Michael Hart, the founder of Project Gutenberg, died in his home on September 6th. He was 64 years old.

Hart, an early pioneer in digital publishing, was involved with eBooks for more than 40 years. He founded Project Gutenberg, one of the largest and longest running online literary projects. He made the first eBook when he typed the U.S. Declaration of Independence into a computer back in 1971.

Project Gutenberg explains more: “He had been granted access to significant computing power at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. On July 4 1971, after being inspired by a free printed copy of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, he decided to type the text into a computer, and to transmit it to other users on the computer network. From this beginning, the digitization and distribution of literature was to be Hart’s life’s work, spanning over 40 years.”

Hart’s mission was to make literature available to everyone. His reason: “Learning is its own reward. Nothing I can say is better than that.”

Via Sarah Weinman.