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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Natural and Applied Sciences Archives: Biological Computer Laboratory

These topic guides provide a starting point for finding source materials related to the history of science and technology at the University of Illinois. Please note that these guides are not definitive or comprehensive and are periodically updated.

Biological Computer Laboratory Archival Holdings

College and Departmental Records

  • Biological Computer Laboratory Contract and Conference File, 1946-1973 (Record Series 11/6/17): Includes material on contracts with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research (OSR), Aeronautical Systems Division, Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory and Systems Command; Office of Naval Research (ONR); National Science Foundation (NSF); Department of Health, Education, and Welfare; Army Research Office; and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to research cellular proliferation, mammalian auditory systems, cognition, cybernetics, visual perception, notation of movement, mechanization of cognitive processes, and man-machine systems. Also includes materials from conferences attended by director Heinz von Foerster concerning cybernetics, bionics, man-machine interaction, electrical engineering, computers, art and design, and memory; meeting notes; lectures; and television presentations.
  • Biological Computer Laboratory Publications, 1957-1976 (Record Series 11/6/834): Includes proposals, reports, technical reports, and publications lists for research projects supported by the Air Force, Navy, and NASA; and microfiche of all BCL publications (1957-1976) on cybernetics, cognitive studies, ecology, and related projects.

Faculty and Staff Papers

  • Heinz von Foerster Papers (Record Series 11/6/26): Contains correspondence relating to cybernetics, the Biological Computer Laboratory (BCL), futurism, alternative living, cognitive processes, artificial intelligence, artificial language, notation of body movement, and departmental administration; course files for electrical engineering, biophysics, heuristics, and LAS 199 (1966-1972); course projects; publications; presentation notes; and photographs.
  • Murray Babcock Papers (Record Series 11/6/35): Includes correspondence, newspaper clippings, newsletters, publications, and autograph books relating to his cybernetics research and professional associations; "Doomsday" by Heinz von Foerster et al.; programs from symposia and events at Assembly Hall and the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts; and audiovisual media containing speech processing data related to the Dynamic Signal Analyzer.
  • Ricardo Uribe Papers (Record Series 11/6/40): Includes publications from the Biological Computer Laboratory (BCL), audiovisual media, reprints, and a W. Ross Ashby's Non-Trivial Machine

Alumni Papers and Student Organization Records

  • Paul C. Schroeder Papers (Record Series 26/20/207): Contains a "Free Speech" computer punch card (1967) and button; a poster for the "Non-verbal Propoganda" centennial course (1968); correspondence and reprints relating to his time as a student at the University of Illinois, involvement in the Biological Computer Laboratory (BCL) as a student of Heinz von Foerster, and cybernetics; and a cybernetics-informed analysis of the political and social environment in the Champaign-Urbana community for Dean Robert Rogers of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (1971).
  • Stuart Umpleby Papers (Record Series 7/13/20): Includes PLATO-produced transcripts of electronic discussions concerning the impeachment of Richard Nixon, other local and national events, and the use of PLATO to discuss political issues; correspondence with Eleanor Blum; photocopied articles concerning the use of computer networks to discuss political and social affairs and media coverage of government-issued information, including the Warren Commission; and materials on the American Society for Cybernetics concerning articles of incorporation, by-laws, society history, membership, publications, conferences, and related organizations.
  • The Cybernetics Thought Collective Project (Record Series 35/3/99): A collaboration between the University of Illinois, the British Library, the American Philosophical Society, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to develop a web portal and analysis engine to provide access to archival records related to the development of the field of cybernetics. Digitized materials include records related to the pioneering work of U of I Electrical Engineering Professor Heinz von Foerster and his fellow cyberneticians W. Ross Asbhy, Warren S. McCulloch, and Norbert Wiener. 
  • Murray Babcock Papers (Digital Surrogates) (Record Series 11/6/35): Contains digitized audio recordings of speech and sound data from Babcock's work on the Dynamic Signal Analyzer.
  • Biological Computer Laboratory Publications, 1957-1976: Digital surrogates include grant proposals, technical reports, publications, general reports, and yearly summaries concerning cybernetics, biological computing, sound processing, self-organizing systems, visual processing, language processing, computational semantics, complex computer systems, computers and cognitive functions, computational linguistics, and information processing. The physical record series can be found here.

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