Friday, September 9, 2011

Michael Stern Hart, 1947-2011

We mourn the loss of visionary and long-time Urbana resident Michael Stern Hart, who died September 6. A self-described "cyber-hippie," his vision of the use of technology to create a literate society led him to establish the first eBook library, Project Gutenberg.

From its humble beginnings on July 4, 1971, when Mr. Hart keyed in a copy of the Declaration of Independence and distributed it across a small network, the Project Gutenberg site now hosts over 36000 eBooks in 60 different languages. As all of the texts are public domain, they are free to all users, furthering his goal of an "efficient and effective way of unlimited free distribution of literature."

Dr. Gregory S. Newby, Chief Executive of Project Gutenberg, quoted Mr. Hart summarizing his legacy thusly: "One thing about eBooks that most people haven't thought much is that eBooks are the very first thing that we're all able to have as much as we want other than air. Think about that for a moment and you realize we are in the right job."

A memorial service will be held on Monday, September 12 at 1:00 PM at Renner-Wikoff Chapel in Urbana.

See a complete obituary here.

The Project Gutenberg website and eBook collection is located here.

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