Professor Tom Stonier, who
has died aged 72, was frequently called the "professor of
futurology". For more than four decades he examined the ingredients of
technological and scientific change, pointing out how our social, economic and
political environment was in the process of transformation. He was a humanist,
scientist and poet-philosopher.
It was Stonier who, more than 25 years ago, began a campaign to transform
our education system, linking it with the development of computers, which he
saw as liberators of human talents. He recognized very early on that a
combination of education and computers would unlock the door to the
information society, and argued that education had to become the most
important investment in the future of all societies.
Stonier was born in Hamburg to a German-Jewish father and a French mother.
In 1939, when he was 12, the family fled to New York, where he read biology at
Drew University before taking a PhD at Yale in 1955. He began his scientific
career as a research associate at Rockefeller University before joining the
biology faculty at Manhattan College, New York, in 1962.
His first book, Nuclear Disaster, published in 1964, was based on his 1961
report to the New York Academy of Sciences which dealt with the biological and
environmental effects of dropping a 20-megaton bomb on Manhattan. The book won
world-wide attention and drew Stonier into the limelight as a pioneer
proponent of peace studies. In 1973, he came to Britain and founded the school
of peace studies at Bradford University.
In 1975 Stonier was appointed to the foundation chair in science and
society at Bradford, where he specialized in the interaction of science,
technology and society. His six books and countless monographs included The
Wealth Of Information: A Profile Of The Post-Industrial Economy (1983),
Information And The Internal Structure Of The Universe (1990), Beyond
Information: The Natural History Of Intelligence (1992), and Information And
Meaning; An Evolutionary Perspective (1997). His most recent book, No More
War: The Hidden Evolution To Peace, will be published next year.
Consulted widely by governments throughout the world, Stonier lectured in
Canada, Australia, China and south-east Asia. He was also consultant to some
of the largest international companies, a member of the New York Academy of
Sciences and a life fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Stonier reached the conclusion that computers were contributing to a
biological change in the nature of human beings as well as human
relationships: "The increase in computer power has been roughly 10-fold
for every six or seven years over the last 30 or more years," he pointed
out. "At this rate, early in the next century computer power will be
about 1,000 times that of today's machines."
He is survived by his wife Judith, seven children and six grandchildren.
Tom 'Ted' Stonier, academic, born April 29, 1927; died June 15, 1999