Abraham Moles  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Abraham Moles (1920 – 22 May 1992) was an engineer of electrical engineering and acoustics, and a doctor of physics and philosophy. He was one of the first researchers to establish and analyze links between aesthetics and information theory.

He taught sociology and psychology at the Universities of Ulm, Strasbourg, San Diego, Mexico, Compiègne, and founded the Institute of Social Psychology of Communication in Strasbourg.

Abraham Moles followed technology studies (electricity and acoustics) at the University of Grenoble (France), as well as he was preparing a bachelor in sciences of nature.

He was first appointed as assistant professor at the Laboratory of metal physics, under the direction of Félix Esclangon, then of Louis Néel. He learned there techniques of metal work, then electric and electronic tools. He wrote reports on testing materials and anaysis.

At the end of the Second World War, he was hired by the French Research Institute CNRS, more precisely at the Laboratory of acoustics and vibrations, in Marseille, and at the CRSIM (Centre de recherche scientifique industriel et maritime), which was the continuation of the French National Marine Laboratory.

He also followed the philosophy courses of Aimé Forest and Jacques Chevalier at the University of Grenoble,then the courses of Gaston Berger at the University of Aix, and the courses of Gaston Bachelard at the Sorbonne.

In 1952, he defended a PhD on La structure physique du signal musical et phonétique (under the direction of René Lucas, Edmond Bauer, Henri Pieron and the physiologist Alexandre Monnier).

He participated to the works of the Centre d’études de la radio-télévision (Jean Tardieu, dir.), and, in particular, was a member of the team around Pierre Schaeffer.

But lacking money, he accepted two grants of the Rockefeller Foundation, in order to work at Columbia University (Music Department headed by Vladimir Ussachevsky).

In 1954, he defended a second PhD, in philosophy, under the title "La création scientifique", under the direction of Bachelard.

From 1954 to 1960, with many interruptions, Abraham Moles was the director of the Laboratoire d’électroacoustique Scherchen, in the small village of Gravesano, in Switzerland, under the direction of Hermann Scherchen, one of the pionneers of Radio Berlin, who had discovered composers as famous as Luciano Berio, Iannis Xenakis, Bruno Maderna, Luigi Nono.

At the same time, Abraham Moles was teaching at the University of Stuttgart (with Max Bense), of Bonn, of Berlin and of Utrecht. He was finally appointed full professorship at the Hochschule für Gestaltung, in Ulm.

After 1966, he taught in Strasbourg (in the department created by Henri Lefebvre), first in sociology, then in the professorship of social psychology. He created there an Institute for social psychology of communications, usually called École de Strasbourg, by former students now members of the Association internationale de micropsychologie et de psychologie sociale des communications. His book Art et ordinateur (1971) transposed for aesthetics the theories of Shannon.

He was also the president of the Société française de cybernétique, founded by Louis Couffignal.

Selected work

  • Physique et technique du bruit, Paris, Dunod, 1952
  • La Création scientifique, Genève, Kister, 1957
  • Musiques expérimentales, Zurich, Cercle d'art, 1961
  • Communications et langages, (en collaboration avec B. Vallancien), Paris, Gauthier-Villars, 1963
  • Phonétique et phonation, (en collaboration avec B. Vallancien) Paris, Masson, 1966
  • L'affiche dans la société urbaine, Paris, Dunod, 1969
  • Créativité et méthodes d'innovation, Paris, Fayard, 1970
  • Art et ordinateur, Paris, Casterman, 1971
  • Théorie des objets, Paris, Ed. Universitaires, 1972
  • Psychologie de l'espace, (En collaboration avec Élisabeth Rohmer), Paris, Casterman, 1972
  • Théorie de l'information et perception esthétique, Paris, Denoël, 1973 (Information Theory and aesthetical perception)
  • Sociodynamique de la culture, Paris, Mouton, 1973
  • La Communication, Paris, Marabout, 1973
  • Micropsychologie et vie quotidienne, (En collaboration avec Élisabeth Rohmer), Paris, Denoël, 1976
  • Psychologie du Kitsch, Paris, Denoël, 1977
  • Théorie des actes, (En collaboration avec Élisabeth Rohmer), Paris, Casterman, 1977
  • L'image, communication fonctionnelle, Paris, Casterman, 1981
  • Labyrinthes du vécu, Paris, Klincksieck, 1982
  • Théorie structurale de la communication et société, Paris, Masson, 1986
  • Les sciences de l'imprécis, (En collaboration avec Élisabeth Rohmer), Paris, Seuil, 1990
  • Psychosociologie de l'espace, (En collaboration avec Élisabeth Rohmer), textes rassemblés, mis en forme et présentés par Victor Schwach, Paris, L'Harmattan, 1998

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