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Rebel GeniusWarren S. McCulloch's Transdisciplinary Life in Science$
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Tara H. Abraham

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262035095

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262035095.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 03 July 2022

The Engineer

The Engineer

(p.153) 7 The Engineer
Rebel Genius

Tara H. Abraham

The MIT Press

This chapter examines the ways that McCulloch’s new research culture at MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics shaped the evolution of his scientific identity into that of an engineer. This was an open, fluid, multidisciplinary culture that allowed McCulloch to shift his focus more squarely onto understanding the brain from the perspective of theoretical modelling, and to promote the cybernetic vision to diverse audiences. McCulloch’s practices, performed with a new set of student-collaborators, involved modeling the neurophysiology of perception, understanding reliability in biological systems, and pursuing knowledge of the reticular formation of the brain. The chapter provides a nuanced account of the relations between McCulloch’s work and the emerging fields of artificial intelligence and the cognitive sciences. It also highlights McCulloch’s identities as sage-collaborator and polymath, two roles that in part were the result of his students’ observations and in part products of his own self-fashioning.

Keywords:   Engineering, Research Laboratory of Electronics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, artificial intelligence, cognitive sciences, multidisciplinarity, theoretical modelling, mentoring in science, Manuel Blum, Cold War science

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