All posts filed under: Rogues Corner

Humberto Maturana

Humberto Maturana was born in Santiago, Chile in September 1928. He began studying medicine in 1950 and received a PhD in biology from Harvard in 1958. In 1954 he studied anatomy and neurophysiology at University College London. He joined Heinz von Foerster at the Biological Computer Lab at the University of Illinois as a visiting professor from 1969-70. Known variously as a biologist, cybernetician and scientist, Maturana is probably best known for developing the concept of autopoiesis with his student Francisco Varela. This concept of autopoiesis, self-production, came from his readings of Bateson, Wittgenstein, Vico among others. It is a paradigm that insists on the autonomy of living systems and examines the reflexive feedback mechanisms they use. His work has been very influential in the biology of cognition, cybernetics, systems theory and beyond. His publications include: Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization of the Living (with Varela) (1979) The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding (with Varela) (1992) From Being to Doing: The Origins of the Biology of Cognition (with Poerksen) (2004)     Here …

Heinz von Foerster

Heinz von Foerster was born in Vienna in 1911 to an affluent family (his mother was an artist and his father an engineer) that counted Wittgenstein among their circle. He took a doctorate in physics and from 1939 he worked for GEMA in Berlin on short-wave and plasma research which was considered important for the war effort. In that way he was able to avoid military service and to maintain employment despite being unable to prove ‘Aryan’ descent (the Nazi system would have classified him as ‘Mischling zweiten Grades’, or half-cast grade 2). He worked in Austria for a time after the war before emigrating to the United States. He took a position in the University of Illinois in 1949 and became professor of electrical engineering there in 1951. He is considered one of the father of cybernetics and was a founder member of the Biological Computer Laboratory (BCL) (University of Illinois 1957). The BCL became a centre of excellence for cybernetics and cognitive sciences. It is thought that many of the problems experienced by the …