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Ludwig Von Bertalanffy


Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Austrian Philosopher of biology; general systems theorist.


Bertalanffy, Ludwig Von was born on September 19, 1901 in Atzgerdorf, Austria. Son of Gustav and Charlotte (Vogl) von Bertalanffy.


Student of University Innsbruck Vienna, Austria. Doctor of Philosophy, University Vienna, 1926.


1 son, Felix D. Faculty, U. Vienna, 1934-1948. Professor, director biological research department U. Ottawa (Ontario, Canada), 1949-1954. Director biological research Mount Sinai Hospital, visiting professor University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 1955-1958.

Sloan visiting professor, member research department Menninger Foundation, Topeka, 1958-1960. Professor theoretical biology, then University professor of University Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, 1961-1969. Faculty professor State University New York at Buffalo, 1969-1972.


  • Author numerous books including: Modern Theories of Development, 1928, 33, 62. Theoretische Biologie, 2 vols., 1932, 42, 51. Problems of Life, 1949, 52, 60.Robots, Men and Minds, 1967. General System Theory, 1968. Editor: Handbuch der Biologie, 1942.(with A. Rapoport) General Systems, 1956. Contributor articles to science journals on general and theoretical biology, physiology, cytology, behavior, system theory, history and philosophy of science.


Bertalanffy was a theoretical biologist of international reputation. His researches in medicine led him, by 1926, to repudiate both mechanistic and vitalistic views of life and to develop an ‘organismic’ conception giving scientific meaning to the idea of ‘organic wholeness' in terms of a ‘dynamic morphology’, an ‘interpretation of organic forms as the result of an ordered flow of processes’. Thus he conceived the organism as a selfregulating ‘open system’, one which varies its structure and activity relevantly to a constant and overruling pattern of organization.

Bertalanffy subsequently universalized the ‘organismic’ conception into a ‘general systems theory', envisaged both as a ‘new realm of science’ whose subject matter is the formulation and derivation of those principles which hold for systems in general, and as a comprehensive semantic system including all the various sciences.

While Bertalanffy’s contributions to philosophical biology were considerable, his programme for the systematic unity of science remains unrealized—and perhaps unrealizable— ideal.


Fellow, Notgemeinschaft der Deutschen Wissenschaft, 1930-1932, Rockefeller Foundation, 1937-1938, Lady Davis Foundation, 1949, Center for Advanced Study in Bahavioral Sciences, Stanford, California, 1954-1955, others. Fellow American Psychiatric Association (honorary), International Academy Cytology, American Association for the Advancement of Science. Member Society for General Systems Research (founder, life.


  • Philosophers & Thinkers

    Literary influences: Leibniz, W. Kohler and Jakob von Uexkiill. Personal: A. Rapport and Ervin Laszlo.

  • Other Interests

    Organisms; medicine; culture.


Married Maria M. Bauer, 1925.

Gustav Bertalanffy

Charlotte (Vogl) Bertalanffy

Maria M. Bauer