William Grey Walter

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Walter, William Grey


Born Feb. 19, 1910, in Kansas City, Mo., USA; died May 6, 1977. British neurophysiologist.

Walter graduated from Cambridge University in 1931. From 1939 to 1975 he was head of the research department of the Burden Neurological Institute in Bristol. Walter was one of the founders of electroencephalography; he discovered the delta waves in electroencephalograms in cases of brain tumor, as well as alpha waves and theta waves—the latter being waves that accompany emotional reactions. Walter also constructed models of the nerve and of the central nervous system and invented the very simple early types of cybernetic self-teaching models, specifically “Walter’s turtles.”


In Russian translation:
Zhivoi mozg. Moscow, 1966.


Poletaev, I. A. Signal. Moscow, 1958.
Delgado, J. Mozg i soznanie. Moscow, 1971. (Translated from English.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The story goes something like this: Grey Walter (the father of British anarchist Nicholas Walter), in addition to his important neurological work and early experiments in robotics, was something of an anarchist himself--Freedom's 1977 obituary referred to him as 'an anarchist fellow-traveller during the 1950s and 1960s' (F.
This story begins with an article written for Colin Ward's journal Anarchy by neurologist William Grey Walter, a leading member of the British cybernetics circle centred around John Bates' Ratio Club (Holland, 2003: 2093).
(Walter 1957) Personally, Grey Walter was a nonconformist, an atheist, and something of a showman--among other popular exposure in magazines and exhibitions, he worked his way (along with ELSIE and ELMER) onto the BBC in 1950, in the short feature 'Bristol's robot tortoises have minds of their own'.
(Walter 1963: 87-88) Writing largely as a scientist rather than any sort of revolutionary for most of the article, it is only in the last two pages that Grey Walter begins to consider the political ramifications of cybernetics, and even here his focus is on using it to explain characteristics of existing state systems, notably in a systems-theoretic analysis of the stability of Western democracy.
(Walter 1963: 89) Grey Walter's identification of neural dynamics with anarcho-syndicalist politics only goes so far, but it points towards a tantalising suggestion, namely, that decentralised, self-organising societies might be productively looked at as a kind of distributed intelligence.
John McEwan, a computer programmer by trade, will take up this direction and latent possibility when he responds to Grey Walter's piece with an article of his own, published in Anarchy in September of 1963, and titled 'Anarchism and the Cybernetics of Self-Organizing Systems'.
It is here that McEwan takes issue with Grey Walter's claims about the supposed cybernetic insights of the planners of American electoral democracy, insisting that it is only really with the advent of libertarian socialism that we see anything resembling a real grasp of the dynamics of complex societies and the modes of (self-)control appropriate to these dynamics.
Ward goes on to highlight Grey Walter's and McEwan's contributions to this confluence of anarchism, complexity, and self-organisation.
'Exploration and high adventure: the legacy of Grey Walter.' Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, 361: (2003) 2085-2121.
Most of the book is not about cybernetics as a system of ideas or as a field that is still alive today, but rather it is an exploration of the work of several early and influential British workers in the field: Grey Walter (1910-1977), Ross Ashby (1903-1972), Stafford Beer (1926-2002), and Gordon Pask (1928-1996), with significant discussion of two other individuals: Gregory Bateson (1904-1980) and R.