Ştefan Odobleja

Ştefan Odobleja (1902 - 1978) was a Romanian scientist, one of the precursors of cybernetics. His major work, Psychologie consonantiste, first published in 1938 and 1939, in Paris, had established many of the major themes of cybernetics regarding cybernetics and systems thinking ten years before the work of Norbert Wiener was published in 1948.

Ştefan Odobleja was born on October 13, 1902, in Izvorul Aneştilor, Mehedinti County in Romania. Although his parents were poor and illiterate peasants he managed to attend high school in Drobeta Turnu-Severin. After high school he went to the Military-Medical Institute of Bucharest where he received a bursary to study at the Faculty of Medicine. He qualified as a general physician and worked as a medical doctor across several towns and villages in Romania. It was not a well-paid job and Odobleja spent most of his life in relative poverty. Despite a poverty stricken and, in some ways, a difficult life, he managed to remain productive. His completed works run to over 50,000 pages.

The most important of these writings is Psychologie consonantiste (French title - Psihologia consonantistă in Romanian). This book, published in Paris (vol. I in 1938 and vol. II in 1939), ran to nearly 900 pages and included 300 figures in the text. The author wrote at the time that "this book is... a table of contents, an index or a dictionary of psychology, [for] a ... great Treatise of Psychology that should contain 20-30 volumes". In this work, Ştefan Odobleja had laid the theoretical foundations of what became known later as cybernetics. However, partly due to the beginning of World War II, almost immediately after its publication the book was generally ignored. The first Romanian edition of this groundbreaking work did not appear until 1982 (the first edition was published in French).

He died in ignorance in some kind of home arrest imposed by the communist regime because cybernetics was declared a science of capitalist nature by the Romanian government of the mid '70s (in spite of having embraced it in the previous two decades). The academic contacts were dropped and he was under severe surveillance. His house was disconnected from electricity to prevent him to continue his writings. Even paper was scarce in his home and he used to write his thoughts on the unprinted areas of the local propaganda newspapers. His son insisted to imprint next to the name on the grave stone of his father the label "Father of Cybernetics" notwithstanding the protest of the local government representatives. As an appreciation for his entire work of mapping the unknown territory of the consonantist psychology, cybernetics and generalized cybernetics, Ştefan Odobleja was elected posthumously an honorary member of the Romanian Academy (1990).