10 Facts About Francisco Varela


Francisco Javier Varela Garcia was a Chilean biologist, philosopher, cybernetician, and neuroscientist who, together with his mentor Humberto Maturana, is best known for introducing the concept of autopoiesis to biology, and for co-founding the Mind and Life Institute to promote dialog between science and Buddhism.


Francisco Varela's thesis, defended in 1970 and supervised by Torsten Wiesel, was titled Insect Retinas: Information processing in the compound eye.


Francisco Varela became familiar, by practice, with Tibetan Buddhism in the 1970s, initially studying, together with Keun-Tshen Goba, with the meditation master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, founder of Vajradhatu and Shambhala Training, and later with Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, a Tibetan meditation master of higher tantras.


Francisco Varela died in 2001 in Paris of Hepatitis C after having written an account of his 1998 liver transplant.


Francisco Varela had four children, including the actress, environmental spokesperson, and model Leonor Francisco Varela.


Francisco Varela was trained as a biologist, mathematician and philosopher through the influence of different teachers, Humberto Maturana and Torsten Wiesel.


Francisco Varela wrote and edited a number of books and numerous journal articles in biology, neurology, cognitive science, mathematics, and philosophy.


Francisco Varela founded, with others, the Integral Institute, a thinktank dedicated to the cross-fertilization of ideas and disciplines.


Francisco Varela supported embodied philosophy, viewing human cognition and consciousness in terms of the enactive structures in which they arise.


Francisco Varela's work popularized within the field of neuroscience the concept of neurophenomenology.