ATLAN, HENRI (1931– ), French biologist and philosopher. Born in Algeria, Atlan became doctor of medicine and earned a Ph.D. in sciences. From 1966 to 1968, he was a research fellow in nasa's Ames Research Center and from 1970 to 1973 professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Reḥovot, Israel. In 1993, he was appointed to the French National Advisory Committee of Ethics for Sciences of Life and Health, remaining a member for seven years. He is emeritus professor of biophysics at the University of Paris vi and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, director of studies at the School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences (ehess, Paris), and director of the Research Center in Human Biology at the Hadassah academic hospital of Jerusalem.
Atlan is a leading researcher in such fields as genetic applications of biophysics, cell biology, immunology, and artificial intelligence. He has notably developed a theory of complexity and self-organization in various fields, such as biophysics, and has devoted much thought to the philosophical implications of the development of biology, mainly in regard to ethical questions. He wrote L'organisation biologique et la théorie de l'information (1972); Entre le cristal et la fumée (1979); A tort et à raison, intercritique de la science et du mythe (1986); Enlightenmen to Enlightenment: Intercritique of Science and Myth (1993); Tout, non, peut-être. Education et vérité (1991); La fin du tout génétique? Vers de nouveaux paradigmes (1999); Etincelles de hasard, t.1: Connaissance spermatique (1999); La science est-elle humaine? (2002); and Etincelles de hasard, t.2: Athéisme de l'écriture (2003), an analysis of the relationship between science and ethics inspired by talmudic and kabbalistic sources as well as by Spinoza's philosophy.
Atlan has been awarded the highest French distinctions (Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur, Officier dans l'Ordre du Mérite, Officier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres), and, in 1999, the Prize of the Italian Senate Presidency.
F. Fogelman-Soulié (ed.), Les théories de la complexité: autour de l'œuvre d'Henri Atlan (1991).
[Dror Franck Sullaper (2nd ed.)]