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Linear thinking

ASTRAGAL

Achapter of the AJ's history is recorded in a forthcoming book from Thames & Hudson.The Man who Deciphered Linear B - The story of Michael Ventris documents a life which combined architecture with classical scholarship and code breaking. Brought up in Highpoint, the 14-year-old Ventris had a chance meeting at Burlington house with 85-year-old Sir Arthur Evans, who had discovered Knossos and the Linear B tablets.

Fascinated by the puzzle, Ventris worked at it for 17 years before cracking the code to prove that Linear B was an early form of Greek.

But he also qualified at the Architectural Association, designed his own house in Hampstead and, prior to his death aged only 34 in 1956, worked as the AJ's first research fellow. His subject was 'information for the architect' and he was developing an approach that foreshadowed the first database. In his obituary in the AJ, editor Colin Boyne described Ventris as having 'a brilliant analytical mind' and as 'potentially one of the profession's best architects'. He certainly brought the same clarity of thought that he used on Linear B to sorting out architects' information problems.

He identified a range of issues, such as: 'The architect has reason to believe the information can be found inside his office, but its organisation makes it difficult for him to turn it up.' This still sounds worryingly true today.

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