Bronowski and Operations Research

Today is Jacob (Bruno) Bronowski’s (official *) birthday and Timothy Sandefur marked the day by sharing his daughter Lisa Jardine’s 2010 documentary “My Father, the Bomb and Me“. Lisa and Bruno are (were) both heroes to me and I’ve mentioned them many times here. Most relevant to that film documentary was Lisa’s Conway Memorial Lecture I blogged about back in 2014 (inc footnotes).

Watching the documentary again today I noticed something I’d not before.

My focus these days is the abstract version of Cybernetics I call Systems Thinking and one of the earlier incarnations was Operations Research. The last time I mentioned that was at this “Community Operations Research” event in memory of John Friend at Lincoln University. (And incidentally, the last time I mentioned Bruno was here at Hull University at last year’s annual Mike Jackson lecture. A number of personnel movements between these two institutions reflect changing fashions in Systems Sciences & Methods in the UK)

Anyway, I noticed that the statistical and Bayesian maths used by Bronowski, amongst others during wartime – to predict bombing damage and kill-rate effectiveness etc – were of course referred to in the documentary as the early days of Operations Research. Hull was his home institution at that time. Small world.


This year’s 2024 Annual Mike Jackson Lecture at Hull University “What Are Humans?” with Charles Foster, 19th March 2024, 6pm. Hat tip Ben Taylor.


(*) Official birthday because of the family history of escaping Nazi Europe from Poland via Germany, to start a new life in the UK meant they lost his actual birth-date and had to assign an effective new one – though Wikipedia doesn’t qualify the actual date. (h/t Tim Sandefur)


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