Universitat Pompeu Fabra is named after the man who laid down the standards of the modern Catalan language.
Pompeu Fabra was born in 1868 in Gràcia, then a separate town but now part of Barcelona. He was a hard-working student with a flair for mathematics, and ended up taking a Degree in Industrial Engineering. His vocation, however, turned out to be a different one: to study Catalan and standardise it. He said he discovered this one day when he sat down to write a letter to his nephews and nieces, only to realise how poorly he mastered the language he spoke. From then on, the meticulous engineer devoted himself passionately to studying Catalan, in order to retrieve it from the disuse into which it had fallen and bring it up to date.
All this was going on at a time when the Catalan language and its literature were going through a process of recovery - as they had been since the second half of the 19th century. Fabra contributed many works, all of them of paramount importance, including Normes ortogràfiques (Spelling Rules) of 1913 and Gramàtica catalana (Catalan Grammar) of 1918. However, his most significant work was Diccionari general de la llengua catalana (General Dictionary of the Catalan Language), published in 1932.
Pompeu Fabra’s interests ranged from hiking and sport (he was chairman of the Tennis Association of Catalonia) to the opera season at the Liceu. He was highly renowned as a scientist and enjoyed great popularity among the Catalan public, and between 1931 and 1936 he was the recipient of many tributes. He died on 25 December 1948 in Prada, in Northern or French Catalonia, where he had lived in exile since the beginning of the Franco dictatorship.