Wilhelm Ostwald's Combinatorics as a Link between In-formation and Form


The combinatorial thinking of the chemist and Nobel laureate Wilhelm Ostwald grew out of his activities in chemistry and was further developed in his philosophy of nature. Ostwald used combinatorics as an analogous, creative, and interdisciplinary way of thinking in areas like knowledge organization and in his theory of colors and forms. His work marginally influenced art movements like the German Werkbund, the Dutch De Stijl, and the Bauhaus. Ostwald's activities and his use of spatial analogies such as bridge, net, or pyramid can be viewed as support for a relation between information—or "in-formation," or Bildung (education, formation)—and form.