Ludwig Von Bertalanffy

Executive Summary

General systems theory was originally proposed by biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy in 1928. Systems theory reviews the organization and properties of systems regarding relationships, from which new properties of wholes emerge. A system could be broken down into its individual components so that each component could be analyzed as an independent entity, and the components could be added in a linear fashion to describe the totality of the system. Von Bertalanffy proposed, a system is characterized by the interactions of its components and the nonlinearity of those interactions.

History of Theory

The general system theory was introduced by Ludwig von Bertalanffy in the 1920s. General System Theory (GST) started out as result of a number of disciplines such as biology, mathematics, social science and philosophy. As many disciplines emerged the goal and role of general system theory started to change to. Even though von Bertalanffy started to think about GST in the 1930s, he didn’t articulate the vision until 1954 at the AAAS conference. According to Ray (2000) the vision of von Bertalanffy was to obtain biologically minded scientists to consider their work from a holistic perspective. His thought was to include the goal of constructing a mechanism which can be used to reduce duplication of theoretical effort in the sciences. The proposal was to have GST serve as unifying for philosophers to become committed to building a serious theory (Ray, 2000).

Major Precepts of Theory

Disease and health should be looked at as a graduated scale, or health grid. The health grid is broken in three parts: the health axis (peak-wellness to death), the environmental axis (biological, physical, and socioeconomic factors), and the resulting health and wellness quadrants. Those quadrants are: poor health in an unfavorable environment, protected poor health in a favorable environment, emergent high-level wellness in an unfavorable environment, and high-level wellness in a favorable environment (Dunn, 1959). Man is a spiritual being and it cannot be ignored when trying to achieve high-level wellness. The mind, body, and spirit must be taken care of as once unit, instead of compartmentally.

Current Applications of Theory

There are steps to quantify positive health:

1) Effect refinements in incidence and prevalence rates to demarcate more clearly the area of positive health from that of illness and disability. 2) Develop susceptibility indexes through the use of biochemical and functional tests to differentiate groups of persons most susceptible to specific diseases and conditions. 3) Establish precursors-of-disease indexes, closely related to the foregoing and designed to show variations from the normal. 4)Select groups of people who are disease-free and who are making full use of their talents, capacities, and potentialities; then measure them by biochemical, functional, and psychological tests to establish the characteristics of those enjoying a high level of wellness. Such groups would need to be selected so as to be representative of the various ages, sexes, and racial combinations (Dunn, 1959).


Dunn’s theory incorporated the wellness of man and spirit. Wellness is affected by biological, physical, and socioeconomic factors. Taking care of man’s body, mind, and spirit in unity will provide optimal wellness. Dunn believed focusing on wellness instead of illness was more important. His theory is credited for starting the wellness movement, which is currently thriving.

Questions (answers are highlighted)

What was Dunn’s theory about Man?

Man is a flawed being who cannot be trusted with their own wellness.

Man is a spiritual being and the spirit cannot be ignored when trying to achieve high-level wellness.

Man’s spiritual wellness is separate from his physical wellness.

Man does not have a spirit.

What are the three parts of Dunn’s health grid?

Biological, physical, and socioeconomic

Nutrition, mental, and biophysical

Logical, spirited, and appetitive

The health axis, the environmental axis, and the resulting health and wellness quadrants

The health axis covers which part of the lifespan?

Birth to death

Adolescence to mid-life

Peak-wellness to death

Poor wellness to recover and maintenance


Mitchell, G. (n.d.). Bertalanffy’s General Systems Theory: The Topology of Mind Development. Retrieved from

Executive Summary of Non-nursing Theorist

You will be assigned a theory or theories to research. Complete a 1 page executive summary; you must include references. APA format must be used. Presentations are to be submitted as directed. NO LATE SUBMISSIONS WILL BE ACCEPTED.

Students will be assigned theories or models on which to write questions (3 per theory) for an in-class discussion. Questions are to be written to reflect the student’s understanding of the theory or model; the student must be able to thoroughly discuss the content.

Be prepared to explain the theory as it applies to a family.

References must include scholarly, non-textbook primary and secondary sources

(although textbooks may also be used)

Submit onto Sakai in appropriate assignment (Executive Summary), and please include the grading sheet.

Grading criteria sheet is the same as the jigsaw summary.

Jigsaw/Executive Summary Grading Criteria

Points Possible Your Points
Summary Paper
1. Introduction/Conclusion 2
2. History/Origins of Theory 3
3. Major Precepts of Theory
4. Current Application(s) of Theory
5. Grammar/form/spelling/punctuation/ Logical flow/readability/APA format/Citations and References 3
6. Two peer questions (total four) addressed and answered fully 2
Total Points 10


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