Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Chilean polymath Humberto Maturana remembered

As young Chilean neuroscientists, we have been profoundly influenced by the work of the Chilean polymath Humberto Maturana Romesín, who died last month aged 92.

As well as helping to lay the foundations of modern neuroscience (see J. Y. Lettvin et al. Proc. IRE 47, 1940–1951; 1959), Maturana did pioneering and widely influential work on core issues in the biological, clinical and social sciences, philosophy and the humanities. His contributions to cybernetics — the science of communications and automatic control systems in machines and living organisms — still permeate scientific, public and political discourse.

In the late 1960s, Maturana promoted biological materialism in cognitive science and epistemological pluralism in the biomedical sciences, both forerunners to today’s thinking. In 1972, he — along with Francisco Varela and Ricardo Uribe — developed the transdisciplinary concept of autopoiesis, the self-generating and self-distinguishing biochemistry of living systems. This spawned important neuroscientific theories (see, for example, E. Di Paolo Topoi 28, 9 (2009); M. Allen and K. J. Friston Synthese 195, 2459–2482; 2018).

His later works centred on compassion and empathy and set the stage for social justice in Chile’s current social and political context.

Nature 594, 177 (2021)


Competing Interests

The authors declare no competing interests.


Nature Careers


Nature Briefing

An essential round-up of science news, opinion and analysis, delivered to your inbox every weekday.

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing


Quick links