You’ve got your David Copperfield. Houdini. Merlin. They’re all considered some of the greatest magicians of all time, but do they even compare to the person who makes your bad data go poof? We didn’t think so. Take a look at some of history’s most notable data stewards – as well as past recipients of the Stewie.
Arguably the most famous Hall of Fame inductee on our list, Sir Tim Berners-Lee is famous for inventing the World Wide Web in 1989 – without which concepts like social CRM could never exist. Beginning with a proposal for the World Wide Web while working as a physicist at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (and creators of the Large Hadron Collider), Berners-Lee and his team orchestrated the first successful communication exchange between an HTTP client and a Web server on Christmas Day, 1990. In addition to being the director (a role which, in all fairness, should last a lifetime) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Berners-Lee is a senior researcher and professor at MIT, a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire since 2004 and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences since 2009.
Greek scholar Zenodotus was the first custodian of the storied Library of Alexandria, around 280 BCE. While Zenodotus was a literary critic focusing primarily on the works of Homer, he is noted for creating the first materials classification system for the Library of Alexandria. Under the system of Zenodotus, various texts were stored in different rooms based on their subject matter. Zenodotus further classified the individual works within each subject heading alphabetically. This was a huge shift in thinking from previous methods of organization. Workers in the Library of Alexandria appended small tags to each text within its confines – comprised of title, author and subject – so that patrons could return the materials to their appropriate section. This is rumored to have been the first recognized use of metadata.
The third president of the United States was more than just a politician. Thomas Jefferson, a lifelong scholar, had – over the span of 50 years – amassed a collection of books on philosophy, science, literature, language and more. An impressive achievement by anyone’s standards, Jefferson’s true legacy as a steward of information would be solidified when, in 1814, the entire interior of the Library of Congress was destroyed in a fire set by invading British soldiers – one of the many tragedies of the War of 1812. With all 3,000 volumes lost, Jefferson donated his entire personal collection of 6,487 books to rebuild the Library of Congress. George Watterson, Librarian of Congress at the time of the rebuilding, organized all the books based on Thomas Jefferson’s original system of organization.
In 1876, American librarian and teacher Melvil Dewey copyrighted the de-facto system of library classification – the Dewey Decimal system – expanding upon a numerical knowledge organizational scheme originally laid out by Sir Francis Bacon. While the Dewey Decimal system differs from the one used by the Library of Congress, it is still common in libraries all over the country. Additionally, Dewey was one of the founders of the American Library Association; he served as its secretary from 1876 until 1891 and president in 1891 and 1893. Dewey also created the American Metric Bureau to further use of the metric system (which, as we know, didn’t quite catch on in the U.S.), and served as its secretary.
Karen Spärck Jones
The 1950s and 1960s were the golden age of computing, and naturally the data management industry saw tremendous advancement during those years. British computer scientist, professor at Cambridge’s Computer Library and all-around genius Karen Spärck Jones studied natural language processing and information retrieval from the 1950s until her retirement in 2002. In 1972, Spärck Jones introduced the concept of “inverse document frequency” (IDF) weighting for information retrieval in an academic paper. IDF is used by most contemporary search engines, and Spärck Jones was named a Fellow of the British Academy for her contributions to computer science.
Described as a “one-woman powerhouse” when it comes to business data, Barbara has held a multitude of positions at Sallie Mae and is their current chief data steward. She was nominated – and won the 2011 Stewie – because she’s able to combine her extensive wealth of information with a likable, friendly, genuine personality.
Described by her co-workers as a “real dynamo when it comes to data,” Falguni is clearly a data steward stand-out. She churns through countless rows of data to find (and fix) data quality issues, settling for nothing less than perfection. Says one of her teammates, “She inspires me to dig deeper, know more and never settle for anything but the best outcome of any scenario. She makes our job fun and keeps our data clean and clients happy.” There’s no question that Falguni, the 2012 Data Steward of the Year, is a multi-tasker, a go-getter – and a true inspiration to those around her.