Francisco J. Varela


Licenciated in Biology at Universidad de Chile

PhD in Biology at Harvard University 1968-70

"Transformations in the cognitive sciences"


"Good morning my dear friend, and in some sense I also consider you as a spiritual brother. I didn't realize what a strong feeling [it is] missing you here. I heard you were watching [by videocam] our meeting yesterday and also today, so I wanted to express my deep feeling to you as a human brother and to your contribution. In science, especially in neurology, you made great contributions, and also in our work [cf Mind and Life] on the dialogue between the science of the mind and Buddhist thought. So we'll never forget that. Until my death I will remember you."

-Dalai Lama's to Francisco Varela

just six days before he passed away in Paris-

"If everybody would agree that their current reality is A reality, and that what we essentially share is our capacity for constructing a reality, then perhaps we could all agree on a meta-agreement for computing a reality that would mean survival and dignity for everyone on the planet, rather than each group being sold on a particular way of doing things."

-Francisco Varela, quoted on the Global Vision Website -

Selected Publications

On Autopoiesis and cognition

Varela,F., H.Maturana and R.Uribe (1974). Autopoiesis: The organization of living systems, its characterization and a model. Biosystems 5:187-196.

Varela,F. (1980).Describing the logic of the living in: M.Zeleny (Ed.), Autopoeisis: A theory of the living organization, North-Holland. New York, pp.36-48.

Varela,F. (1987)The science and technology of cognition: Emergent directions, in: J.L.Roos (Ed.), Economics and Artificial Intelligence, 1st IFAC Intl.Symposium, Pergamon Press, Oxford/New York , pp.1-9.

H.Maturana and F.Varela (1987) The Tree of Knowledge: A new look at the biological roots of human understanding. Shambhala/New Science Library, Boston, 1987

Varela,F.,A.Anderssen, G.Dietrich, A.Sundblad, D.Holmberg, M.Kazatchkine and A. Coutinho (1991) The population dynamics of natural antibodies in normal and autoimmune individuals. Proc.Natl.Acad.Sci. (USA) 88: 5917-5921

Varela F, Lachaux JP, Rodriguez E, Martinerie J (2001). The brainweb: Phase synchronization and large-scale integration. Nature Reviews in Neuroscience 2 (4): 229-239

On Buddhism

J.Hayward and F.Varela (Eds.) Gentle Bridges: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on the Sciences of Mind.. Shambhala Publishers, Boston, 1992

F.Varela (Ed.). Sleeping, Dreaming and Dying: Dialogues between the Sciences and the Buddhist Tradition,, Wisdom Book, Boston, 1997

On Philosophy

Varela,F. and J.P.Dupuy (Eds.) Understanding Origin: Scientific Ideas on the Origin of Life, Mind, and Society.(A Stanford University Interational Symposium).Boston Studies Phil.Sci, Kluwer Assoc., Dordrecht, 1992

On Politics

Varela, F. (1979). Reflections on the chilean civil war, Lindisfarne Newsletter, Nº8, pp.13-20.

Varela,F. and eight other chilean scientists (1984). Scientists in Pinochet's Chile, Nature 308:310.



Interview on leadership: