Origin of Systems Thinking LO24058

From: John Gunkler (jgunkler@sprintmail.com)
Date: 02/24/00

Replying to LO23925 --

Just to add one very readable reference to the host of good answers to
Steve Elfrink's question:

George Richardson, "Feedback thought in social science and systems
theory," now back in print (1999) and available through Pegasus
Communications (www.pegasuscom.com)

Richardson, as have others here, distinguishes two major historical
threads which he calls (not very felicitously, to my mind -- but that's my
only criticism of this wonderful book) the "cybernetics" thread and the
"servomechanisms" thread.

Richardson focuses on the social sciences -- which sounds like what Steve
wants to do -- but it is the use of feedback concepts (rather than the
more general term "systems thinking" that he investigates. He refers to
forerunners in other sciences as well. For example he cites a Greek,
Ktesibios (250 B.C.E.), for creating the first known feedback device: a
float valve used to create an accurate water clock. He also briefly
traces the use of feedback concepts in biology, mathematics, and logic
before investigating the social sciences more fully.

John W. Gunkler


"John Gunkler" <jgunkler@sprintmail.com>

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