Hostname: page-component-cd4964975-pf4mj Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-03-28T03:11:41.139Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Cybernetics and the machinery of rationality

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 July 2007

Jamie Cohen-Cole
Department of History, Wesleyan University


Image of the first page of this content. For PDF version, please use the ‘Save PDF’ preceeding this image.'
Essay Review
Copyright © British Society for the History of Science 2007

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


1 P. Medawar, Induction and Intuition in Scientific Thought, London, 1969, 54–5, quoted in the Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (ed. W. F. Bynum and R. Porter), Oxford, 2005, 430.

2 For instances of disciplinary development of biology in the context of cybernetics and computer technology see Kay, L. E., ‘Who wrote the book of life? Information and the transformation of molecular biology, 1945–55’, Science in Context (1995), 8, 609–34CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; E. F. Keller, ‘Synthetic biology redux – computer simulation and artificial life’, in idem, Making Sense of Life: Explaining Biological Developments with Models, Metaphors, and Machines, Cambridge and London, 2002, 265–94; Haraway, D., ‘The high cost of information in post-World War II evolutionary biology: ergonomics, semiotics, and the sociobiology of communication systems’, Philosophical Forum (19812), 13, 244–78Google Scholar.

3 For details see P. R. Masani, Norbert Wiener, 1894–1964, Basel and Boston, 1990.

4 Rosenbluth, A., Wiener, N. and Bigelow, J., ‘Behavior, purpose and teleology’, Philosophy of Science (1943), 10, 1824CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 For examples of this perspective in psychology see Moore, O. K. and Lewis, D. J., ‘Purpose and learning theory’, Psychological Review (1953), 60, 149–56CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; G. A. Miller, E. Galanter and K. H. Pribram, Plans and the Structure of Behavior, New York, 1960.

6 See S. J. Heims, The Cybernetics Group, Cambridge, MA, 1991.