Ciro Santilli is old enough to remember his parents whispering its name with a respectful tone.
Genius: Richard Feynman and Modern Physics by James Gleick (1994) mentions several times how Richard Feynman was a reader of the encyclopedia. E.g. in Richard's sister also talks about it.
Then the Internet came along and killed it.
The motivation model for collaborators was simple: to get famous. To be able to be selected contribute an article meant that you knew something or two! There was some physicist Ciro read the biography of who was really glad to be able to write an article on the encyclopedia after having worshiped it for so long, TODO find the reference.
While this is somewhat a part of Wikipedia motivation, it is much less so because there is no single article authorship. This is something aims to improve.

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