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)
The authors declare no competing interests.