Alfred Korzybski (1879 - 1950) founded general semantics as a method for improving human rationality, or “evaluation,” and thus our capacity to communicate clearly and effectively.
Transition Centre has reduced his large body of research and seminar material into a brief and workable synthesis of principles and practices.
Alfred Korzybski was born in Poland in 1879. Poland was then part of the Russian Empire. He was a nobleman, a count, with a home in Warsaw and a country estate. His father, a successful engineer, gave Korzybski the “feel” for rigid expression in mathematics and science. Korzybski was trained as an engineer. He was brought up in four languages. Prior to World War I, in addition to managing the family estate, he taught mathematics, physics, French and German.
During the war Korzybski served as a military intelligence officer for the Czarist army. He experienced the horror of war at first hand and carried the scars of combat the rest of his life: he walked with a limp, with the aid of a cane. As a result of his disabilities, he was dispatched to North America in 1915 where he worked to secure munitions and recruit immigrant Poles to military service in Europe. In 1919 he married American miniature portrait artist Mira Edgerly and settled in New York City.
Profoundly troubled by the effects of what was then called The Great War, a war that consumed a generation of European manhood, a war in every sense modern and industrial and defined by weapons of mass destruction; Korzybski set out to write a vision for an alternative world. In 1921 he published his much acclaimed Manhood of Humanity, in which he stated his foundational philosophy for the maturation of the human race.
Korzybski published his magnum opus, Science and Sanity, in 1933. In 1938 he established the Institute of General Semantics in Chicago. He spent the remainder of his life writing, speaking and giving seminars. Several thousand people attended those seminars. During them he would spend several days presenting his principles. Evenings, often late into the night, he held private consultations with his students. The last years of his life were spent in rural Connecticut where, surrounded by staff and students, he continued the work of research, training and of directing the Institute.
As with Borsodi, Korzybski's written legacy was reviewed from first page to last. A manuscript was developed that outlined his life and work. Subsequently work has been done to clearly summarize his principles and practices as a workbook. Completed chapters can be found at this link. A quick summary of key principles can be found in this post.