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William P. (Bill) Hall

Personal website

William (Bill) Hall is currently an honorary National Fellow of the Australian Centre for Science, Innovation and Society and resident in the Engineering Learning Unit of the Melbourne University School of Engineering where he does the odd lecture and tutorial in Engineering Knowledge Management and prosecutes his multidisciplinary studies of the evolutionary emergence and interactions of knowledge and organization in hierarchically complex systems from cells to human social systems.

A semi-complete biography is provided here to explain his broad interdisciplinary interests as documented in his professional resume.


Evolutionary Biology

Bill's current research crosses the disciplines of physics, evolutionary biology, epistemology, organization theory, and organizational knowledge management. His experiences as a child watching living marine and fresh water microorganisms through the microscope and teaching general and invertebrate biology in the 1960s led Bill to ask "What is life?" and "How does life evolve?" As illustrated in his first scientific paper (Hall 1966), Bill's PhD research focused on roles species' genetic systems might play in regulating speciation and the evolution of species through time (Hall 1973, 2010). In the late 1970's, responding to critics of his use of the comparative approach to study speciation, Bill spent most of a two year postdoc in Australia studying the history and philosophy of science and epistemology to evaluate his research methodology (Hall 1983).

Organizational Knowledge Management

Failing to find an academic position where he could prosecute his interests, in the early 1980s Bill moved into industry where he became a document, content and organizational knowledge management systems analyst and designer. There his research approach to understand how organizations formed and used knowledge to succeed had to be soundly pragmatic. Several published works from this period are relevant:

  • Hall, W.P. 2001. How Melbourne is contributing to the contracts standards effort. Legal XML & Electronic Filing: The Australian Focus - A joint conference between the AIJA and VSCL, Melbourne, 25/10/2001. (Presentation, AIJA is the Australian Institute of Judicial Administration and VSCL is the Victorian Society for Computers in the Law).

Current Research Problems

How can we construct a consistent and comprehensive worldview, informed by recent insights in science and cosmology, answering fundamental philosophical questions:

  • (1) What is? Ontology (model of the present);
  • (2) Where does it all come from? Explanation (model of the past);
  • (3) Where are we going? Prediction (model of the future);
  • (4) What is good and what is evil? Axiology (theory of values);
  • (5) How should we act? Praxeology (theory of actions);
  • (6) What is true and what is false? Epistemology (theory of knowledge).


Born in 1939, Bill studied university level physics for 3½ years. This also gave him a chance to play with first generation computers and learn analysis and flow charting, before changing his major to zoology. While studying part time he worked in a sensory and developmental physiology research lab and explored an early interest in systems ecology. He completed his PhD in evolutionary biology at Harvard in 1973 on Comparative population cytogenetics, speciation and evolution of the iguanid lizard genus Sceloporus. His teaching career in biology extended between 1965 and 1980 where he taught a wide variety of university subjects from molecular genetics and cytogenetics through invertebrate biology and comparative vertebrate anatomy, to systems level courses such as evolution, biogeography and marine biology. His interest in the origins of life and single-celled organisms stems from his childhood living on a boat in the southern California littoral. His first serious attempt to write an academic paper proved the endosymbiotic origin of chloroplasts two years before Lynn Margulis published her famous book on endosymbiosis.

A two year postdoc in genetics from 1977-1979 at the University of Melbourne gave Bill an opportunity to start writing up ideas from his PhD thesis for formal publication. However, a respected reviewer's accusation that the comparative approach Bill used was "not scientific", led Bill to spend most of the two years studying the history and philosophy of science and epistemology to test the scientific validity of his approach, the results of which were published in a 1983 paper.

In the immediate post Baby Boom demography of the late 1970's early 1980's Bill failed to find a continuing academic position that either wanted to or was able to support his multidisciplinary research and teaching interests, so he had no practical choice but to abandon his academic career. Although Bill was unable to continue his ground breaking work on the cytogenetics of speciation, other researchers were better placed to follow it up as detailed in a review he published in 2010.

In 1981 Bill purchased his first personal computer and built a new career in the ferment of evolving computer technology enabled by Moore's Law. Beginning with an academic word-processing bureau specialized in typing science and technology theses, he soon found himself chief author and documentation manager for a software house and then a business analyst and documentation manager for a small commercial bank.

From 1990 through his retirement in mid 2007 Bill worked for what was then Australia's largest defence project management company - in a range of documentation management and content and knowledge management systems analysis and design roles. He joined the company just after it won a $US 5 BN fixed price contract to build 10 ships for two nations, and he retired just as the last ship was completing its warantee period, with the project still on schedule and on budget for the delivery of each ship together with all the documentation and logistic support materials. Arguably, the content and knowledge management systems Bill helped design and implement enabled a large enough profit to be generated against the project budet to leave a substantial profit for the company after covering all other cost overruns. Unfortunately, the company failed to transfer its project management knowledge the successful project to the next major one, and now no longer exists.

As his major intellectual effort in the project information and knowledge management began to wind down in 2000, Bill began pulling the threads of his career together in the form of a hypertext book on the revolutions and co-evolution of human cognition and our cognitive tools under the working title, Application Holy Wars or a New Reformation: A Fugue on the Theory of Knowledge. ... Bill began his formal return to academia in 2002


  • Hall, W.P. (1966). Is the Plastid an Endosymbiont? 26 pp. [The manuscript was first submitted in Hampton L. Carson's Genetics and Evolution course at Washington University, St. Louis., May 3, 1966. It was revised Summer, 1966, in hopes of finding a sponsor for its publication. Although it was finished too late to be presented, the paper was shown at the cell biology meetings in Ames, Iowa, with no result, and has not been updated from this version. The 1966 MS has been converted for publication on the Web. The paper is historically important because one of the first anywhere to review the molecular, cytological and genetic evidence in support of the theory that the cellular structure of single-celled algae arose from a symbiotic association between a non-photosynthetic protozoan and blue-green algae - a thesis that is now accepted by most biologists but was highly revolutionary when it was first made famous by Lynn (Sagan) Margulis in her 1968 article in Science (161:1020-2) and her 1970 book, Origin of Eukaryotic Cells, Yale Univ. Press.
  • Margulis, L. (1968) Evolutionary criteria in thallophytes: a radical alternative. Science 161, 1020-1022.
  • Margulis, L. (1970) Origin of Eukaryotic Cells. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Sagan, L. (1967) On the origin of mitosing cells. Journal of Theoretical Biology 14, 225-274.

Recommended Readings