Robert Goldschmidt (1877–1935) was a Belgian chemist, physicist, and engineer who first proposed the idea of standardized microfiche (microfilm).
Goldschmidt was a polymath who also made advances in aviation and wireless telegraphy, among other fields. He inaugurated the first regular radio broadcasts of concerts in 1914 and was a participant in the first and second Solvay Conference.
Education and academic career
Educated in Brussels and Berlin, Goldschmidt was a professor of chemistry at the University of Brussels for some thirty years.
In the first years of the 20th century, he worked with Paul Otlet on the creation of microfilm, then known as "microphotographs. In 1906, he and Otlet proposed what they called the “livre microphotographique,” which they considered to be a cheaper, more space-saving means of storing data. In their 1906 essay “Sur une forme nouvelle du livre :le livre microphotographique,” Goldschmidt and Otlet wrote that from the point of view of scientific research, books are not the best possible means of storing information, because “access to the libraries is not always easy and delays in the transmission of books often discourage the most tenacious workers, to the detriment of scientific progress....Travel by scholars, the international exchange of scientific books between libraries, the copies or extracts requested from abroad, are seriously under-resourced.” Thus there is a need for “a new form of book that will help overcome these major inconveniences.” They proposed that a solution to the problem lay in photography, and proceeded to explain how a single card measuring 12.5 X 7.5 cm, providing 72 square cm of space (margins excluded) could contain the contents of an entire 72-page book.
Wireless telegraphy and radio
In 1907, Goldschmidt performed an experiment with wireless telegraphy at the Brussels Palace of Justice; the experiments involved Tervuren, the citadel of Namur and to the observatory of Liege. As a result, King Albert I supported the building of a radio station in the Royal Palace of Laeken, which was inaugurated in 1913. A similar station was built in Léopoldville (modern-day Kinshasa) in the Belgian Congo.
With radio engineer Raymond Braillard, one of the early radio pioneers in France and Belgium and chief radio engineer in the Belgian Congo from 1912 to 1924, Goldschmidt arranged the first radio broadcast from the Laeken Royal Palais in Brussels in 1913.
Goldschmidt worked extensively in the Belgian Congo, where he set up a telegraph and telephone network. While in the Congo, he also devised an amphibious train and a wood-burning truck to be used in the colony.
Popular Laboratory of Electricity
In 1908 he opened a Popular Laboratory of Electricity in Brussels, a sort of museum.
Goldschmidt developed an interest in aviation, and in 1909 constructed a dirigible balloon, La Belgique.
An alternator developed by Goldschmidt was installed in Tuckerton, New Jersey, in 1921 to generate high-frequency waves. It was not removed from service until 1948.
Goldschmidt continued to be interested in microphotography throughout his life. He invented reading machines and film processes. In 1925, he and Otlet described an easily manufactured "microphotographic library." It consisted of "pocket-sized" viewing equipment and a portable cabinet that was one meter wide, one meter high, and about ten centimeters deep, and that was capable of holding, on microfilm, 18,750 volumes of 350 pages each, the equivalent of books that would fill 468 meters of conventional library shelving.
Goldschmidt died in 1935 and was buried in Brussels.