Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Friday 22 January |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Laura Vicuña
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

The Jesuit who invented hypertext

Daniel Esparza - published on 09/16/16

If you surf the internet, it's thanks to him

Father Roberto Busa was born on November 28, 1913, in Vicenza, Italy, and died in August 2011. He entered the seminary in 1928, the Society of Jesus (that is, the Jesuits) in 1933, and was ordained a priest on May 30, 1940. He studied philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and his thesis on “the Thomistic terminology of interiority” it was published in 1949.

His thesis, however, was not his most important work on Aquinas: Father Busa is also the author of the “Index Thomisticus: Sancti Thomae Aquinatis operum omnium indices et concordatie,” a work in 56 volumes of almost a thousand pages each.

That’s quite a resume on its own, but Father Busa, in a classic Jesuit fashion, went magis. That is, excelsior.

Father Busa (who, of course, was a professor of Thomist philosophy, and mastered Latin, Greek, German, French, English and Spanish in addition to his native Italian) is the father of hypertext.

Stefano Lorenzetto, a journalist from L’Osservatore Romano, summarizes Busa’s work stating that “if you browse the internet, you owe it to him; if you go from one site to another by clicking the links marked in blue, you owe it to him. If you use your PC to write emails and text documents, you owe it to him.”

Once Busa finished his Index Thomisticus (a job that took him about 50 years, covering nine million words, as explained in this article published by the Venezuelan Jesuit SIC Magazine), he met with the founder of IBM, Thomas Watson, in order to produce a digital version of the Index in which a researcher could effectively search for related concepts in Aquinas’ work. Watson told Busa that the computers they had back then could not relate the contents included in the Index in any way. But Busa, of course, insisted.

This conversation gave birth to the hypertext project: a structure for sharing and linking information between different sources, through links.

Next time you click on a link like this — or need to search the digital edition of the Index Thomisticus — give thanks for this Jesuit!

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
2
DAD, HOW DO I?
Cerith Gardiner
Meet the dad who's teaching basic skills on YouTube for kids with...
3
MARTIN LUTHER KING
Jorge Graña
Did you know Martin Luther King appreciated the Rosary?
4
Philip Kosloski
What are the corporal works of mercy?
5
couple
Anna Gębalska-Berekets
Couple praises Padre Pio's recipe for a happy marriage
6
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
Reasons Catholics should read the Bible
7
EMOTIONAL
Bret Thoman, OFS
Need healing? An exorcist recommends this 12-word prayer
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.