Hermann Schmidt and German 'proto-cybernetics'

Bissell, Christopher Charles (2011). Hermann Schmidt and German 'proto-cybernetics'. Information, Communication & Society, 14(1) pp. 156–171.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2010.495411

Abstract

Histories of cybernetics, at least those in the English language, concentrate almost exclusively on its origins in the United States and UK, associated primarily with Norbert Wiener and colleagues, and in particular with the series of Macy conferences from 1946 onwards. Independent work was, however, carried out elsewhere. In Germany, Hermann Schmidt introduced the notion of Allgemeine Regelungskunde [general control theory] in the early 1940s, which bore many similarities to the almost exactly contemporary work of Wiener and colleagues. Schmidt's work was subsequently largely neglected during the rapid post-war dissemination of cybernetics ideas until it was, to a certain extent, rediscovered in Germany in the 1960s. There Schmidt is often credited, alongside Wiener, as one of the two 'fathers' of cybernetics. This article presents the nature and background of Schmidt's contributions and assesses their significance.

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