The late Norbert Wiener, a distinguished mathematician, is perhaps best known as the father of cybernetics, a term introduced and defined in the title of his 1948 work, Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Two decades later, the present volume by a British electrical engineer shows how cybernetics has fared as a "science" since Wiener proposed the term.
Cybernetics is a field devoted to analogy. In what way do animals resemble machines? How do machines resemble animals? These questions, of course, fascinated scientists long before the term cybernetics was introduced. Descartes, for example, was an irrepressible animalmachine analogizer. Nerves, to Descartes, were water-pipes; muscles, hydraulic engines; the respiratory system, a clock. Others, before and after, also attemped to explain biological phenomena in terms of engineering devices current in their day. First came the telephone, then the inevitable comparison of the nervous system to a telephone