Warren McCulloch

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Warren Sturgis McCulloch (born November 16, 1898 in Orange , New Jersey , † September 24, 1969 in Cambridge , Massachusetts ) was an American neurophysiologist and cyberneticist .


McCulloch attended Haverford College and studied philosophy and psychology at Yale with a bachelor's degree in 1921 and psychology from Columbia University with a master's degree (MA) in 1923. He then studied medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons with an MD degree 1927 followed by an internship at Bellevue Hospital in New York specializing in neurology. 1934 to 1941 he was at the laboratory for neurophysiology at Yale University, where he was last assistant professor, and from 1941 associate professor and later professor of psychiatry at the Medical College of the University of Illinois in Chicago (Illinois Neuropsychiatric Institute).

After 1952 McCulloch worked at the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics at the invitation of Jerome Wiesner (who in turn followed the advice of Norbert Wiener ). McCulloch accepted because of the good research conditions, although this resulted in the abandonment of his full professorship and lower pay.

He became famous for his early work on neural networks and how the brain works, particularly with Walter Pitts in the 1940s. Together with Pitts, McCulloch developed the model of the McCulloch-Pitts neuron and they were able to show that Turing-computable programs can be computed by a finite network of such artificial neurons . This made him one of the founding fathers of neuroinformatics . He also showed that the neuron is the essential logical unit in our brain. He conducted research at Yale University with his mentor Joannes Gregorius Dusser de Barenne (1885–1940), a pioneer of strychnine neuronography, on functional connections in the neocortex of monkeys and at MIT on the physiology of the nerve circuits in the spinal cord and the visual cortex of the frog with Humberto Maturana , Pitts and Jerome (Jerry) Lettvin.

In 1957 McCulloch was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . He was a founding member of the American Society for Cybernetics and was its first president from 1967 to 1968.

He had broad interests, wrote poetry, and later designed houses and a dam for his farm in Old Lyme , Connecticut .

See also


  • New York Times . (1969). Obituaries. 25th of September


  • with Walter Pitts : A Logical Calculus of the Ideas Immanent in Nervous Activity. In: The Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics. Volume 5, number 4, 1943, pp. 115-133, doi: 10.1007 / BF02478259 , (reprinted in: Embodiments of mind. 1965, pp. 19-39).
  • A Heterarchy of Values ​​Determined by the Topology of Nervous Nets. In: The Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics. Volume 7, number 2, 1945, pp. 89-93, doi: 10.1007 / BF02478457 , ( online (PDF; 51 kB) ).
  • with Walter Pitts: How we know universals. The perception of visual and auditory forms. In: The Bulletin of Mathematical Biophysics. Volume 9, number 3, 1947, pp. 127-147, doi: 10.1007 / BF02478291 , (reprinted in: Embodiments of Mind. 1965, pp. 46-67).
  • with Jerome Y. Lettvin, Humberto R. Maturana and Walter H. Pitts: What the frog's eye tells the frog's brain. In: Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineers. Volume 47, number 11, 1959, pp. 1940–1959, doi: 10.1109 / JRPROC.1959.287207 , (reprinted in: Embodiments of Mind. 1965, pp. 230–255).
  • with Bradford Howland, Jerome Y. Lettvin, Walter Pitts and Patrick D. Wall: Reflex inhibition by dorsal root interaction. In: Journal of Neurophysiology . Volume 18, number 1, 1955, pp. 1-17, doi: 10.1152 / jn.1955.18.1.1 .
  • with Patrick D. Wall, Jerome Y. Lettvin and Walter H. Pitts: Effects of strychnine with special reference to spinal afferent fibers. In: Epilepsia. Series 3, Volume 4, 1955, pp. 29-40, doi: 10.1111 / j.1528-1157.1955.tb03171.x .
  • with Humberto R. Maturana, Jerome Y. Lettvin and Walter H. Pitts: Anatomy and physiology of vision in the frog (Rana pipiens). In: Journal of General Physiology . Volume 43, number 6, 1960, pp. 129-175, doi: 10.1085 / jgp.43.6.129 .
  • Embodiments of Mind. MIT Press, Cambridge MA 1965 (Again: MIT Press, Cambridge MA et al. 1988, ISBN 0-262-63114-8 (excerpt: Why the Mind is in the Head. Pp. 72-87. (PDF; 145 kB))) .
    • German translation: Embodiments of the spirit (= computer culture. 7). Springer, Vienna et al. 2000, ISBN 3-211-82857-5 .
  • Collected Works of Warren S. McCulloch. Edited by Rook McCulloch. 4 volumes. Intersystems Publications, Salinas CA 1989, ISBN 0-914105-48-3 .

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