Fritjof Capra (born February 1, 1939) is an Austrian-born American physicist, systems theorist and deep ecologist. In 1995, he became a founding director of the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, California. He is on the faculty of Schumacher College.
Capra is the author of several books, including The Tao of Physics (1975), The Turning Point (1982), Uncommon Wisdom (1988), The Web of Life (1996), The Hidden Connections (2002) and The Systems View of Life (2014).
Life and work
Born in Vienna, Austria, Capra attended the University of Vienna, where he earned his Ph.D. in theoretical physics in 1966. He conducted research in particle physics and systems theory at the University of Paris (1966–1968), the University of California, Santa Cruz (1968–1970), the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (1970), Imperial College, London (1971–1974) and the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (1975–1988). While at Berkeley, he was a member of the Fundamental Fysiks Group, founded in May 1975 by Elizabeth Rauscher and George Weissmann, which met weekly to discuss philosophy and quantum physics. He also taught at U.C. Santa Cruz, U.C. Berkeley, and San Francisco State University.
He has written popular books on the implications of science, notably The Tao of Physics, subtitled An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism. The Tao of Physics asserts that both physics and metaphysics lead inexorably to the same knowledge. After touring Germany in the early 1980s, Capra co-wrote Green Politics with ecofeminist author Charlene Spretnak in 1984.
He is fluent in German, English, French and Italian.
In 1991 Capra co-authored Belonging to the Universe with David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk. Using Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions as a stepping stone, the book explores parallels between new paradigm thinking in science and in religion; the authors posit that, together, these new paradigms offer remarkably compatible views about the universe.
Capra advocates that Western culture abandon conventional linear thought and the mechanistic views of Descartes. Critiquing the reductionistic Cartesian view that everything can be studied in parts to understand the whole, he encourages a holistic approach. In The Web of Life, Capra focuses on systemic information generated by the relationships among all parts as a significant additional factor in understanding the character of the whole, emphasizing the web-like structure of all systems and the interconnectedness of all parts.
He is a founding director of the Center for Ecoliteracy located in Berkeley, California, which promotes ecology and systems thinking in primary and secondary education.
Fritjof Capra is an Earth Charter International Council member.