Stuart A. Umpleby

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Stuart A. Umpleby, 2008

Stuart Anspach Umpleby (born March 5, 1944) is an American cybernetician and professor in the Department of Management and Director of the Research Program in Social and Organizational Learning in the School of Business at the George Washington University.


  • During the 1950s and 1960s most of the work which was called cybernetics tended to focus on control systems in engineering or on applications of the concept of feedback in fields ranging from mathematics to sociology. At the 1970 meeting of the American Society for Cybernetics in Philadelphia Heinz von Foerster sought to redirect attention to the original interests which had led to the founding of the field of cybernetics. In a paper titled "Cybernetics of Cybernetics" he made a distinction between first order cybernetics, the cybernetics of observed systems, and second order cybernetics, the cybernetics of observing systems.
    • Stuart A. Umpleby (1991) "Strategies for Winning Acceptance of Second Order Cybernetics." In George E. Lasker, et al. (eds.) Advances in Human Systems and Information Technologies. Windsor, Canada: International Institute for Advanced Studies in Systems Research and Cybernetics, 1992. pp. 97-196. (paper)

"The origins and purposes of several traditions in systems theory and cybernetics," 1999[edit]

Umpleby, Stuart A., and Eric B. Dent. "The origins and purposes of several traditions in systems theory and cybernetics." Cybernetics & Systems 30.2 (1999): 79-103.

  • Systems science is generally said to have emerged during and after World War II, although there were precursors to the basic ideas. The people who created each school of thought were working largely independently, although many of them knew each other. They came from different disciplines, they were working on different problems, they formulated different variations of the principles of systems and cybernetics, and they often chose to affiliate with different academic societies.
    • p. 79: Introduction
  • A key location for the development of general systems theory was the University of Michigan’s Mental Health Research Institute (MHRI) where General Systems, the yearbook of the Society for General Systems Research (SGSR) was based for many years. A mental health research institute may seem a peculiar place to find systems theory.
    • p. 80: About General Systems Theory
  • A group that was somewhat connected with general systems theory is usually associated with the term, the systems approach. They were located originally at the University of Pennsylvania. They later went to Case Western Reserve University and then back to the University of Pennsylvania. Their founding philosopher was E. A. Singer, Jr. One of Singer's students was C. West Churchman, and Churchman's first student was Russell Ackoff.
    • p. 82: About the Systems Approach
  • Another tradition in systems theory, known as system dynamics, originated at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The founder of this tradition was Jay Forrester, a creative engineer who invented the magnetic core memory for computers and who built the Whirlwind computer, which is now in the Smithsonian Institution.
    • p. 85: About System Dynamics
  • Another group at MIT and Harvard University developed the notion of “organizational learning.” Chris Argyris and Donald Schön were the key figures in this group. Argyris was a student of Kurt Lewin, who was a participant in the Macy Foundation meetings that were chaired by Warren McCulloch.
    • p. 87; About Organizational Learning

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