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informationinformatio (lat.); information (fr.); Information (ger.)

  • 1) The giving of form or essential character to something; the action of imbuing with a particular quality; animation (esp. of the body by the soul). Also: an instance of this. (OED 2009)
    -55 (BC)

    [unius verbi imagine totius sententiae informatio [an exhibition of the idea contained in a word, an explanation of its meaning]

    Cicero (55 BC). De oratore 2, 358.]

    c. 303-304

    cetera iam dei sunt omnia, scilicet conceptus ipse et corporis informatio et inspiratio animae et partus incolumis et quaecumque deinceps ad hominem conseruandum ualent: illius munus est quod spiramus, quod uiuimus, quod uigemus.

    Lactantius (c. 303-304). De opificio Dei 19, 5.


    Alius vero actus formae est materiae informatio, quae est actus primus; sicut vivificare corpus est actus animae; et talis actus supposito formae non attribuitur.

    Thomas Aquinas (1256-59). Quaestiones disputatae de veritate: quaest. 27, art. 3, responsio ad argumentum 25.


    Sic igitur omnis informatio materiae vel est a Deo immediate, vel ab aliquo agente corporali

    Thomas Aquinas (1266-73). Summa theologiae: I, quaes. 110, art. 2.


    informatio vero seu unio ad corpus fit per distinctam rationem extrinseci agentia.

    Suárez, F. (1597). Metaphysicarum disputationum tomi duo (1614): 249.


    The soule or spirit doth giue information, or operation to the whole body, and euery part thereof.

    Sharpe, J. (1630). The Triall of the Protestant Priuate Spirit: 373.


    There was a seminality and contracted Adam in the rib, which by the information of a soule, was individuated into Eve.

    Browne, T. (1646). Pseudodoxia Epidemica: 274.


    To be always in a separate state would be violent and unnatural to spirits made apt for the information of bodies, to which therefore they would naturally require to be united.

    Norris, J. (1701). An Essay towards the Theory of the Ideal or Intelligible World, vol. 2: 72.


    I believe I could, with a little pains, have given them life and soul, and to every feature of their faces sparkling information.

    Richardson, S. (1748). Clarissa, vol. 6: 97.

  • 2) Knowledge communicated concerning some particular fact, subject, or event; that of which one is apprised or told; intelligence, news. (OED 2009)

    Robert […] through his wrang informatioune has gert skaith the said abbot.

    Early Scots Text (1390); acc. to Slater, J. (1952). Early Scots Texts (Ph.D. thesis, Univ. of Edinb.): No. 18.


    when we hear [even] the smallest sound, that we cannot immediately account for, our fears are alarmed, we suspend our steps, hold every muscle still, open our mouths a little, erect our ears, and listen to gain further information: and this by habit becomes the general language of attention to objects of sight, as well as hearing; and even to the successive trains of our ideas.

    Darwin, E. (1794). Zoonomia, vol. 1, 152-3.

  • 3) A mathematically defined quantity divorced from any concept of news or meaning; spec. one which represents the degree of choice exercised in the selection or formation of one particular symbol, message, etc., out of a number of possible ones, and which is defined logarithmically in terms of the statistical probabilities of occurrence of the symbol or the elements of the message. (OED 2009)

    What we have spoken of as the intrinsic accuracy of an error curve may equally be conceived as the amount of information in a single observation belonging to such a distribution.

    Fisher, R.A. (1925). Theory of statistical estimation. Proc. Cambr. Philos. Soc. 22, 700-725: 709.


    What we have done then is to take as our practical measure of information the logarithm of the number of possible symbol sequences.

    Hartley, R.V.L. (1928). Transmission of information. Bell System Technical Journal 7, 535-563: 540.


    As a mathematical quantity information is strikingly similar to entropy in the mathematical theory of thermo-dynamics.

    Fisher, R.A. (1935). The logic of inductive inference. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society A 98, 39-82: 47.


    The quantity we here define as amount of information is the negative of the quantity usually defined as entropy in similar situations. The definition […] is not the one given by R. A. Fisher for statistical problems, although it is a statistical definition.

    Wiener, N. (1948). Cybernetics: 76.

  • 4) Separated from, or without the implication of, reference to a person informed: that which inheres in one of two or more alternative sequences, arrangements, etc., that produce different responses in something, and which is capable of being stored in, transmitted by, and communicated to inanimate things. (OED 2009)

    The whole difficulty resides in the amount of definition in the [television] picture, or, as the engineers put it, the amount of information to be transmitted in a given time.

    Anonymus (1937). The practice of television. Discovery Nov. 1937: 329.


    the term ›interbacterial information‹ […] does not imply necessarily the transfer of material substances, and recognize the possible future importance of cybernetics at the bacterial level

    Ephrussi, B., Leopold, U., Watson, J.D. & Weigle, J.J. (1953). Terminology in bacterial genetics. Nature 171, 701; cf. Sarkar, S. (1996). Biological information: a skeptical look at some central dogmas of molecular biology. In: Sarkar, S. (ed.). The Philosophy and History of Molecular Biology: New Perspectives, 187-231: 191.

    the precise sequence of the bases is the code which carries the genetical information
    Watson, J.D. & Crick, F.H.C. (1953). Genetical implications of the structure of deoxyribonucleic acid. Nature 171, 964-967: 965.
    all ›information‹ is conveyed in the nervous system in the form of coded arrangements of nerve impuses
    Eccles, J.C. (1953). The Neurophysiological Basis of Mind: 1.

    By information I mean the specification of the amino acid sequence of a protein.

    Crick, F.H.C. (1958). On protein synthesis. Symp. Soc. Exper. Biol. 12, 138-163: 144.


    Die Irritabilität (Reizbarkeit) ist die Grundlage der räumlichen Ordnung der Lebensvorgänge. Diese geschieht auf der Grundlage der Informationsaufnahme, die sich den verschiedenen in der natürlichen Welt des Organismus bestehenden Reizmodalitäten […] anpassen muß. Sie ist daher elementarer Bestandteil der beiden anderen Funktionskreise [im Dienste des Stoff- und Formwechsels (Ernährung und Fortpflanzung)], deren Vollzug auf Informationen aus der Umwelt des Organismus angewiesen ist. Sie bestimmt damit auch letztlich das Strukturgefüge der Lebewesen, das nur auf der Grundlage der drei Elementargruppen von Funktionsgefügen zustande kommen kann.

    Tembrock, G. (1968). Grundriß der Verhaltenswissenschaften. Eine Einführung in die allgemeine Biologie des Verhaltens: 33.


    Der Begriff „Information“ läßt sich in der organischen Evolution anwenden, sobald Verhalten im Spiel ist (vgl. Klix 1973). Vielleicht kann man den Zusammenhang in einer vorläufigen Näherung einigermaßen angemessen beschreiben, wenn man „Information“ als eine (mögliche) „Eigenschaft“ der Negentropie ansieht, die folgende Bedingungen erfüllen muß: – Sie ist an bestimmte „Zeichen“ gebunden (struktureller Aspekt) – Die Zeichen werden nach bestimmten „Regeln“ geordnet (syntaktischer Aspekt) – Die Zeichen sind quantitativ meßbar (metrischer Aspekt) – Die Zeichen werden mit einer bestimmten Bedeutung belegt (semantischer Aspekt) – Die Zeichen haben Ursachen und Wirkungen im Verhaltensbereich (pragmatischer Aspekt) – Die Zeichen haben eine Beziehung zum Bezeichneten (sigmatischer Aspekt).

    Tembrock, G. (1977). Grundlagen des Tierverhaltens: 10.

    genetische Information als Repräsentation einer Gestalt durch die strukturelle Konfiguration von Molekülen
    Engels, E.-M. (1982). Die Teleologie des Lebendigen. Kritische Überlegungen zur Neuformulierung des Teleologieproblems in der anglo-amerikanischen Wissenschaftstheorie. Eine historisch-systematische Untersuchung: 47.

