Arturo Rosenblueth Stearns was among participants at the 10th Macy Conference.
Arturo Rosenblueth Stearns
A postal stamp dedicated to Arturo Rosenblueth Stearns (1900-1970)
Arturo Rosenblueth Stearns, a Mexican researcher, physician, and physiologist, who is known as one of the pioneers of cybernetics.
Arturo Rosenblueth Stearns, a Mexican researcher, physician, and physiologist.
National School Medicine, Mexico City, Mexico
Arturo Rosenblueth was a student of the National School Medicine in Mexico City from 1918 to 1921.
Humboldt University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Rosenblueth continued his medical studies at Berlin until 1923.
École de médecine de Paris, Paris, France
Rosenblueth received his Doctor of Medicine degree studying at the Ecole de Medecine in Paris from 1924 to 1927.
Rosenblueth studied at the Franco-English College in Mexico City and at the Medical School of the University of Mexico, then continued his medical studies at Berlin, and then at Paris, where he obtained his medical degree.
After taking his medical studies at Berlin, and then at Paris, where Rosenblueth obtained his medical degree, in 1927 he returned to the Medical School of the University of Mexico and devoted himself to physiological research and teaching. In 1930 he was offered a research fellowship under Walter B. Cannon at Harvard, which led to a long and productive collaboration. Cannon had shown that the “constancy of the internal medium,” discovered by Claude Bernard, reflected a general regulatory function or “homeostasis,” which presumably was operated essentially by the autonomic nervous system. He and Rosenblueth demonstrated this assumption by extirpation of both sympathetic chains of a cat without impairing the animal's survival.
Through many of these delicate operations, they elucidated the details of the sympathetic regulatory action, which results from successive nerve impulses that conduct a quantum of chemical mediator into the terminal organ. These minimal doses summate and elicit various effects: vasomotor action, visceral muscle contraction, and hormonal secretion. These experiments decisively confirmed the theory of “chemical mediation,” then frequently questioned.
At the same time, Rosenblueth interested Norbert Wiener in the functional analysis of the nervous system. Their first paper (1943) was the starting point of the work that led Wiener to edify the new science of cybernetics. Rosenblueth was elected assistant professor at the Harvard Medical School in 1934.
In 1944 he returned to Mexico City as director of research at the new Institute of Cardiology. The collaboration with Wiener had been maintained for nearly ten years. The neurophysiologist brought his knowledge of the coding information carried by the nerve impulse, and the mathematician demonstrated that the information theory adequately describes the coding in every detail. Rosenblueth and Wiener published papers on the mathematical expression of the conduction of impulses in a network of nerve cells, a statistical analysis of synaptic transmissions, psychology and cybernetics, and even the aesthetics of science.
In 1961 Rosenblueth founded, at the National Polytechnical Institute of Mexico, the center for advanced studies. There he successfully promoted interdisciplinary and international research, uniting the Anglo-Saxon and Latin civilizations of America. He was also a philosopher of science. In his last work. Mind and Brain (1970), he showed how all our knowledge of the material universe is based upon coded nerve impulses. All other features ascribed to the universe are essentially mental. Thus Rosenblueth gave a new and clear expression of the classical dualism between mind and brain.
After reviewing the writings of Russell, Eddington, and Fiegl, Rosenblueth proposed a modified dualism in which mental events and the material universe (including the brain) coexist with a measure of independence. Although sensations are the end result of a causal chain that begins with material events, conscious sensations and volitions are not themselves links in a causal chain that in turn influences or changes the material universe. Nevertheless, each mental event can be paired with a neurophysiological correlate that, being physical, can interact causally with other parts of the material universe. Brain and mind function in parallel - on separate levels of reality that are in constant relation to each other but that do not intersect.
Proceeding from a nonbehavioral approach, Rosenblueth regards mental experiences as central and probes into their relationship with physical events in the brain and their link with external reality. He concludes that all that can be directly apprehended about the material universe is what can be coded into afferent nerve impulses and that these can be coded only to transmit information on the structure of spatiotemporal events. Other properties that we ascribe to the material universe are mental in character. This raises the ancient question of the intersection of the material and mental realms, or the duality of brain and mind.
"The best material model of a cat is another, or preferably the same, cat."
"No substantial part of the universe is so simple that it can be grasped and controlled without abstraction. Abstraction consists in replacing the part of the universe under consideration by a model of a similar but simpler structure. Models, formal and intellectual on the one hand, or material on the other, are thus a central necessity of the scientific procedure."
"The price of metaphor is eternal vigilance."
Rosenblueth was an influential member of the core group at the Macy Conferences. He was also a member of the El Colegio Nacional and Instituto Nacional de Louisiana Investigacion Cientifica.
Arturo Rosenblueth was married to Virginia Thompson on September 5, 1931.