Brian Goodwin

Brian Carey Goodwin (1931) is a Canadian mathematician and a biologist, a Professor Emeritus at the Open University and a key founder of a branch of mathematical biology known as theoretical biology that focuses on the methods of mathematics and physics to understand processes in biology.

Brian Goodwin was born in Montreal, Canada in 1931. He studied at McGill University and then emigrated to the UK where he became full professor at the Open University until retirement in 1992. Currently he teaches at the Schumacher College in Devon, UK. Goodwin has advocated a unification of science and the humanities. He is a founding member of the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico.

Goodwins expertise is in morphogenesis and evolution, where he has developed a critical evaluation of the role of natural selection. He is an advocate of a biology explained from the perspective of complex systems.

According to Goodwin, the emergence of shape and form in organisms is not sufficiently explained by genetics: “genes are responsible for determining which molecules an organism can produce,” but “the molecular composition of organisms does not, in general, determine their form.” Goodwin emphasizes that the forms that organisms can develop are limited by structural laws.



  • 1989. Theoretical Biology: Epigenetic and Evolutionary Order for Complex Systems with Peter Saunders, Edinburgh University Press, 1989, ISBN 0852246005
  • 1994. Mechanical Engineering of the Cytoskeleton in Developmental Biology (International Review of Cytology), with Kwang W. Jeon and Richard J. Gordon, Academic Press, London 1994, ISBN 0123645530
  • 1996. Form and Transformation: Generative and Relational Principles in Biology, Cambridge Univ Press, 1996.
  • 1997. How the Leopard Changed its Spots: The Evolution of Complexity, Scribner, 1994, ISBN 0025447106 (German: Der Leopard, der seine Flecken verliert, Piper, München 1997, ISBN 3492038735)
  • 2001. Signs of Life: How Complexity Pervades Biology, with Ricard V. Sole, Basic Books, 2001, ISBN 0465019277Scientific papers
  • 1993, "Collective Oscillations and Chaos in the Dynamics of Ant Societies". with R. Solé and O. Miramontes. in J. THEOR BIOL 161:343 (1993)
  • 1993, "Collective Behaviour of Random-Activated Mobile Cellular Automata". with R. Solé and O. Miramontes. in: Physica D 63: 145-160 (1993)
  • 1996, "The life of form emergent patterns of morphological transformation". with NJ Berrill in: Rivista di Biologia-Biology Forum 89 (3): 373-388 SEP-DEC 1996
  • 1997, "Temporal organization and disorganization in organisms". in: Chronobiology International 14 (5): 531-536 1997
  • 2000, "The life of form. Emergent patterns of morphological transformation". in: Comptes rendud de la Academie des Science III 323 (1): 15-21 JAN 2000
  • 2001, "Neural networks as sources of chaotic motor activity in ants and how complexity develops at the social scale". with Miramontes O, Solé RV. in: "International Journal of Bifurcation and Chaos 11 (6): 1655-1664 JUN 2001.

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