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The Tree of Knowledge (ToK) project aims to build a comprehensive online database of intellectual history that will trace the evolution of human knowledge by documenting belief systems from around the world and throughout history. By cataloging scholarly views on scientific, philosophical, theological, and other beliefs of historical agents, the ToK will be an invaluable new tool for researchers, educators, and the general public. The ToK meets two pressing concerns. For scholars of intellectual history facing an overwhelming amount of information, the ToK will act as a repository of fully-referenced up-to-date historical knowledge. By revealing gaps in the historical record, the ToK will aid novel research and improve our understanding of intricate relationships between diverse fields over time. For educators and the general public interested in historical belief systems, the ToK will offer an accessible summary of current academic views and debates.

The ToK aspires to accomplish for the field of intellectual history what the Open Tree of Life, astronomical databases, the World History Atlas, and the Database of Religious History accomplish for their respective fields.

The project was first announced by Hakob Barseghyan on 15 January 2016.


Hakob Barseghyan announces The Tree of Knowledge project
Nicholas Overgaard outlines The Tree of Knowledge project
Hakob Barseghyan on the necessity of a unified database of intellectual history

The project is set to launch with a relatively small-scale pilot, the task of which is to reconstruct the theories and methods of one small community at one short time-period. To that end, several important steps will be taken:

  • Create the schema of the historical database. Before any data can be entered into the database, we must clarify what kind of data needs to be stored in the database and in what format.
  • Develop a website for the Tree of Knowledge. This website should allow entering historical data into the database as well retrieving that data similar to the Open Tree of Life website.
  • Gather the data on one community and enter it into the database. This will help us test the database and see if it misses any important components, i.e. if we have included all the classes, properties, and relations that have to be included.

The outcome of the pilot project will be studied and discussed by the Scientonomy community and necessary adjustments will be made to the schema of the historical database.

The next step will involve inviting scholars from around the world to participate in filling the historical database with actual data on different communities and their mosaics. It is understood that due to its scope and complexity, this will be a ongoing project.