Friday, June 6, 2014


Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition) 
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

Since mid-2004, When I first decided to write Korzybski's biography, I have devoted most of my time to researching and writing this book. For much of that time, it has seemed— frankly—a grueling solitary effort. But I’ve had assistance too, which has eased much of the pain. Here, I want to acknowledge those individuals who helped me.

First, I feel indebted to the late Charlotte Schuchardt Read, Alfred Korzybski’s confidential and editorial secretary and his literary executor, whom I knew for 23 years as my teacher/mentor and dear friend. Charlotte encouraged and empowered me as a writer, administrative troubleshooter, and teacher. Without her efforts to preserve a substantial portion of Korzybski’s papers and correspondence, this book would seem much poorer and weigh somewhat less. Over the years, Charlotte shared material about Korzybski with me and—perhaps more importantly—inspired me with her warmly matter-of-fact point of view. When she died in 2002, she didn’t know I would be writing this book (neither did I). I believe she would have felt pleased to see the result.

I also feel a large debt to the late Robert P. Pula, another dear friend with whom I worked at the Institute of General Semantics during its post-Korzybski but still quite korzybskian heyday in the latter part of the 20th Century. Bob, the lead lecturer at IGS seminar-workshops for over 30 years, qualified until his death as the world's foremost living general-semantics and Korzybski scholar. When he died unexpectedly at the start of 2004, he had been seriously moving ahead on a biography of Korzybski he’d begun work on several decades before. Picking up the torch from Bob seemed like the right thing to do; I had studied and worked closely with him and others at the Institute at the peak of its educational program and had developed friendships with a number of people who studied with Korzybski (like Helen Hafner, Harry Holtzman, Ann Dix Meirs, and Penelope Russianoff), including—besides Charlotte—individuals who had become some of Korzybski’s closest “co-workers” (a term he liked using), for example, Robert Redpath and Charlotte’s husband, Allen Walker Read. This provided me with a personal feel for Korzybski’s life and work I believe few others alive have had, a personal feel which I thought might get lost if I left the biography for someone else to do years later. Although I couldn’t get access to Bob’s working notes or manuscript, we had many face-to-face discussions over the years about Korzybski and his work; Bob thus provided me with guidance on background reading and research that I have found as valuable as his writings. This book, written out of a deep sense of time-binding duty, completes the task Bob set out to do but couldn’t complete.

Sanford I. Berman's financial grants took a significant bite out of initial expenses involved in dedicating myself to the book. Much thanks to him and his wife Sande for their ongoing friendship, interest and support.

Thanks as well to the members of the 2004 Board of Trustees of the Institute of General Semantics, who enthusiastically embraced my project when I announced it to them. I do appreciate their encouragement. Steve Stockdale, Executive Director of the IGS from 2004 through 2007, did a tremendous job consolidating and organizing the Institute archives and digitizing microfilm and other records, which made my research both easier and more extensive and demanding than I could ever have imagined. Both he and Lance Strate, Professor of Communication and Media  Studies at Fordham University and IGS Executive Director from 2008–2011, have aided and  encouraged me along the way. My research work would also have taken much longer without the substantial material help of Kristen Harford, Marisa Sleeter, Judy Clarke, and Zack Clarke who  for varying periods administered and worked at the IGS office in Fort Worth, Texas during my  numerous visits to the library and archives there from 2005 through 2009.

My thanks also go to the staff of the Columbia University Rare Book and Manuscript Division of the Butler Library in New York City. I not only received full access to all of the  Alfred Korzybski and Mira Edgerly Korzybska archives located there, but they also allowed me, as the successor of Korzybski's first literary executor, to begin organizing some of the non-microfilmed material remaining in those collections. I greatly appreciate their professional help and careful preservation of those valuable historical materials. I also feel grateful to the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, which accepted me as a Reader (Visiting Scholar) and thus allowed me to take advantage of its extensive collection of materials in general history and the history of science. I’ve had few pleasures like the one of sitting in the Huntington’s secured and pristine reading room—no  pens or pencils allowed—reading Jack London’s personal copy (underlined by him) of the 1912 book, The Mechanistic Conception of Life, by Korzybski’s friend and mentor Jacques 
Loeb. My special thanks go to biological anthropologist and brain researcher John Allman of Caltech and mathematics professor David Linwood of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, for their recommendations which allowed me to become a Huntington Reader. The Caltech Library, the Pasadena/Glendale Public Libraries, and the Los Angeles Public Library also served as indispensible sources of otherwise hard-to-obtain volumes. 

I also got help from friends: polymathic classicist, musician, and financial analyst Lloyd Chappell generously shared historical and other books from his personal library, which I found most helpful. Gary David, a musician as well as an epistemic counselor, shared information about his mentor, J. Samuel Bois, one of the most important continuators of Korzybski’s work. Korzybskian scholar-teacher Milton Dawes read parts of the evolving manuscript and offered  advice and encouragement, as did Homer J. Moore, Jr., fellow GS “student-practitioner”—his own designation even though he taught advanced classes on Korzybski’s work. (Sad to say, Homer did not live long enough to see this book get into print.) Two of my friends on the IGS Board of Trustees deserve special mention for the help they’ve given me. Ben Hauck, working as my research assistant, spent many hours at Columbia University’s Butler Library photographing several boxes of non-microfilmed documents and letters. Ben's hard work helped make this a much richer book. Corey Anton provided valuable research assistance to me during our joint one-week visit to Fort Worth in 2009 with Lance Strate, where I showed those two communication scholars what was to be found in the archives and library there. When research time got short, Corey stepped in to do some necessary ‘grunt work’ for me. I have since learned a great deal from him in our ongoing discussions about Korzybski, the stoic tradition, and much else.

Two men who served as personal assistants to Korzybski, David (Levine) Linwood and Ralph C. Hamilton generously gave their time for numerous interviews mainly by phone and 
letter. Their perspectives on living and working with Korzybski were indeed irreplaceable, and they’ve become my friends. Thanks as well to Billie Jane Baguley for interview insights on her time as a student in Korzybski’s 1945 summer seminar. I also extend my gratitude to John McClaughry of Vermont’s Ethan Allen Institute who generously allowed me to make use of his father Richard T. McClaughry’s unpublished account of his experiences with Korzybski, an unforgettable depiction of the kind of work that Korzybski did with individual students. 

I also extend my thanks to George Kruszewski, Teresa G. Silverstein and Zehava Sweet  for their translations from Polish and Maximilian Sandor for his translations from German. My stepson, David Presby provided valuable editorial advice and designed the cover. James  D. French, Editor Emeritus of the General Semantics Bulletin, provided additional editorial help for which I am most grateful. My friend Nikzad “Benny” Toomarian of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory helped me protect valuable computer files. Jeffrey A. Mordokowitz, IGS Director from 2000-2004, provided a sympathetic ear over the years of writing and research. And over those years, my granddaughter Rebecca Adler nudzhed me with her insistent question: "Grandpa, when are you going to finish the book?" Here you have it, Rebecca. 

Finally, this book would certainly not have come into existence without both the support and the careful editorial work of my wife Susan Presby Kodish—
former Education Director for the IGS, a psychologist, veteran scholar-teacher of korzybskian methodology, and experienced writer and editor. As the book’s main editor, Susan shaped its form-content and deserves major credit for whatever good that readers find within these pages. Susan has sacrificed a great deal (as have I) over the years it has taken to produce this. Obsessed with getting it done, I sometimes neglected other important things. Thanks, dear one, for putting up with me in the process.

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