Walter J. Freeman
Walter Jackson Freeman, III

Walter Jackson Freeman III, a neuroscientist and philosopher known for his pioneering work on how the brain generates our perception of the world, died Sunday, April 24, at his home in Berkeley. He was 89. A professor emeritus of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley, Freeman died from pulmonary fibrosis of unknown cause, an affliction that did not keep him from walking to campus every day until just a few months ago. Freeman is considered one of the founders of the field of computational neuroscience, which uses mathematics and computers to understand brain dynamics and neural networks. He published nearly 500 research articles in his lifetime, in addition to popular books –Societies of Brains: A Study in the Neuroscience of Love and Hate (1995) and How Brains Make Up Their Minds (2001) – that brought the ideas of brain dynamics and chaos theory to lay audiences. His studies led him to philosophize and write about the nature and origin of consciousness and perception, and the role of chaos in creativity and in allowing animal brains to respond flexibly to a constantly changing world. He proposed that the way brains work is compatible with the thinking of 13th- century philosopher Saint Thomas Aquinas about the unity of brain, body and mind, or soul. “He argued that questions about mind and consciousness, often considered philosophical problems, could be addressed by experimental investigations of the collective properties of neurons,” said David Presti, a colleague and UC Berkeley neuroscientist.

Published in Berkeley New on April 27, 2016 - See more at: