Not just Norbert

Bissell, Chris (2010). Not just Norbert. Kybernetes, 39(4) pp. 496–509.



Although Norbert Wiener is justifiably granted the epithet 'father of cybernetics', a number of other engineers from a control or telecommunications background also turned to areas that can broadly be categorised as cybernetic during and immediately after WW2. This paper gives an overview of some of these lesser-known technologist contributors to the emerging ideas of cybernetics.The paper is based on primary and secondary literature, as well as two interviews from the early 1990s. In Germany Hermann Schmidt, chair of the Verein Deutscher Ingenieure committee on control engineering (established in 1939) gave a talk on control engineering and its relationship with economics, social sciences and cultural aspects as early as October 1940. Winfried Oppelt, another member of the committee, also researched non-technological applications of control ideas in his subsequent career (economics, biology), as did Karl Küpfmüller (pharmacokinetics, models of the human nervous system). In the UK, Arnold Tustin developed a mathematical model of a human gun operator during the war, and then applied control ideas to economic systems in the late 1940s. The material presented here is not well known even within the control engineering profession, and is largely absent from histories of cybernetics – at least those in the English language.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions