Heinz von Foerster

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Heinz von Foerster (November 13, 1911, Vienna – October 2, 2002, Pescadero, California) was an Austrian American scientist combining physics and philosophy. Together with Warren McCulloch, Norbert Wiener, John von Neumann, Lawrence J. Fogel, and others, Heinz von Foerster was an architect of cybernetics.[1]



Von Foerster was born in 1911 in Vienna, Austria, as Heinz von Förster. He studied physics at the Technical University of Vienna and at the University of Breslau, where in 1944 he received a Ph.D. in physics.

He moved to the USA in 1949, and worked at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he was a professor of electrical engineering from 1951 to 1975. From 1962 to 1975 he also was professor of biophysics and 1958–75 director of the Biological Computer Laboratory. Additionally, in 1956–57 and 1963–64 he was a Guggenheim-Fellow. From 1963 to 1965 he was president of the Wenner-Gren-Foundation for anthropological research.[1]

He knew well and was in conversation with John von Neumann, Norbert Wiener, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Gordon Pask, Gregory Bateson, Lawrence J. Fogel and Margaret Mead, among many others. He influenced generations of students as a teacher and inclusive, enthusiastic collaborator.

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