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  • Mihajlo (Mike) Mesarovic, Ph.D.

  • Cady Staley Professor of Systems Engineering and Mathematics
    Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department

  • Address: Case Western Reserve University, Olin 608,
    10900 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44106-7071
    Phone: (216) 368-4466
    Fax: (216) 368-3123
    Email: mdm5 at case dot edu

Professor Mihajlo (Mike) Mesarovic, throughout his research career, was always attracted to major scientific and societal challenges. He was always ahead of the research being conducted at the time and has opened up a number of areas as illustrated in the following. Professor Mesarovic is the Cady Staley Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Case School of Engineering, Case Western Reserve University. He was the 2005 winner of the university's Frank and Dorothy Humel Hovorka Prize. Professor Mesarovic is a scholar ahead of his time and for our time. In the late 1960s, anticipating that complexity would become a defining paradigm for the next century, he developed theoretical tools that have found applications in many scientific disciplines and in global issues, particularly environmental problems. In 1968, he published Systems Theory and Biology and organized a "Systems Theory and Biology" symposium at Case, launching a new scientific discipline, from which the Department of Biomedical Engineering evolved. In 1974, with colleague Eduard Pastel, Professor Mesarovic published, Mankind at the Turning Point, a nonfiction bestseller in Europe, which has been described as "An enormous step forward in our understanding of the essence of the worst bottlenecks our world is facing."

  • Complexity

Professor Mesarovic published two books, in which the foundation for a holistic-in contradistinction to the prevailing reductionist-methodology is provided: Mathematical Theory of General Systems (1970) and Abstract Systems Theory (2000). A review of the second book in the Bulletin of the American Society concludes with the statement, "It presents a remarkable selection of the relevant topics which from a logical progression form the basic concepts and system attributes...This carefully written and attractively reproduced treatise passes the BUNTSI test for scientific publishability: much of the material is Beautiful, Useful, New, True, Serious, and Interesting. The approach uses a non-numerical, mathematical apparatus to discover defining characteristics of categories of systems."

In order to open up a new research direction for another aspect of complexity, Mesarovic introduced the concept of a complex system as a "system of systems" in contrast to a "complicated" system, which solely consists of a large number of items/subsystems. A complex system has at least two levels and possesses an organized complexity. In the book Theory of Multilevel, Hierarchical, Systems (1968) coordination in hierarchical systems was studed and two coordination principles-interaction balance (IBP) and interaction prediction (IPP) are introduced. These principles have been used in publications and books in many fields, particularly in engineering, environmental issues, large optimization problems, organization studies, etc.

Systems Biology

Systems Biology at CWRU since 1968

  • Systems Biology research and education was launched at the Case Institute of Technology in 1968 at the International Symposium "Systems Theory and Biology" with participation from leading biology and systems sciences researchers.
  • The proceedings were published by J. Wiley and Sons and received world-wide attention with reviews in English, German, French, Spanish, Rumanian and other journals.
  • A review in Science, "A Means Towards a New Holistic" (Vol. 161, No. 3836, July 1968) concludes with the statement, "A field of systems biology with its own identity and its own right" has been launched.
  • Systems Biology research at the Systems Research Center was formed in 1969 with Mike Mesarovic, Robert Plonsey and David Fleming, which in 1973 grew into the Bio-Medical Engineering Department. That was problably the first Biomedical Department jointly in the Medical School and School of Engineering.
  • In the IEEE Control Systems Magazine review article in August 2003, "System Biology: Looking at opportunities and challenges in applying systems theory to molecular and cell biology", Olaf Wolkenhauer, et. al. state, "Systems Biology has a history and its early stages in the 1960s involved eminent researchers, including Wiener, Kalman, Bertalanffy, Rosen and Mesarovic."

While Director of the Systems Research Center and Head of the Computer, Control and Systems Division of the Case Institute of Technology, Mesarovic organized a symposium on a number of potential applications in the area for a systems approach (see box). In the book Systems Theory and Biology (1968) he presciently launched systems biology as a field. In a review of the book it was stated: "The theoretical papers are provocative, and the philosophy of experimentation and model building presented should be required reading for all serious students of the biological sciences."



Global Issues

In 1972, Professor Mesarovic was delivering lectures at MIT on complexity and coordination at the time when by chance a draft of The Club of Rome Report, The Limits to Growth, was being debated. Mesarovic was challenged to address the problem of globalization in order to sway criticism of simplistic perspective in the CoR report. He took the challenge and, working with Eduard Pestel and an international team of fifty researchers, produced what is referred to as the World Integrated Model. The model was subjected to scrutiny at the First Symposium of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria, which was attended by about 100 scientists. Proceedings for the Symposium were published in 1974. That same year Mesarovic and Pestel compiled the findings of the analysis in a book entitled Mankind at the Turning Point, which was published in eighteen languages, and had over 500,000 copies distributed worldwide. In Germany the book was a number one bestseller on the non-fiction list. Professor Jan Tinbergen, Nobel Prizewinner in Economics, referred to the model and the book as, "An enormous step forward in our understanding of the essence of the worst bottlenecks our world is facing."

Professor Mesarovic lectured in more than sixty countries from Afghanistan (in 1975 at the request of USIS) to Zambia, including most European and Latin American countries, Egypt, Israel, etc.

Mesarovic has been consultant to numerous companies and organizations. He constructed a Global Assessment Tool for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. According to a letter dated August 14, 1990, from Elliot Richardson to The Honorable Sam Nunn, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, the Joint Chiefs of Staff requested that Dr. Mesarovic, using a strategic analysis system he developed, do an analysis of the long-term impact of the embargo on Iraq. The report was submitted the same day to General Butler and, "I was told, incorporated into the President's Tuesday briefing."

In 1999, Federico Mayor, Director-General of UNESCO, appointed Mesarovic as Scientific Advisor on Global Change. An offer was made by UNESCO to identify a UNESCO Chair at CWRU but an agreement was not reached since UNESCO could not meet the necessary endowment as viewed at the time.

In the last ten years Mesarovic has focused his teaching on the undergraduate level motivated by the need for undergraduates to have access to senior faculty, particularly with concern that emphasis on specialized training in academia not only in professional schools but in the humanities should be supplemented with an additional degree of education focusing on real issues and future assessment. Together with Professor Sreenath he introduced a junior level course entitled Global Issues: Critical Thinking/Problem Solving Approach, which was attended by 40-50 students per semester. In 2003 he, along with Professor Sreenath of the EECS Department and Professor Joe Nadeau of the Department of Dept. of Human Genetics, introduced a Systems Biology course at Case.

Professor Mesarovic served as Director of the SRC and Head of CCS Division at the Case Institute of Technology, which was oriented to post-doctoral students. For example, in 1968 the Center had 24 Ph.D. candidates and fifteen faculty members.

Presently, Dr. Mesarovic is Senior Investigator of the Systems Biology and Mismatch Repair Project sponsored by an NIH grant on the level of $1.5 million.