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Autobiography: Béla H. Bánáthy

June, 2002

I am a systems and design scientist, an educator, and author. A graduate of the Hungarian Royal Academy (1940), I earned a master degree from San Jose State University (1963) and a doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley (1966) .

The early '40s, following combat service as a junior officer of the Royal Hungarian Army, I served on the faculty of the Hungarian Royal Academy. As a volunteer, I was national director for youth leadership development and served on the National Council of the Hungarian Scout Association. When the Red Army approached Budapest, I left Hungary with my family and lived in Austria in refugee camps. Ordained by the World Council of Churches, I served as minister for refugees and was head of a school for refugee youth. We came to the US in 1951.

During the '50s, I was on the faculty of the US Government's Language Institute in Monterey, CA, chaired the Hungarian Department, and the '60s, I was Dean of ten language departments. During these years, I guided the design of a leadership development program, which was adopted by the Boy Scours of America. I was also teaching Sunday School, served as PTA President, and was on the Board of our church. For the next several decades, my work focused on the application of systems and design theories and methodologies in social, social service, educational, and human development systems.

During the '70s and '80s, I was Program Director, Senior Research Director, and Associate Laboratory Director at the Far West Laboratory for Research and Development in San Francisco. I directed over fifty R&D programs, designed many curriculum projects and several large scale complex systems, including the design and implementation of a Ph.D. program in educational R&D for UC Berkeley. I also conducted graduate courses and seminars in the systems and design sciences at San Jose State University and the University California Berkeley. Since the early '80s, I developed and guided a humanistic systems inquiry and social systems design curriculum at the Saybrook Graduate School, where I am now Professor Emeritus.

Since the early “60s I have been active in the International Society of the Systems Sciences (ISSS). I served on the systems educational task force, and chaired the Western Division of ISSS. In the early “80s, I was Managing Director of the Society, and served as its President in 85. I am now on the Board of Trustees. During the '80s, I served on the Executive Committee of the International Federation of Systems Research and during the years of 1994-98, I was President of the Federation. I am now Advisor to the Executive Committee. I am the President of the International Systems Institute, a non-profit public benefit R&D agency, which has held thirty international research conferences in several countries. I am a co-founder of the General Evolutionary Research Group.

Over the decades, I chaired conferences of various national/international professional associations, edited numerous compendia and conference proceedings, and co-chaired an Advanced NATO Workshop on Comprehensive Systems Design. In the course of the last two decades, I have focused my research, my teaching, and publications on humanistic systems inquiry, social systems design, guided evolutionary inquiry, and on the design of evolutionary guidance systems.

My published books include: Instructional Systems (1968) Fearon Publishers; A Design for Foreign Language Curricula (1972) D.C. Heath; Developing a Systems View: The Systems Models Approach (1973) Lear Siegler/Fearon Publishers; Systems Design of Education (1991) Educational Technology Publishers; A Systems View of Education (1992) Educational Technology Publishers; Designing Social Systems in a Changing World (1996) Plenum Publishers; and Guided Evolution of Society: A Systems View (2000) Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.

Two of my recent books were published in Polish and Korean and one is now being published in Korean and Japanese. In addition, I have edited and co-edited several compendia, authored many chapters in books, and over one hundred articles and research reports. I am honorary editor of three international systems journals: Systems Research and Behavioral Science, The Journal of Applied Systems Studies, and Systems. I am on the Board of Editors of World Futures, and serve as a contributing editor of Educational Technology.

Eva and I were I married in 1942. We have four sons, ten grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren. Since Eva's emergency surgery five years ago — which left her partially paralyzed — I am her care giver.


Béla passed away at the age of 83 on September 4, 2003.