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Hugh Dubberly, Paul Pangaro, Social graph of cybernetics, 2015. PDF. Interactive version. Article.

A bibliographical genealogy of cybernetics in the United States, France, Soviet Union, and Germany in the 1940s and 1950s, and of second-order cybernetics from 1968, followed by a selected bibliography on its impact across the sciences.



Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, 1948. Download (Second edition, 1965).
Norbert Wiener, "The Machine Age", [1949]. Download (v3).
Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society, 1950. Download (1989 edition).

Wiener's cybernetics (1948)

  • Norbert Wiener, The Extrapolation, Interpolation, and Smoothing of Stationary Time Series, NDRC Report, MIT, February 1942. Classified (ordered by Warren Weaver, then the head of Section D-2), printed in 300 copies. Nicknamed "Yellow Peril". Published in 1949 (see below). Shannon 1948 mentions it as containing "the first clear-cut formulation of communication theory as a statistical problem, the study of operations on time series. This work, although chiefly concerned with the linear prediction and filtering problem, is an important collateral reference in connection with the present paper" (p 626-7). [1], Commentary.
  • Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, Paris: Hermann & Cie, 1948; Cambridge, MA: Technology Press (MIT), 1948; New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1948, 194 pp; 2nd ed., MIT Press, and Wiley, 1961, 212 pp, PDF, ARG; repr., forew. Doug Hill and Sanjoy K. Mitter, MIT Press, 2019, xlvii+303 pp, EPUB. Reviews: Dubarle (1948, FR), Littauer (1949), MacColl (1950). In the spring of 1947, Wiener was invited to a congress on harmonic analysis, held in Nancy, France and organized by the bourbakist mathematician, Szolem Mandelbrojt. During this stay in France Wiener received the offer to write a manuscript on the unifying character of this part of applied mathematics, which is found in the study of Brownian motion and in telecommunication engineering. The following summer, back in the United States, Wiener decided to introduce the neologism ‘cybernetics’ into his scientific theory. According to Pierre De Latil, MIT Press tried their best to prevent the publication of the book in France, since Wiener, then professor at MIT, was bound to them by contract. As a representative of Hermann Editions, M. Freymann managed to find a compromise and the French publisher won the rights to the book. Having lived together in Mexico, Freymann and Wiener were friends and it is Freymann who is supposed to have suggested that Wiener write this book. Benoît Mandelbrot and Walter Pitts proofread the manuscript. [2]
    • N. Viner (Н. Винер), Kibernetika, ili upravlenie i svyaz v zhivotnom i mashine [Кибернетика, или Управление и связь в животном и машине], trans. G.N. Povarov, Moscow: Sovetskoe radio [Советское радио], 1958, 216 pp; new ed., 1963; 2nd ed., 1968. (Russian)
    • Kybernetik. Regelung und Nachrichtenübertragung in Lebewesen und Maschine, rororo, 1968; Econ, 1992. (German)
    • La cybernétique. Information et régulation dans le vivant et la machine, trans. Ronan Le Roux, Robert Vallée and Nicole Vallée-Lévi, Paris: Seuil, 2014, 376 pp. [3] (French)
    • more translations
  • Norbert Wiener, "Cybernetics", Scientific American 179:5, Nov 1948, pp 14-19. Adapted from his 1948 book. [4]
  • Norbert Wiener, "The Machine Age", [1949]. Unpublished. Written for The New York Times.
  • Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society, Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1950, 241 pp; 2nd ed., 1954; London: Eyre and Spottiswode, 1954; New York: Avon Books, 1967; New York: Da Capo Press, 1988; repr., intro. Steve J. Heims, London: Free Association Books, 1989, xxx+199 pp; new ed., 1990.
    • Cybernétique et société: l'usage humain des êtres humains, Paris: Union Générale d'Éditions, 1952; 1971; repr., 2014. (French)
    • Mensch und Menschmaschine, Frankfurt am Main: Metzner, 1952; 4th ed., 1972. (German)
    • Kibernetika i obshchestvo [Кибернетика и общество], trans. E.G. Panfilov, Moscow: IIL, 1958, 200 pp. (Russian)
    • more translations

Macy Conferences on Cybernetics (1946-1953)

Louis Couffignal, Les machines à penser, 1952.
Raymond Ruyer, La cybernétique et l'origine de l'information, 1954. Download.

