History of scholarly information and communication: A review of selected German literature

Thomas Hapke

Journal of the American Society of Information Science 50 (1999) 229-232

Extended Abstract

The history of scholarly information and communication includes the development of scholarly publications and its documentation. On the one hand the history of information and documentation in Germany is a pre-war history with its initial beginnings in special libraries before World War I and the growing importance of documentation especially for the economic sector and the companies until the middle of World War II. After 1945 it seems to be the history of the growing influence of the government together with winning more recognition in the professional public. On the other hand it is like in all other countries also the history of the growing influence of technology.

It is useful to include items containing influences from the history of science, library history, and book history, as well as the history of technology, especially of computer science.

Before World War I the development of documentation in Germany was influenced by the growing recognition of the importance of scientific and technical literature, and awareness of the internationalization of scientific activities. One example is the Internationale Institut fuer Techno-Bibliographie, which made the effort to organize and summarize all forms of technical literature. Similar activities in Germany came from the German chemist Wilhelm Ostwald, who founded The Bridge (Die Bruecke), International Institute for the Organization of Intellectual Work, in 1911 (Hapke, 1997).

The media (instruments) play an important role in scholarly information and communication. According to McLuhan's popular comment that the medium is the message, it would be important to examine how scholarly information developed and how tools used in scholarly communication influenced the content and mode of scholarship and research. Therefore the history of scholarly publications is important as well as the history of scientific illustration, the latter to examine how the growth of visual information contributes to the way science works. Last but not least, the computer as a medium of scientific communication deserves some attention. The recent development of the internet draws attention to the general history of media.

It is demonstrated that it is worth to study the past of the German activities in information and documentation for understanding international developments.

Copyright: Thomas Hapke, 30.3.2000