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Q Rev Biol. 2007 Dec;82(4):349-73.

On the making of a system theory of life: Paul A Weiss and Ludwig von Bertalanffy's conceptual connection.

Author information

  • 1Department of Theoretical Biology, University of Vienna, Austria. MANFRED.DRACK@UNIVIE.AC.AT

Abstract

In this article, we review how two eminent Viennese system thinkers, Paul A Weiss and Ludwig von Bertalanffy, began to develop their own perspectives toward a system theory of life in the 1920s. Their work is especially rooted in experimental biology as performed at the Biologische Versuchsanstalt, as well as in philosophy, and they converge in basic concepts. We underline the conceptual connections of their thinking, among them the organism as an organized system, hierarchical organization, and primary activity. With their system thinking, both biologists shared a strong desire to overcome what they viewed as a "mechanistic" approach in biology. Their interpretations are relevant to the renaissance of system thinking in biology--"systems biology." Unless otherwise noted, all translations are our own.

PMID:
18217527
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC2874664
Free PMC Article
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