Ludwig von Bertalanffy

  • Magnus Ramage
  • Karen Shipp

Ludwig von Bertalanffy was the creator of general systems theory (GST) – he coined the term, developed it in detail in his many writings, and was a key part of the group which took it forward and spread the concept. Indeed, the systems movement would not have taken the form it did without Bertalanffy – for while holistic thinking has arisen in many places, it was Bertalanffy's language and concepts that took hold as the core of systems thinking. He was ahead of his time, always far beyond conventional views, and for the second half of his life never quite found a place where he fitted in. A fellow-founder of GST describes him as “kindly, shy, [with] a curious mixture of confidence that he was saying something important and diffidence that grew out of the lack of people to receive it” (Boulding 1983, p. 19). His biographer describes him as “the least known intellectual titan of the twentieth century” (Davidson 1983, p. 9).


Europe Titan Logical Positivism Metaphor 
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  1. Boulding, K. (1983). Introduction. In M. Davidson (Ed.), Uncommon sense: The life and thought of Ludwig von Bertalanffy (1901–1972), Father of General Systems Theory (pp. 17–19). LosAngeles: JP Tarcher.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© The Open University 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Magnus Ramage
    • 1
  • Karen Shipp
    • 1
  1. 1.The Open UniversityMilton KeynesUK

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