MELVIL DEWEY Biography - Educators, philosophers & public speakers


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Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey was born on December 10, 1851 to a poor family who     
lived in a small town in upper New York state. Keenly interested in simplified     
spelling, he shortened his first name to Melvil as a young adult, dropped his       
middle names and, for a short time, even spelled his last name as Dui.             
Dewey invented the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system when he was 21 and     
working as a student assistant in the library of Amherst College. His work         
created a revolution in library science and set in motion a new era of             
librarianship. Melvil Dewey well deserves the title of “Father of Modern         
Dewey changed librarianship from a vocation to a modern profession. He helped       
establish the American Library Association (ALA) in 1876; he was its secretary     
from 1876-1890 and its president for the 1890/1891 and 1892/1893 terms. He also     
co-founded and edited Library Journal. In addition, Dewey promoted library         
standards and formed a company to sell library supplies, which eventually became   
the Library Bureau company of today.                                               
A pioneer in library education, Dewey became the librarian of Columbia College (now 
Columbia University) in New York City in 1883, and founded the world’s first     
library school there in 1887. In 1889, he became director of the New York State     
Library in Albany, a position he held until 1906.                                   
Dewey’s range of knowledge and work was wide and varied. He pioneered the         
creation of career opportunities for women. He and his first wife, Annie Dewey,     
developed the Lake Placid Club, a resort for social, cultural and spiritual         
enrichment in the Adirondack Mountains. As an aforementioned spelling reformer,     
Dewey presented some of the early editions of the DDC in simplified spelling;       
his original introduction in simplified spelling was reprinted in subsequent       
editions of the DDC through publication of Edition 18 in 1971.                     
Melvil Dewey died after suffering a stroke on December 26, 1931 at age 80. Seven   
decades after his death, he is still primarily known for the Dewey Decimal         
Classification, the most widely used library classification scheme in the world.   
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