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Computational linguistics: Index Thomisticus

Father Busa, the Jesuit priest who invented the hypertext


Index Thomisticus, a complete lemmatization of the works of Saint Thomas Aquinas and of a few related authors.

Roberto Busa (November 28, 1913 – August 9, 2011) was an Italian Jesuit priest and one of the pioneers in the usage of computers for linguistic and literary analysis.


In 1946 he planned the Index Thomisticus, as a tool for performing text searches within the massive corpus of Aquinas’s works. In 1949 he met with Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM, and was able to persuade him to sponsor the Index Thomisticus. The project lasted about 30 years, and eventually produced in the 1970s the 56 printed volumes of the Index Thomisticus. In 1989, a CD-ROM version was produced. In addition, in 2005 a web-based version made its debut, sponsored by the Fundación Tomás de Aquino and CAEL; the design and programming of this version were carried about by E. Alarcón and E. Bernot, in collaboration with Busa. In 2006 the Index Thomisticus Treebank project (directed by Marco Passarotti) started the syntactic annotation of the entire corpus. (from Wikipedia)

According to the scholarly practices, I first searched through tables and subject indexes for the word praesens and praesentia. […] My next step was to write out by hand 10,000 3” X 5” cards, each containing a sentence with the word in or a word connected with in. Grand games of solitaire followed.

IBM System/360 Model 44 computer







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