    Informationswechsel: Veränderungen im informationellen Status aufgrund von umweltabhängigen Erregungen an den Sinnesorganen, wobei die Physiologie die Informationsparameter auch „Reize“ nennt. Daher deckt sich der Begriff Informationswechsel annähernd mit dem älteren Begriff der „Reizbarkeit“ (Erregbarkeit), die bereits lange als eine Grundeigenschaft der Lebewesen angesehen wird.

    Tembrock, G. (1984). Verhalten bei Tieren: 9.


    I prefer to define information functionally as: the capacity to exercise cybernetic control over the acquisition, disposition and utilization of matter/energy in and by living systems

    Corning, P.A. (1995). Synergy and self-organization in the evolution of complex systems. Syst. Res. 12, 89-121: 117.

    The genetic program refers to the totality of information provided by the genes, whereas a developmental program may refer only to that part of the genetic program that is controlling a particular group of cells
    Wolpert, L. (1996). Principles of Development: 21.
    we urge dropping information talk in molecular and developmental biology altogether. […] Therefore, expressions like ›information molecule‹, ›information flow‹, ›transcription‹ and ›translation‹ are purely analogical and should be replaced by strictly physical, chemical, or biochemical expressions in any theory purporting to explain the synthesis and replication of nucleic acids as well as the synthesis of proteins
    Mahner, M. & Bunge, M. (1997). Foundations of Biophilosophy: 284.
    molecular biologists used ›information‹ as a metaphor for biological specifity. […] Metaphors […] are ubiquitous in science, but not all metaphors are created equal. Some, like the information and code metaphors, are exceptionally potent due to the richness of their symbolisms, their synchronic and diachronic linkages, and their scientific and cultural valences
    Kay, L.E. (2000). Who wrote the Book of Life?: 2f.

    We define biological information as factors that can affect the phenotype in ways that may influence fitness

    Wagner, R.H. & Danchin, E. (2010). A taxonomy of biological information. Oikos 119, 203-9: 204.


    Eine Information ist eine Struktur mit einem Bedeutungsgehalt, die in einem kausalen Prozess nach festen Regeln (einem Code) in eine andere Struktur umgewandelt wird.

    Toepfer, G. (2011). Historisches Wörterbuch der Biologie. Geschichte und Theorie der biologischen Grundbegriffe, vol. 2: 181.

    An object X conveys information if the function of X is to reduce, by virtue of its combinatorial [e.g. sequence] properties, uncertainty on the part of an agent who observes X
    Bergstrom, C.T. & Rosvall, M. (2011). Response to commentaries on “The transmission sense of information”. Biology and Philosophy 26, 195-200: 198.

Geissler, E. & Scheler, W. (ed.) (1976). Information. Philosophische und ethische Probleme der Biowissenschaften.

Schnelle, H. (1976). Information. Hist. Wb. Philos. 4, 356-357.

Capurro, R. (1978). Information. Ein Beitrag zur etymologischen und ideengeschichtlichen Begründung des Informationsbegriffs.

Sarkar, S. (1996). Biological information: a skeptical look at some central dogmas of molecular biology. In: Sarkar, S. (ed.). The Philosophy and History of Molecular Biology: New Perspectives, 187-231.

Kay, L.E. (2000). Who wrote the Book of Life? A History of the Genetic Code.

Fuchs-Kittowski, K. (2004). Information. In: Historisch-kritisches Wörterbuch des Marxismus, Bd. 6/II, 1035-1056.

Stegmann, U. (2005). Der Begriff der genetischen Information. In: Krohs, U. & Toepfer, G. (ed.). Philosophie der Biologie, 212-230.

Šustar, P. (2007). Crick’s notion of genetic information and the ‘central dogma’ of molecular biology. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 58, 13-24.