Information theory and cybernetics in France (1950s)

  • Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, Paris: Hermann & Cie, Cambridge, MA: Technology Press, and New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1948, 194 pp. Review: Dubarle (1948, FR). (see details and other editions above)
  • Dominique Dubarle, "Idées scientifiques actuelles et domination des faits humains", Esprit 9:18 (1950), pp 296-317. (French)
  • Louis de Broglie (ed.), La Cybernétique: théorie du signal et de l'information, Paris: Éditions de la Revue d'optique théorique et instrumentale, 1951, 318 pp. (French). Contributors include physicists and mathematicians Robert Fortet, M.D. Indjoudjian, A. Blanc-Lapierre, P. Aigrain, J. Oswald, Dennis Gabor, Jean Ville, Pierre Chavasse, Serge Colombo, Yvon Delbord, Jean Icole, Pierre Marcou, and Edouard Picault. [8]
  • Norbert Wiener, Cybernétique et société, l'usage humain des êtres humains [1950], Paris: Deux-Rives, 1952; 2nd ed., Paris: 10-18, 1962; 1971. (French) (see other editions above)
  • Louis Couffignal, Les machines à penser, Paris: Minuit, 1952, 153 pp; 2nd ed., 1964, 133 pp. (French)
    • Denkmaschinen, trans. Elisabeth Walther with Max Bense, intro. Max Bense, Stuttgart: Klipper, 1955, 186 pp; 1965. (German)
  • Colloques Internationaux du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique 47 (1953). (French). Proceedings of a congress held in Paris in January 1951. Paul Chauchard: the congress was "the first manifestation in France of the young cybernetics, with the participation of N. Wiener, the father of this science." For this congress, organised by the French scientists Louis Couffignal and Pérès, both of whom had visited the U.S. laboratories, and sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, a number of foreigners were invited, including Howard Aiken, Warren McCulloch, Maurice Wilkes, Grey Walter, Donald MacKay and Ross Ashby, along with Wiener who was staying in Paris for a couple of months at the Collège de France. 300 people attended; 38 papers were presented; 14 machines from six different countries were demonstrated. [9]
  • Pierre de Latil, La Pensée artificielle, Paris: Gallimard, 1953. (French)
  • Benoît Mandelbrot, Contributions à la théorie mathématique des jeux de communications, Institut de Statistiques de l'Université de Paris 2, 1953. (French). Ph.D. dissertation in mathematics making a connection between game theory and information theory. He showed for instance that both thermodynamics and statistical structures of language can be explained as results of minimax games between ‘nature’ and ‘emitter’. He also made the connection between the definitions of information given by the British statistician Ronald A. Fisher in the 1920s, by the physicist Dennis Gabor in 1946 and the already well-known definition proposed by Shannon. Mandelbrot was at MIT from 1952-1954 and later at the IAS in Princeton. [10]
  • Raymond Ruyer, La cybernétique et l'origine de l'information, Paris: Flammarion, 1954. (French)
  • G.-th. Guilbaud, La Cybernetique, PUF, 1954. (French)
  • Marcel-Paul Schützenberg, "Contributions aux applications statistiques de la théorie de l’information", Publications de l'Institut de Statistique de l'Université de Paris 3:1-2 (1954), pp 3-117; repr. in Œuvres complètes, Tome 3: 1953-1955, Paris: Institut Gaspard-Monge, Université Paris-Est, 2009, pp 56-161. (French). Ph.D. Dissertation defended at the Faculté des Sciences in Paris in June 1953.
  • Marcel-Paul Schützenberg, "La théorie de l'information", in Cahiers d'actualité et de synthèse, Encyclopédie française, Paris: Société Nouvelle de l'Encyclopédie Française, 1957, pp 9-21. (French)
Liapunov, Kitov, Sobolev, "Osnovnye cherty kibernetiki", 1955. View online.
A.N. Kolmogorov, Teoriya peredachi informatsii, 1956. Download.

