Timeline for Knowledge Organization


mid 4th century BC

Aristotle wrote his outline of the theory of categories and made the separation between species and genus. The species is the specification of the genus; both concepts appear in deduction, induction, and in the theory of definition (per genus proximum et differentiam specificam).


Hereby he established the science of classification and taxonomy.


331 B.C.

The Alexandrian Library (founded by Alexander the Great) is fabled to have had alphabetical catalogues.



Peter of Spain draws the Tree of Porphyry



Ramon Llull (1232-1316)  published his encyclopedic Arbre de sciencia, a multi-volume summation of human knowledge.



The Gregorian calendar was established. It is today the de facto international standard, and is used almost everywhere in the world for organizing time for civil purposes.



Francis Bacon (1561-1626) published “The advancement of learning”



The Bodleian library in Oxford developed the first fully alphabetical catalog in modern time.


1668 John Wilkins (1614-1672) published Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical language. It included a decimal classification ranging from God to "public relationships (civil, judiciary, naval, military, ecclesiastical)". It represents a classification systems and a main work in the rationalist tradition of establishing a universal language removed from all ambiguities.



1758 Swedish botanist Carl von Linné (1707-1778) developed both a system for naming species and for organizing living beings. Linnaeus's system for naming species has not changed since the publication of 10th edition of Systema Naturae in 1758. (1st ed. published 1735. The final edition was the 13th edition from 1770 which comprised 3000 pages). 


1789 Antoine-Laurent de Jussieu (1748-1836) exposes in his Genera plantarum secundum ordines naturales disposita, juxta methodum in horto Regio Parisiensi exaratum anno 1774 ("Genera of Plants Arranged According to Their Natural Orders, Based on the Method Devised in the Royal Garden in Paris in the Year 1774", published in 1789) his ideas of plant classification, used until now. Against Linné, Jussieu stressed the significance of the morphological organization of organisms.

The concept of "natural classification" and "the natural method of classification" is in particular associated with this book.



The first recognized code of catalogue was prepared by Anthony Panizzi, librarian of the British Museum.


1852 Peter Marc Roget (1779-1869) produced the first edition of Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases. The structure  of this thesaurus was, according to Roget in his introduction, a "verbal classification.. . the same as that which is employed in the various departments of natural history".

Roget, P. M. (1852/1992). Thesaurus of English words and phrases, classified and arranged so as to facilitate the expression of ideas and assist in literary composition. (Facsimile of the First Edition). London: Bloomsbury Books.




Jacques-Charles Brunet in the Manuel du libraire et de l'amateur de livres (“Bookseller's and Book-Lover's Manual”) in the introduction to Volume 6 (5th ed. 1865), provides the first insight into a historical classification of the sciences. The author examines many systems, including Konrad Gesner's, that of the Parisian publishers at the time of the Revolution, and Ampère's.


Speziali, P. (1973-74). Classification of the Sciences. IN: Wiener, P. P. : The Dictionary of the History of Ideas: Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. Available (without illustrations): http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/cgi-local/DHI/dhi.cgi?id=dv1-57



Charles Cutter publishes in U.S.A. Rules for a Printed Dictionary Catalogue



Melvin Dewey produced his first edition of the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC). 



The establishment of a library profession is according to Melvin Dewey a reality at last, implying a professionalization of knowledge organization.

(Dewey, M. (1876) in American Library Journal, 1:5)


1884 A conference in Washington of 25 nations agreed that Greenwich would be the world's Prime Meridian of world time and time zones. Since 1884, the world has set its clocks according to the time of day on the Meridian of Greenwich, longitude 0°. The geographical standardization of localizations on the surface of the earth was established. 



Manual on the Arrangement and Description of Archives, written by Dutch archivists Muller, Feith, and Fruin.



Charles A. Cutter, W. C. Berwick Sayers and Ernest Cushington Richardson argues that book classification is based on knowledge organization such as it appears in science and scholarship.

The origin of the term ”Knowledge Organization” is clearly related to their work, according to which book classification fundamentally is knowledge classification and this is again relying on knowledge production for which books are the tangible expression.



Paul Otlet (1868-1944) and Henri Lafontaine (1854-1943) publish 1905-1907 first edition of Universal Decimal Classification, UDC.



Librarians and archivists met for the first time for an international congress at the 1910 World's Fair in Brussels. As a result, the concept of provenance was adopted by the congress as the basic rule of the archival profession.



