhelm Ostwalds um die Schaffung eines einheitlichen Informations- und Dokumentationssystems der Wissenschaft -- "Die Bruecke." [William Ostwald's campaign to provide a unified information and documentation system for science]. In: Internationales Symposium anlaesslich des 125. Geburtstages von Wilhelm Ostwald. (Sitzungsberichte der Akademie der Wissenschaften der DDR. Jg. 1979, Nr 13/N) Berlin: Akademie-Verlag. Pp.149-156.

Sachsse, Rolf. 1998. Das Gehirn der Welt: 1912: Die Organisation der Organisationen durch die Bruecke: Ein vergessenes Kapitel mediengeschichte. [The World Brain: 1912: The Organization of Organizations through The Bridge: A Forgotten Chapter of Media History]. Telepolis [e-journal. Dated 19 Nov 1998.].

Satoh, Takashi. The Bridge Movement in Munich and Ostwald's treatise on the organization of knowledge. Libri 37 (1987): 1-24.
Go to History of information management or to Michael Buckland's Homepage.