Prolegomena to a History of Robustness

  • Silvia CaianielloEmail author
Part of the History, Philosophy and Theory of the Life Sciences book series (HPTL, volume 23)


The paper outlines a historical reconstruction of the spread of the concept of robustness across different disciplinary fields, and of the major significant shifts, which comprise the stratigraphy of the semantic expansion of this notion. Starting from the emergence of the modern notion in statistics, which inspired also its actual epistemic instantiations, the paper examines the historical relationship between dynamical systems theory and the notion of robustness, and analyzes the developments that prompted the shift from “modern” to “robust” control theory in engineering. It further deals with the first instantiations of the concept in biology in the 1990s, in order to highlight the turn impressed on the concept by Systems Biology, focusing particularly on its implications as to the relationship between robustness and complexity.


Robustness Statistics Dynamical systems theory Systems biology Engineering Control theory History of science History of concepts Organized complexity Internal model principle Historical epistemology 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for the History of Philosophy and Science in Modern Age (ISPF)National Research CouncilNaplesItaly
  2. 2.Zoological Station Anton DohrnNaplesItaly

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