I am a scientist and science writer, as well as an environmental educator and activist. On this website you will find information about my publications, lectures, seminars, and other professional activities. Links will take you to the Center for Ecoliteracy, which I cofounded in 1994, and to Schumacher College, an international center for ecological studies in the UK where I often teach.
I was trained as a physicist and spent twenty years, from 1965-85, doing research in theoretical high energy physics (see Resumé). From my early student years, I was fascinated by the dramatic changes of concepts and ideas that occurred in physics during the first three decades of the twentieth century. In my first book, The Tao of Physics (1975), I discussed the profound change in our worldview that was brought about by the conceptual revolution in physics — a change from the mechanistic worldview of Descartes and Newton to a holistic and ecological view.
In my subsequent research and writing, I have engaged in a systematic exploration of a central theme: the fundamental change of worldview, or change of paradigms, that is now also occurring in the other sciences and in society; the unfolding of a new vision of reality, and the social implications of this cultural transformation (see Bibliography for a list of the editions of my books in English and in other languages).
To connect the conceptual changes in science with the change of worldview and values in society, I had to go beyond physics and look for a broader conceptual framework. In doing so, I realized that our major social issues — health, social justice, protection of the environment, the management of business enterprises, and so on — all have to do with living systems: with individual human beings, social systems, and ecosystems.
With this realization, my research interests shifted from physics to the life sciences, and over the past thirty years I have developed a conceptual framework that integrates four dimensions of life: the biological, the cognitive, the social, and the ecological. I presented summaries of this framework, as it evolved, in two books: The Web of Life (1996) and The Hidden Connections (2002). My final synthesis has recently been published in a multidisciplinary textbook, coauthored with my friend and colleague Pier Luigi Luisi, The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision (Cambridge University Press, 2014).
While I developed this conceptual framework, I also became involved in environmental activism. In 1984, I founded an ecological think tank called the Elmwood Institute, and over the next ten years my colleagues and I built up an international network of thinkers and activists from many fields and many parts of the world. In 1994, we transformed the Institute into an organization called Center for Ecoliteracy (CEL), which promotes ecology and systems thinking in primary and secondary education. (I invite you to subscribe to the CEL newsletter for more information about our educational work.)
Over the years I have realized more and more that the two main activities in my professional life — as systems theorist and environmental educator — are closely interrelated. This has been a very happy realization, because it allows me to pursue my intellectual interests as a scientist in a way that is fully consistent with my values. The main focus of my environmental education and activism is to help build and nurture sustainable communities. To do so, we can learn valuable lessons from the study of ecosystems, which are sustainable communities of plants, animals, and microorganisms. So the quest for ecological sustainability naturally leads to the question: How do ecosystems organize themselves to sustain life? This question, in turn, leads to a more general question: How do living systems organize themselves? And this is the focus of my theoretical work.
During the last ten years I have also been involved in an extended research and writing project about the science of Leonardo da Vinci, a fascinating and surprisingly little known subject. Leonardo developed the empirical approach now known as the scientific method 100 years before Galileo, but his science was very different from the mechanistic science of Galileo and Newton. Leonardo's science was a science of living forms, of patterns of organization and processes of transformation, which often foreshadowed our modern systems and complexity theories. I have published my discoveries about Leonardo's science in two books, The Science of Leonardo (2007) and Learning from Leonardo (2013).
Thank you for your interest in my work.
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