Share & Connect
Founder of Project Gutenberg, and the man commonly credited for making the first ebook, died September 6 in Urbana, Ill – Michael Hart was 64. Hart died in his Urbana home. The cause of death was not reported. Project Gutenberg, which Hart began in 1971, offers over 36,000 free ebooks for download to individuals’ PC, Kindle, Android, iOS and other portable devices.
The Declaration of Independence was the first ebook Hart made in 1971, the same year he started Project Gutenberg. Hart was a student at the University of Illinois at the time. Among the 300 books he typed out and posted to the internet were the Bible and the works of Homer, Shakespeare and Mark Twain, according to The Telegraph.
Today, volunteers scan works to the Project’s website which are available in more than 60 languages. The Project’s website includes an obituary which calls Hart “an ardent technologist and futurist.”
“Michael S. Hart left a major mark on the world.” The obituary said. “Access to eBooks can thus provide opportunity for increased literacy. Literacy, and the ideas contained in literature, creates opportunity.”
According to The Telegraph, when Hart was a student at the University of Illinois he was given an account with privileges to unlimited computer access at the Materials Research Laboratory. The internet was two years old at the time and was used only by academic and military researchers. Hart spend his time online downloading historic texts. He wanted to make these works accessible to the public.
By 1987 he had typed a total of 313 books. “I want a world where you can walk into a public library and get 90 per cent of the information you need copied on a disk that you don’t have to return,” Hart said at a symposium.
According to The Project’s website, Hart was frugal and resourceful man:
“Michael glided through life with many possessions and friends, but very few expenses. He used home remedies rather than seeing doctors. He fixed his own house and car. He built many computers, stereos, and other gear, often from discarded components.”
Hart will be “remembered as a dear friend, who sacrificed personal luxury to fight for literacy, and for preservation of public domain rights and resources, towards the greater good,” the obituary concluded. Hart was born in Tacoma, Washington, on March 8, 1947. He was unmarried.