Robert Rosen
Complexity & Life




Robert Rosen


Robert Rosen (1934-1998) was a theoretical biologist who strived to answer the question the Nobel physicist Erwin Shrödinger posed in 1943: "What is Life?" To this day, what it is that makes an organism alive has remained unanswered by conventional biology, chemistry and by the physics under which the former two topics are thought to be subsumed.

As a student of physicist and theoretical biologist Nicholas Rashevsky, and later as professor emeritus of biophysics at Dalhousie University, Rosen came to realize that the Newtonian model of physics - the world of mechanisms - was inadequate to describe biological systems; that is, one could not properly answer the question "what is life?" in a Newtonian formalism. Rather than biology being a mere subset of already-known physics, it turned out that biology had profound lessons for physics, and science in general.

Laid down clearly and rigorously in his book Life Itself, Rosen demonstrated the rather arbitrary strictures of Newtonian physics, and he laid the groundwork for a more inclusive type of physics - one that is driven by the necessity of rigorously explaining biological organisms in physical terms. 

In the posthumously published Essays on Life Itself, Rosen expounded on the innumerable ways in which the limits of Newtonian thinking make themselves apparent in areas ranging from biology to the mind-body problem to quantum mechanics. And that the way out of these dilemmas is not to equivocate on the underlying science, but, rather, to undertake a rigorous review of physics and science - one that leads to an expansion of science, not for the sake of expansion, but for the sake of following where the science leads. 

Further biographical information about Robert Rosen can be found on the Rosen family website.




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Last Site Update: 04/23/2006