Stafford Beer

Sadly, we have to announce that Professor Stafford Beer died on August 23, 2002. He was President of WOSC and of the American Society for Cybernetics and an eminent contributor to the field as well as a charismatic figure. He will be sadly missed.

An obituary has appeared in the: Guardian. Accounts of his collapse when he was placed on life support, and of his subsequent peaceful death, and of his interment, can be found in the archives of the CYBCOM list, as:

Life support

An issue of Kybernetes (vol. 22, no. 6, 1993) features the work and contributions of Stafford Beer, and another making a posthumous tribute edited by Raul Espejo is vol. 33, no. 3/4, 2004.

A recent work, highly relevant to the current world situation, is his address to the University of Valladolid, Spain, in October 2001, when the university bestowed on him the high honour of Doctor Honoris Causa. The address is published as: “What is Cybernetics?”, Kybernetes, vol. 31, no. 2, 2002, pp. 209-219 – see also vol. 33, no. 3/4, 2004, pp. 853-863.

A commemoration event: “Stafford Beer – Celebration of a Life” was held on Thursday, September 19 in the Junior Common Room at Massey College, Toronto. Another called: “Stafford Beer – Later at the Bar” was held on September 20 in the Idler Pub, Toronto. The title of the second event is taken from end-of-chapter inserts in Stafford’s book: The Heart of Enterprise (Wiley, 1979). For the earlier event the following message was sent by Prof. Vallée:

Professor Stafford Beer was President of the World Organisation of Systems and Cybernetics (Organisation Mondiale pour la Systémique et la Cybernétique) or WOSC. He was one of its Honorary Fellows and recipient of its Norbert Wiener Memorial Gold Medal.
Professor Beer has been a very eminent and active President who honored the WOSC. We express our condolences to his family and friends.
Robert Vallée
Director-General of the WOSC
Professeur émérite de l’Université Paris-Nord

A commemorative event, hosted by Allenna Leonard and attended by many friends, was held in the Royal Society of Arts, London, in the evening of October 11, 2002. The title was as follows::

Stafford Beer

Celebration of a Life

September 25, 1926 to August 23, 2002

S. Beer ***Stafford Beer in his cottage in Wales***

Tributes were given by many of those present, many with reference to the programme in Chile that ended so disastrously in 1973. The following message from the Director-General of WOSC was read on his behalf:

At the occasion of the Memorial Celebration for Professor Stafford Beer in London, the World Organisation of Systems and Cybernetics, founded in 1969 by Professor J. Rose, wishes to tell how much Professor Beer has been an eminent and active President. Honorary Fellow of the WOSC, he was also a recipient of its Norbert Wiener Gold Medal presented to him during its 6th International Congress held in Paris in 1984.

His famous books on the use of cybernetics in management, his numerous articles, many of them published in Kybernetes, the official journal of the WOSC, his contributions to international congresses, had made him a very famous scientist in the fields of cybernetics and systems. Moreover his personal talents, in poetry and music, added other traits to his attractive personality.

The World Organisation of Systems and Cybernetics has lost, in the person of Professor Stafford Beer, a great President.
Robert Vallée
Director-General of the WOSC
Professeur émérite de l’Université Paris-Nord

An account of Stafford’s life, written by Chris Cullen and distributed at the commemorative events, with the title: “Stafford Beer – Celebration of a life”, appears also in Kybernetes vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 454-456, 2003.


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