International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics

2nd Edition, as published by Charles François 2004 Presented by the Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science Vienna for public access.


The International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics was first edited and published by the system scientist Charles François in 1997. The online version that is provided here was based on the 2nd edition in 2004. It was uploaded and gifted to the center by ASC president Michael Lissack in 2019; the BCSSS purchased the rights for the re-publication of this volume in 200?. In 2018, the original editor expressed his wish to pass on the stewardship over the maintenance and further development of the encyclopedia to the Bertalanffy Center. In the future, the BCSSS seeks to further develop the encyclopedia by open collaboration within the systems sciences. Until the center has found and been able to implement an adequate technical solution for this, the static website is made accessible for the benefit of public scholarship and education.



(This replaces the existing entry)

The emergence of a higher form of organization as result of growing symbiosis between two (or more) different systems.

P. CORNING (1998b, p. 23) establishes the priority of "an obscure school of the 19th and early 20th Russian botanists". He quotes MEREZHKOVSKY who coined the term "symbiogenesis" and defined it as "the origin of organisms through combination and unification of two or many beings, entering into symbiosis"(1920, p. 65)

CORNING also quotes another russian theorist, B.M. KOZO-POLYANSKY who observed that: "The theory of symbiogenesis is a theory of selection relying on the physiology of symbiosis (1932,p.25) and in no way incompatible with Darwinian evolution".

F. CAPRA synthetizes in the following terms a basic discovery by Lynn MARGULIS: "The sudden appearance of nucleated cells in the history of evolution and the discovery that their organelles are distinct self-reproducing organisms led (her) to the conclusion that nucleated cells have evolved through long term symbiosis, the permanent living together of various bacteria and other microorganisms"(1997, p. 242) (Also L. MARGULIS, 1981, 1993) and L. MARGULIS & M. McMENAMIN (Eds.), 1993).

By an adequate combination of characters, complex symbiogenetic organisms can survive and evolve in conditions that would not be suitable for their parts in separate forms

CAPRA even observes that many old myths ("sphinxes, mermaids, griffons, centaurs…") seem to convey in an implicit way the idea of symbiogenesis. He adds: "Somehow the collective human unconscious seem to have known from ancient times that long-term symbioses are profoundly beneficial for all Iife"(Ibid, p.245).

It seems now that some new forms of symbiogenesis have surfaced in techniques. Many modern complex artifacts are results of the convergence, co-adaptation and final integration of a number of simpler techniques: the steel and the diesel motorships, the car and the aircraft are outstanding examples.

It seems even possible that a similar phenomenon plays a role in the organization of complex social systems and are still presently fully active (crf. the globalization process).

The more general systemic significance of the concept is obviously based on complementarity between compatible systems with benefits for both, until the fusion reaches irreversibility, i.e. when the individual parts cannot anymore survive independently.

The same concept also emerged in W. SCHWEMMLER's work (1991), together with a kind of operative process model, namely his toolkit principle.


  • 1) General information
  • 2) Methodology or model
  • 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
  • 4) Human sciences
  • 5) Discipline oriented


Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science(2020).

To cite this page, please use the following information:

Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]

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