In Memory of Past Presidents of the ISSS -- Plenary, July 10, 2003

47th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS), Hersonissos, Crete, July 10, 2003.

July 10, 2003, 9:40 a.m., Plenary Session

This digest was created in real-time during the meeting, based on the speaker's presentation(s) and comments from the audience. These should not be viewed as official transcripts of the meeting, but only as an interpretation by a single individual. Lapses, grammatical errors, and typing mistakes may not have been corrected. Questions about content should be directed to the originator. These notes have been contributed by David Ing ( at the IBM Advanced Business Institute ( ).

[Markus Schwaninger]

Past presidents


[Stuart Umpleby on Heinz von Foerster]

Primarily role in cybernetics

Norbert Wiener -- Idea to study the nervous system, and build equipment for the second industrial revolution

Warren McCulloch -- meetings in NYC, Macy Foundation

Led the movement of second order cybernetics

If the world that is what I see ...

[Ken Bailey (professor of sociology, UCLA) on James Grier Miller]

When Miller was 67 years old in 1983, he lived in San Diego, and could commute up to L.A. every week.

Died 8 weeks after his wife Jesse died

Started school early, because he was so smart

Went one year to bible school, father was a minister.

Was a junior fellow at Harvard -- like being a young professor

His work is similar to Parsonian functions, but not quite the same, using the idea of mathematical functions.

Most of career in academics

Publication of Living Systems in 1978 by McGraw Hill.

Became president of University of Kentucky.

Was president of ISSS in 1973, but also started the System Science foundation, that owns the journal Behavioral Science

Founder and editor of Behavioral Science, until it merged with Systems Research.

Authored over 100 books and articles.

Paperback as U. of Colorado press

1978 book:  7 levels, with functions and processes

1982 expanded to 8 levels.

Process, matter, energy, information.

[Gianfranco Minati (president of Italian Society for Systems Study) on Ilya Prigogine]

Nobel prize in chemistry in 1977.

Controversial scientist.

Focus on great ideas

Introduced thermodynamics of irreversible processes

Study of the physics of living matter

Introduced models of formal processes

Intrinsic emergence

Competition in neural networks

Non-linear thermodynamics:  continuous dissipation of energy

[Roger Packham, professor of agriculture, U. of West Sydney on Howard Odum]

Not a student of Howard Odum, and didn't work with him.

Had come across Odum's work, in Australia, looking for an alternative approach to agriculture.

David Symington visited Australia, a student of Howard, spoke about energy.

Some facts on Howard

1971 book, Environment, Power and Society -- ahead of its time, now republished in 2002

Newest book with his wife, what do we do as fossil fuels run out

Howard Odum was a gentleman, a host.

During presidency, negotiated taking ISSS to other countries

A talk using some of his energy systems, analyzing various situations:

[Markus Schwanginer (U. of St. Gallien) on Stafford Beer]

Friend and mentor

University of St. Gallien works only on social systems

Founder of management cybernetics

Advocated holistic thinking

To 1961, at United Steel, largest OR group.

Life in a cottage in Wales, smoking, drinking and parties

1980s, moved to Toronto with Allena Leonard, as the Complementary Set

Visiting professor:  Manchester, Wharton, John Moores

Not only a president of ISSS, but also Operations Research Society.

Conflict:  should he become a philosopher or mathematician, realized both were the same things.

Set theoretic model for the viability of any human or social system

In 1990s, design a new process for communications:  Syntegrity

Also published poems and exhibited paintings.

Zest for life.

[A silent minute to honour the past presidents]


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