What do the study of the computational principles in living organisms, the end of the world, and a counterculture student-produced guide to the university all have in common? These subjects are all documented in the personal papers of electrical engineering professor Heinz von Foerster (1911-2002), whose work and laboratory at the University of Illinois transformed a generation of scientists, engineers, and humanists and the interdisciplinary approaches they employed to answer questions about behavior. “Heinz von Foerster and the Biological Computer Laboratory: A Cybernetics Odyssey”–a new exhibit in the University Archives, room 146–contains selections from the Heinz von Foerster Papers, the Biological Computer Laboratory Publications, and the Biological Computer Laboratory Contract and Conference File, which highlight the genesis and evolution of the Biological Computer Laboratory (BCL) as well as von Foerster’s cybernetics research and role as an educator. Continue reading “Heinz von Foerster and the Biological Computer Laboratory: A Cybernetics Odyssey”
James Barrett Reston was one of the most prominent journalists of his era. As a columnist for the New York Times, millions of Americans read his insightful analysis of national and global events, including Cold War-era tensions between the United States and Soviet Russia and the Nixon administration’s reopening of diplomatic relations with China.
The following exhibit, “James B. Reston: The Life and Career of the ‘Dean of American Journalism’” explores Reston’s life from his youth in Ohio and as a student at the University of Illinois, to his ascent at the New York Times, through photographs, oral histories, and historical documents.
The poetry of Langston Hughes has been widely published and analyzed by critics, academics, and students, and it is no surprise that Hughes enjoyed a good relationship with American colleges and universities. Hughes made a side career of speaking engagements at schools, and the University of Illinois was no exception. Hughes made multiple visits to the Urbana campus, including a well-documented trip in 1957.
The exhibit “Dream Singer and Story Teller” explores the background and events related to this visit through historical documents and contemporary accounts.
In recognition of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the University of Illinois’ participation in an Arctic expedition, the University Archives has prepared an on-line exhibit featuring first-hand accounts of this ill-fated trip to find the “Crocker Lands”. The exhibit focuses on the observations of W. Elmer Ekblaw (class of 1910) who served as the expedition team’s geologist, and provides insights to survival in a brutal climate away from the rest of the world that was rushing into World War I.