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Stewart Brand, the man who published The Whole Earth Catalog

Stewart Brand (December 1938, Illinois, United States) is an author and publisher of the publications The Whole Earth Catalog and CoEvolution Quarterly, a reference for the sixties counterculture on the West Coast.

Brand above all is known as the driving force and publisher of The Whole Earth Catalog (original cover of its most famous issue), a summary of resources, tools and technologies that aimed to help the reader transform his everyday life and to create sustainable communities.

Besides the Whole Earth Catalog, Brand is responsible for other publications and organizations, such as The Well (also known as Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link), an online community; The Global Business Network, a consultancy firm with a futuristic aspect; or the Long Now Foundation, dedicated to promoting long-term thought.

Stanford, Ken Kesey, Merry Pranksters, Douglas Engelbart

This American is an author of numerous books and articles on diverse disciplines, from the study of the psychedelic rituals of Native American to different areas related to sustainability.

Stewart Brand graduated in biology in 1960 from the University of Stanford. After a brief period as a parachutist with the American army, Brand studied design at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1962 and, subsequently, photography at San Francisco State College. During the same period, he also participated in one of the first research studies carried out on LSD, then legal.

A friend of Ken Kesey (author of the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and considered a natural link between the Generation Beat of the fifties and the hippies of the sixties), with whom he collaborated on different cultural initiatives, Brand formed part of the Merry Pranksters, a group of friends of Kesey who decided to live communally in different locations in California and Oregon.

Tom Wolfe describes Stewart Brand in his first novelized report The Electric Kool-Acid Test, one of the most acclaimed works of New Journalism.

By the end of 1968, Brand worked as an assistant to the electrical engineer Douglas Engelbart, preparing a presentation (The Mother of All Demos) that would publicize for the first time some of the data processing technologies that would serve a decade later as pillars of home computing, the mouse among them, that later would be recovered by the research center Xerox PARC and the company Apple Computer.

Access to tools to create a more sustainable world: The Whole Earth Catalog

Brand thought that, with awareness, access to information and necessary tools, mankind would be capable of reconfiguring the world that it had created -and continued creating-, to become a sustainable place both socially and environmentally. The fact that he had builders, designers and engineers as friends surely influenced his reasoning.

In this context, Brand coordinated in 1968 the production of the first Whole Earth Catalog. The influence of this catalog and its subsequent issues among the people that supported the seventies trend of returning to rural traditions, as well as between different communities and environmental movements in many cities, was generalized, as much in the United States and Canada as in other countries.

A 1972 issue of the catalogue sold 1.5 million copies and won the National Book Award, despite being a catalogue. Thousands of people learned for the first time the potential of the production of energy with renewable sources (solar, wind, geothermal, small-scale hydroelectric), through the catalog.

Other projects

With the intention of publishing in depth articles on specific subjects related to the natural sciences, technological inventions, as well as numerous areas of the social and artistic sciences, Brand founded the magazine CoEvolution Quarterly in 1974.

Besides these two publications, references of the American counterculture and of practical ecology, Stewart Brand has founded or helped several institutions with an independent spirit: Point Foundation, Global Business Network, The Well, Hacker’s Conference, Long Now Foundation.

  • More information on Stewart Brand, in Wikipedia and the official page of the Long Now Foundation (biography).