CRAIK, K[enneth] J[ohn] W[illiam].

Visual Adaptation.

[Cambridge: 2nd May 1940.]1940

4to, (iv, including one blank) + 213 leaves of carbon copy double-spaced typescript on the rectos only + 1 additional leaf of text (dated in ink 24.1.43) inserted after f. 109 and text on 3 following leaves lightly crossed through + 16 unfoliated leaves with 20 (mostly photographic) mounted illustrations + slip of addenda to the bibliography inserted at f. 223. Black cloth (slight wear on corners), lettered in gilt on spine. Signed by Craik at the foot of the preface (this leaf is mounted on a stub and dated 2/5/40) and with many small manuscript corrections throughout. Loosely inserted is an offprint of Craik’s paper “Origin of Visual Images” from Nature, vol. 145, p. 512, March 30, 1940.

Craik’s unpublished doctoral thesis on adaptation from a psychological point of view and its biological significance, submitted to Cambridge University in May 1940. One of the founders of the field now known as cognitive science, Craik’s thesis is marked by a lively recognition of the interrelation of physical, physiological and psychological problems and situations. He spent the war years studying psychological problems about the role of the human operator in the manipulation of certain instruments of war, and designing those instruments accordingly. In 1943 he published his only book, The Nature of Explanation, in which he drew parallels between the operations performed by minds and machines and suggested that perception and performance are based on mental models of the environment. At this point calculating machines came to the fore as centrally important models for psychological processes and Craik proceeded, speculatively, to explore their possible bearing on perception. In 1948 his two-part paper “Theory of Human Operators in Control Systems”, published posthumously in the British Journal of Psychology, introduced the concept of intermittent control in the context of human control systems, important ideas which are all present or foreshadowed in the present thesis. Later that year Norbert Wiener named this new communication and control theory ‘cybernetics’. As with his wartime contemporary at Cambridge Alan Turing, Craik’s work remained largely inaccessible, much of it being officially restricted. His designs included aircraft cockpits for diminishing mental and physical fatigue, windscreens with superior visibility, and instrument lighting. He died in 1945, aged 31, after being involved in an accident on his bicycle. This is an early version of Craik’s thesis, at least one later version being known, and is extremely rare, being unpublished. See Bartlett, F.C., ”Kenneth J.W. Craik, 1914–1945 [obituary]” in The Eagle, March 1946, 454–465. ODNB.


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