Information theory and cybernetics in the Soviet Union (1950s)

  • Claude Shannon (Клод Шеннон), "Statisticheskaia teoriia peredachi elektricheskikh signalov" [Статистическая теория передачи электрических сигналов; The Statistical Theory of Electrical Signal Transmission] [1948], in Teoriya peredakhi elektrikheskikh signalov pri nalikhii pomekh [Теория передачи электрических сигналов при наличии помех], ed. Nikolai A. Zheleznov (А. Н. Железнов), Moscow: Izdatelstvo inostrannoi literatury (ИИЛ), 1953. (Russian). The editor rid the work of the words information, communication, and mathematical entirely, put entropy in quotation marks, and substituted data for information throughout the text. He also assured the reader that Shannon’s concept of entropy had nothing to do with physical entropy and was called such only on the basis of "purely superficial similarity of mathematical formulae". [11]
    • "Matematicheskaya teoriya svyazi" [Математическая теория связи] [1948], trans. S. Karpov, in Raboty po teorii informatsii i kibernetike [Работы по теории информации и кибернетике], Moscow: Izdatelstvo inostrannoi literatury (ИИЛ), 1963, pp 243-332. (Russian)
  • Aleksei Liapunov, Anatolii Kitov, Sergei Sobolev, "Osnovnye cherty kibernetiki" [Основные черты кибернетики; Basic Features of Cybernetics], Voprosy filosofii [Вопросы философии; Problems of Philosophy] 141:4 (August 1955). (Russian). The first Soviet article speaking positively about cybernetics and non-technical applications of information theory, authored by three specialists in military computing—Liapunov, a noted mathematician and the creator of the first Soviet programming language; Kitov, an organizer of the first military computing centers; and Sobolev, the deputy head of the Soviet nuclear weapons program in charge of the mathematical support. They presented cybernetics as a general "doctrine of information", of which Shannon’s theory of communication was but one part. The three authors interpreted the notion of information very broadly, defining it as "all sorts of external data, which can be received and transmitted by a system, as well as the data that can be produced within the system." Under the rubric of "information" fell any environmental influence on living organisms, any knowledge acquired by man in the process of learning, any signals received by a control device via feedback, and any data processed by a computer. [12] [13]
  • A.N. Kolmogorov (А. Н. Колмогоров), Teoriya peredachi informatsii [Теория передачи информации], Мoscow, 1956. (Russian)
  • Igor’ A. Poletaev, Signal: O nekotorykh poniatiiakh kibernetiki, Moscow: Sovetskoe radio, 1958. (Russian). The first Soviet book on cybernetics.

Information theory and cybernetics in Germany (1950s)

  • Nobert Wiener, Mensch und Menschmaschine [1950], trans. Gertrud Walther, Frankfurt am Main: Metzner, 1952, 211 pp; 4th ed., 1972. (German) (see details and other editions above)
  • Louis Couffignal, Denkmaschinen [1952], trans. Elisabeth Walther with Max Bense, intro. Max Bense, Stuttgart: Klipper, 1955, 186 pp; 1965. (German) (see details above)
  • Werner Meyer-Eppler, Grundlagen und Anwendungen der Informationstheorie, Berlin: Springer, 1959, xviii+446 pp; 2nd ed., eds. Georg Heike and K. Löhn, Berlin: Springer, 1969. (German). Reviews: Tamm (1960), Billingsley (1961, EN), Adam (1965).

Second-order cybernetics (1968-1975ff)

  • Margaret Mead, "The Cybernetics of Cybernetics", in Purposive Systems: Proceedings of the First Annual Symposium of the American Society for Cybernetics, eds. Heinz von Foerster, John D. White, Larry J. Peterson, and John K. Russell, New York, NY: Spartan Books, 1968, pp 1-11. Excerpt. 1967 keynote address to the inaugural meeting of the American Society for Cybernetics (ASC). Mead had been a participant at the Macy Conferences, while this talk was a defining moment in the development of second-order cybernetics. She characterised "cybernetics as a way of looking at things and as a language for expressing what one sees". This paper was social and ecological in focus, with Mead calling on cyberneticians to assume responsibility for the social consequences of the language of cybernetics and the development of cybernetic systems. [14]. See also: Glanville 2015. [15]
  • Humberto R. Maturana, Francisco J. Varela, De máquinas y seres vivos: una teoría sobre la organización biológica, trans. Carmen Cienfuegos, Santiago de Chile: Universitaria, 1972; 4th ed., Santiago de Chile: Universitaria, 1998, 137 pp. (Spanish)
  • Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, El árbol del conocimiento: las bases biológicas del entendimiento humano, Santiago de Chile: Universitaria, 1984, 171 pp; repr., Buenos Aires: Lumen, 2003. (Spanish)
    • The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding, trans. Robert Paolucci, forew. J.Z. Young, Boston: Shambhala, 1987, 263 pp; rev.ed., 1998, 269 pp. Develops the understandings that helped form autopoiesis into a more general cognitive and epistemological position and reflection.
    • L’albero della conoscenza: un nuovo meccanismo per spiegare le radici biologiche della conoscenza umana, trans. Giulio Melone, Milan: Garzanti, 1987, 203 pp. (Italian)
    • 知恵の樹 : 生きている世界はどのようにして生まれるのか, 朝日出版社, 1987. (Japanese)
    • L'Arbre de la connaissance: racines biologiques de la compréhension humaine, trans. François-Charles Jullien with Hélène Trocmé-Fabre, Paris: Addison-Wesley France, 1994, xiv+256 pp. (French)
    • A árvore do conhecimento: as bases biológicas do conhecimento humano, trans. Humberto Mariotti and Lia Diskin, Campinas: Psy, 1995; repr., São Paulo: Palas Athena, 2004. (Brazilian Portuguese)

Historical analysis and review of the impact of cybernetics

In mathematics, engineering and computing

Written by engineers and mathematicians
N. Katherine Hayles, How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics, 1999, Log, PDF.
Written by historians and theorists
Steve Joshua Heims, The Cybernetics Group, 1991. Log, PDF.

In culture, social sciences and humanities

  • Charles R. Dechert (ed.), The Social Impact of Cybernetics, Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1966, vi+206 pp. Based on symposium held in Washington, D.C., in Nov 1964. Essays by John Diebold, Robert Theobald, Ulric Neisser, Marshall McLuhan, Hyman G. Rickover, Maxim W. Mikulak, and John J. Ford.
  • Steve Joshua Heims, The Cybernetics Group, MIT Press, 1991, xii+334 pp; paperback ed. as Constructing a Social Science for Postwar America: The Cybernetics Group (1946–1953), MIT Press, 1993. A survey of the Macy conferences and dissemination of information theory outside the natural sciences. Review: Hayles (HHS), Jones (New Scientist), Martínez-Vela.
    • I cibernetici: un gruppo e un'idea, trans. Gian Marco Fidora, Rome: Riuniti, 1994, xii+387 pp. (Italian)

In other fields

  • Donna Haraway, "Signs of Dominance: From a Physiology to a Cybernetics of Primate Society, C.R. Carpenter, 1930-1970", in Studies in History of Biology, Vol. 6, eds. William Coleman and Camille Limoges, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982, pp 129-219.
  • Lily E. Kay, "Cybernetics, Information, Life: The Emergence of Scriptural Representations of Heredity", Configurations 5:1 (Winter 1997), pp 23-91. Cybernetics in genetics. [36]
  • Philip Mirowski, "Cyborg Agonistes: Economics Meets Operations Research in Mid-Century", Social Studies of Science 29:5 (1999), pp. 685-718. Cybernetics in economics.
  • Lily E. Kay, "From Logical Neurons to Poetic Embodiments of Mind: Warren S. McCulloch’s Project in Neuroscience", Science in Context 14:15 (2001), pp 591-614. Cybernetics in neuroscience.
  • Jennifer S. Light, From Warfare to Welfare: Defense Intellectuals and Urban Problems in Cold War, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003. Cybernetics in urban planning.

Indirectly related prior work

  • Jacques Lafitte, Réflexions sur la science des machines [Reflections on the Science of Machines], 1911-32.
  • Marian Smoluchowski, "Experimentell nachweisbare, der Ublichen Thermodynamik widersprechende Molekularphenomene", Phys. Zeitshur. 13, 1912. Connecting the problem of Maxwell's Demon with that of Brownian motion, Smoluchowski wrote that in order to violate the second principle of thermodynamics, the Demon had to be "taught" [unterrichtet] regarding the speed of molecules. Wiener mentions him in passing in his Cybernetics (1948) [37].
  • Ştefan Odobleja, Psychologie consonantiste, 2 vols., Paris: Maloine, 1938-39.
  • Hermann Schmidt, general regulatory theory [Allgemeine Regelungskunde], 1941-54.



See also


Fields and theories: Classics, Art history, History of architecture, Anthropology, Semiotics, Philosophy of technology, Marxist aesthetics, Design research, Humanities computing, Structuralism, Poststructuralism, Mediology, Media archaeology, Cyberfeminism, Cultural techniques, Neuroaesthetics, Posthumanities, Sensory ethnography, Media ecology, Digital humanities, Software studies, Modern periodical studies, Accelerationism.
Concepts: Faktura, Ostranenie, Biomechanics, Commons, Postmedia, Evil media.
Related theories: Systems theory, Information theory, Cybernetics.