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FIGURE 1 Seal of the Polytechnic Institute of New York University

George embraced change and was a leader who went about making change possible. His range of interests and expertise transcended many disciplines—civil engineering, biomedical engineering, urban development, science policy, water resources, and environmental science. He recognized that engineering was not an isolated endeavor but an integral part of the natural world and society. This concept was embraced in the word biosoma—which he coined from the contraction of biology, society, and machines—and eloquently expressed in the Polytechnic Institute seal (Figure 1), which George was instrumental in designing: Homo et Hominis Opera Partes Naturae. Man and the works of man belong to the natural world.


George’s 21-year presidency was characterized by change—at Polytechnic, in New York City, and in the world. Through it all he was capable of seeing the big picture, the big trends. One of those trends was the increasing urbanization of humanity.

George recognized the importance of engineering to successful urbanization, but also the need for input from multiple disciplines to determine what constituted success. The engineering of cities needed to be in the context of larger objectives and plans. He persuaded his academic home department, civil engineering, to embrace urban engineering, resulting in the department of civil and urban engineering, which is a sponsor and primary organizer of this symposium. He would also have embraced the newly created Center for Urban Science and Progress (CUSP) and Poly’s role in it.

In a conversation with George in 1976, he said, “Within our lifetime more than half of humanity will live in cities.” This forecast was realized in

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