|About Michael Polanyi|
Michael Polanyi was born in Budapest Hungary on March 11, 1891 . Polanyi was broadly educated, and loved the arts and humanities as well as mathematics and science. His earliest scientific paper, "Chemistry of Hydrocephalic Liquid," was published at age 19. He pursued a degree in medicine at Budapest University, becoming a Doctor of Medicine in 1913.
During World War I, Michael Polanyi served as a medical officer for the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I. While in the war, Polanyi got sick and during his hospitalization and recovery was actually able to write a paper on the thermodynamics of adsorption. This paper was accepted by the chemistry faculty of Budapest University which awarded him a Ph.D. in chemistry in 1917. Soon after his time at war in 1920, Polanyi was employed at the new Institute of Fibre Chemistry in Berlin, where he established himself as one of Germany's premier physical chemists. In 1933, Polanyi took a position as chair of physical chemistry at Manchester University in Great Britain.
During his career, Michael Polanyi published over 200 important scientific papers. However, he turned to philosophy later in his career when he saw how ideologies were being employed to hinder free scientific expression and inquiry. Polanyi's most important and influential work in philosophy was Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post Critical Philosophy. With regard to complex systems, Polanyi is best remembered for his seminal work on the functional logic that undergirds biological complexity and that is not reducible to physical and chemical principles.
Michael Polanyi died at the age of 84 on February 22, 1976.
Quotation from Michael Polanyi
"Biologists speak of explaining living beings in terms of physics and chemistry, but they never actually realise what this means. They assume that to explain life in terms of a mechanism based on physics and chemistry is to explain it in terms of physics and chemistry, and this is false. Thus misconceived, the claim to explain life by physics and chemistry comes to stand for the claim of explaining life by mechanical models, and this claim has much truth in it [since models are `as if' conceptions]. ..."
"Though the claim to explain all living processes mechanically is absurd, all life has a mechanical aspect which is truly explained by a mechanism. Now suppose that this appears to be as much as we can achieve at this time. It would be a sound policy then to restrict enquiry to the mechanical aspects of life as if they explained life altogether. And consequently, scientists --- being primarily concerned with the advancement of science --- may come so firmly to uphold this fiction that they will regard it as `the scientific view' of life and condemn anyone challenging this fallacy as an anti-scientific obscurantist. ..."
Publications by Michael Polanyi
"Beauty, elegance and reality in science", in S. Korner (ed.), Observation and Interpretation. (Colston Papers no. 9). London: Butterworth’s Scientific Publications 1957, pp.102-06; with discussion pp.107-18.
Commentary on "The uses of Dogmatism in Science", by T.S. Kuhn, in A.C. Crombie (ed.), The Structure of Scientific Change. London: William Heinemann 1963, pp.375-78.
"Cultural significance of science". Nature, 147, 25 January 1941, p.119.
Knowing and Being. Edited with an introduction by Marjorie Grene. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969. ISBN:0-226-67284-0 (cloth);0-226-67285-9 (paper).
"Life’s irreducible structure", in his Knowing and Being (1969), pp.225-39.
"Life transcending physics and chemistry", Chemical and Engineering News, 45(35), 21 August 1967, pp.54-66.
The Logic of Liberty. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1951;Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980. ISBN:0-226-67296-4 (paper).
Meaning. With Harry Prosch. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,1975.
Personal Knowledge Towards a Post Critical Philosophy. N.Y.:Harper & Row (Harper Torchbooks ed), 1964.
Science, Economics and Philosophy: Selected Papers of Michael Polanyi. Edited with an introduction by R.T. Allen. New Brunswick (USA) and London: Transaction Publishers, 1997.
Science, Faith and Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964.
"The body-mind relation", in Wm.R. Coulson and Carl R. Rogers (eds.) Man and the Science of Man. Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill Pub.Co., 1968, pp.85-102; discussion pp. 103-30.
The Planning of Science (Occasional Pamphlets no. 4). Oxford: Society for Freedom in Science 1946, 14 pp.
The Study of Man. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964.
The Tacit Dimension. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1966.
"The value of the inexact", Philosophy of Science, 3(2), April 1936, pp.233-34.
Information about Michael Polanyi and his work
Gelwick, Richard. The Way of Discovery: An Introduction to the Thought of Michael Polanyi. N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1977.
Langford, Thomas A. and William H. Poteat. Intellect and Hope: Essays in the Thought of Michael Polanyi. Durham: Duke University Press, 1968.
The Logic of Personal Knowledge: Essays presented to Michael Polanyi on his Seventieth Birthday, 11th March, 1961. London: Routledge &Keegan Paul, 1961.
Prosch, Harry. Michael Polanyi: A Critical Exposition. Albany: SUNY Press, 1986.
Scott, Drusilla. Everyman Revived: The Common Sense of Michael Polanyi. Lewes, Sussex: The Book Guild Limited, 1985.
Wigner, E.P. and R.A. Hodgkin. "Michael Polanyi" in Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society, Vol. 23. London: The Royal Society, Nov. 1977: 413-438.
The Education of Michael Polanyi
University of Budapest,
degree in medicine awarded in 1913
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