Heinz von Foerster

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Heinz von Foerster (13 November 1911, Vienna – 2 October 2002, Pescadero, California) was an Austrian American scientist combining physics and philosophy, and widely attributed as the originator of Second-order cybernetics. He was twice a Guggenheim fellow (1956-1957 and 1963-1964) and also was a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1980.


  • co-editor, Cybernetics: Transactions of the Seventh Conference, New York: Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, 1950.
  • co-editor, Cybernetics: Transactions of the Eighth Conference, New York: Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, 1952.
  • co-editor, Cybernetics: Transactions of the Ninth Conference, New York: Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, 1953.
  • co-editor, Cybernetics: Transactions of the Tenth Conference, New York: Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, 1955.
  • co-editor, Purposive Systems: Proceedings of the First Annual Symposium of the American Society for Cybernetics, New York, NY: Spartan Books, 1968
  • editor, Cybernetics of Cybernetics, or, the Control of Control and the Communication of Communication (BCL Report 73.38), Urbana, IL: University of Illinois, 1974; 2nd ed. Minneapolis, MN: Future Systems, 1995, 497 pp. A collection of papers by distinguished cyberneticians with graphic commentaries and original texts and definitions composed by students in von Foerster’s “Cybernetics of Cybernetics” seminar.
  • Observing Systems, intro. Francisco J. Varela, Seaside, CA: Intersystems, 1981, xvi+331 pp; 2nd ed, 1984, xviii+331 pp.
    • Sistemi che osservano, eds. Mauro Ceruti and Umberta Telfner, trans. Bernardo Draghi, Rome: Astrolabio, 1987, 243 pp. (Italian)
  • Sistemica elemental: desde un punto de vista superior, Medellín: Fondo Editorial Universitario EAFIT, 1998, 81 pp. (Spanish)
  • with Heinz von Glasersfeld, Wie wir uns erfinden: eine Autobiographie des radikalen Konstruktivismus, Heidelberg: Carl-Auer-Systeme, 1999. (German)
    • Come ci si inventa: storie, buone ragioni ed entusiasmi di due responsabili dell'eresia costruttivista, Rome: Odradek, 2001, xx+195 pp. (Italian)


  • with Bernhard Pörksen, Wahrheit ist die Erfindung eines Lügners: Gespräche für Skeptiker, Heidelberg: Carl-Auer-System, 1998, 166 pp. (German)
    • La verità è l'invenzione di un bugiardo: colloqui per scettici, Rome: Meltemi, 2001, 162 pp. (Italian)
    • Understanding Systems: Conversations on Epistemology and Ethics, trans. Karen Leube, New York: Kluwer, 2002, 161 pp.
    • Sandhed - opfundet af en løgner: samtaler for skeptikere, trans. Christine Sonne Carstensen, Værløse: Billesø & Baltzer, 2003, 136 pp. (Danish)
    • 진리는 거짓말쟁이의 발명품이다: 회의론자들을 위한 대담, 2009, 264 pp. (Korean)
    • Pravda je vynález lhářů: rozhovory skeptiků, trans. Zdeněk Dan, Prague: Pragma, 2016, 186 pp. (Czech)