Hulme’s principle on literary warrant published.


1911 Kaiser, J. (1911). Systematic indexing. London, UK: John Gibson.



Henry Evelyn Bliss (1870-1955) published The organization of knowledge and the system of the sciences with an introduction by John Dewey.


1933 Ranganathan's Colon Classification (1st ed. published)



S. R. Ranganathan published Prolegomena to library classification



Henry Evelyn Bliss published ”A bibliographic classification. Vols. 1-4”. [BC1]


1945 Vannevar Bush, US President Roosevelt's science advisor, envisaged the Memex, a device which could create links between related topics in different research papers. His vision has been considered the first vision of hypertext/hypermedia.

Bush, V. (1945). As we may think. http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/194507/bush


1947 The Government of India created the Indian Standards Institution and, in the same year, its Documentation (Sectional) Committee was formed with Prof. S R Ranganathan as chairman. (In 1962 changed to the Documentation Research and Training Center (DRTC) as a division of the Indian Statistical Institute.



The term "descriptor" is introduced in information science by Calvin Mooers.




The term "Information retrieval" ("IR") was founded by  Calvin Mooers, who defined it as "embraces the intellectual aspects of the description of information and its specification for search, and also whatever systems, technique, or machines that are employed to carry out the operation". Also the term Information retrieval language" is due to Mooers.


Mooers, C. N. (1951). Zatocoding applied to mechanical organization of knowledge. American Documentation, 2, 20-32.



The Classification Research Group (CRG), formed in the UK.



Cranfield I experiments took place


1962 The Documentation Research and Training Center (DRTC) was established in India as a division of the Indian Statistical Institute.



Online Information Services began a very powerful and fast development Free text searching challenged traditional ways of KO.



Science Citation Index was founded by Eugene Garfield



This year is important in the development of modern thesauri for information retrieval. Two thesauri is published: "Euratom-Thesaurus", the first published thesaurus applying the graphical method to display the paradigmatic relation between descriptors and "Thesaurus of Engineering Terms", which have been a model for later thesauri.

Eurotom-Thesaurus. Keywords used within Euratom's Nuclear Energy Documentation Project. EUR 500.e (1. ed.). Brussels, 1964. (European Atomic Energy Community).

Thesaurus of Engineering Terms: a list of engineering terms and their relationships for use in vocabulary control, in indexing and retrieving engineering information. 1.ed. New York: Engineers Joint Council, 1964.




C. Cleverdon et al. Publish two volumes of the so-called Cranfield experiments: "Factors Determining the Performance of Indexing Systems". (Cranfield, Bedford, England: ASLIB Cranfield Research Project)



AACR1. “Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules” was first published.



Gerard Salton (1927-1995) suggest a change of terminology from “Knowledge organization” to “Information Organization”



Dialog Information Services was established



UNISIST model established



The journal “International Classification” was founded. (Nameshift in 1993 (Volume 20) to “Knowledge Organization. International Journal for Concept Theory, Classification, Indexing, and Knowledge Representation”.



Bliss Bibliographic Classification/ Jack Mills and Vanda Broughton 2nd edition (BC2) is published. (Cf., Bliss 1 and 2).



AACR2. The second edition of the Anglo-American Cataloguing Code appeared



The International Society for Knowledge Organization (ISKO) was founded.



A. M. Pejtersen The BOOK House published at Risø, Denmark. (cf., Book House System).



Full text databases as well as the Internet is now flourishing.



Frohmann publishes his J.Doc articles “Rules of Indexing. A critique of mentalism in information retrieval theory” which was influential in its critique of cognitivism in LIS in general as well as in knowledge organization. (See: Cognitive view in knowledge organization).



The First Text REtrieval Conference (TREC)



The second International ISKO Conference took place with the theme: Cognitive Paradigms in Knowledge Organization. (See: Cognitive view in knowledge organization).


1997 The Standing Committee of the IFLA Section on Cataloguing approved the FRBR model. (Functional requirements for bibliographical records).



Amazon.com was established.



Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded the Internet search engine “Google



Google scholar Beta version launched November 18.,2004. http://www.scholar.google.com/scholar/about.html




How should such a timeline be selected? What kind of criteria should be used to decide to include or to exclude given events? This question is about the historiography of knowledge organization because historiography is about the writing of history.


Septem artes liberales aus "Hortus deliciarum" der Herrad von Landsberg (um 1180)



Birger Hjørland

Last edited: 05-10-2009