Barry Smith (academic)

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Barry Smith
Barry Smith.jpg
Born (1952-06-04) June 4, 1952 (age 66)
Bury, England
NationalityUnited Kingdom
CitizenshipUnited States
Alma materUniversity of Oxford
University of Manchester (PhD, 1976)
Known forIFOMIS
OBO Foundry
Basic Formal Ontology
AwardsWolfgang Paul Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Scientific career
InstitutionsUniversity of Manchester
University of Sheffield
International Academy of Philosophy, Liechtenstein
University at Buffalo
ThesisThe Ontology of Reference: Studies in Logic and Phenomenology (1976)
Doctoral advisorWolfe Mays
Notable studentsBerit Brogaard, David Koepsell, Amie Thomasson
Franz Brentano
Edmund Husserl
Adolf Reinach
Roman Ingarden
Michael Dummett

Barry Smith (born June 4, 1952) is an academic working in the fields of ontology and biomedical informatics. Smith is the author of more than 500 scientific publications,[1] including 15 authored or edited books.

Education and career[edit]

From 1970 to 1973 Smith studied Mathematics and Philosophy at the University of Oxford. He obtained his PhD from the University of Manchester in 1976 for a dissertation on ontology and reference in Husserl and Frege.[2] The dissertation was supervised by Wolfe Mays.

Among the cohort of graduate students working under Mays' direction were Kevin Mulligan (Geneva/Lugano), and Peter Simons (Trinity College, Dublin), both of whom shared with Smith an interest in the contributions of certain turn-of-the-century Continental philosophers and logicians to central issues of analytic philosophy.[3] In 1979 Mulligan, Simons and Smith together founded the Seminar for Austro-German Philosophy,[4] which organized workshops and conferences centered around the work of early Central European philosophers from Bolzano to Tarksi and their impact on contemporary philosophy.

From 1976 to 1994 Smith held appointments in Sheffield (1976–1979), Manchester (1979–1989) and Liechtenstein (1989–1994). In 1994 he moved to the University at Buffalo (New York, USA),[5] where he is currently Julian Park Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Affiliate Professor of Biomedical Informatics, Computer Science and Engineering, and Neurology. From 2002 to 2006 Smith served as founding Director of the Institute for Formal Ontology and Medical Information Science (IFOMIS) in Leipzig, Germany.[6] The Institute moved to Saarbrücken in 2004.

In 2005 Smith founded the National Center for Ontological Research (NCOR), under the auspices of which he initiated in 2006 the Ontology for the Intelligence Community, now STIDS, annual conference series. Smith was also responsible for initiating the International Conference on Biomedical Ontology.[7]

Smith served as editor of The Monist: An International Quarterly Journal of General Philosophical Inquiry from 1992 to 2016.

Research activities[edit]

From the beginning of his career Smith has worked in the field of ontology, initially on the history of ontology as a sub-discipline of philosophy in the tradition of Brentano, Husserl, Ingarden and Reinach. In the 1990s he worked closely with David Mark, one of the founders of geographic information science (GIS), on initiatives in the field of geospatial ontology. Since 2000 his research has been centered on the application of ontology in biomedical informatics, where he has worked on a variety of projects relating to biomedical terminologies and electronic health records.[8]

Smith is leader of the Basic Formal Ontology (BFO) top level ontology project. He is a Coordinating Editor of the OBO Foundry[9] and has served as a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Gene Ontology Consortium, and of the Ontology for Biomedical Investigations (OBI) Working Group.[10]

Smith has contributed to work on the ontology of social reality, particularly in connection with the work of John Searle.[11] He serves as consultant to Hernando de Soto, Director of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy in Peru, on projects relating to the advancement of property and business rights among the poor in developing countries.

Since 2008 Smith has worked on ontology initiatives in the military and intelligence field and also in the field of industrial and systems engineering. In 2008-2010 he served as technical lead on a project sponsored by the US Army Net-Centric Data Strategy Center of Excellence (ANCDS CoE) to create the Universal Core Semantic Layer (UCore-SL). Since 2010 he was worked on a series of initiatives sponsored by the US Army Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate (I2WD) to create a framework for semantic enhancement of intelligence data in the Cloud. Since 2014 he is collaborator on initiatives of the US Air Force Research Laboratory on planning, mission assurance, and lifecycle management. In this connection he is working on a project to create a Joint Doctrine Ontology.


Leo Zaibert's The Theory and Practice of Ontology (2016)[12] and Gloria Zúñiga y Postigo and Gerald J. Erion's Barry Smith an sich (2017)[13] are Festschrifts dedicated to Smith containing studies of his work by colleagues and students.




  1. ^
  2. ^ Smith, Barry (1976). The Ontology of Reference: Studies in Logic and Phenomenology (PhD thesis). University of Manchester.
  3. ^ Mark Textor (ed.), The Austrian Contribution to Analytic Philosophy, Routledge, 2006. ISBN 9780415404051.
  4. ^ Axel Bühler, "Drei Briten in Kakanien", interview by in Information Philosophie, 3 (1987), 22–33.
  5. ^ Barry Smith – CV
  6. ^ See
  7. ^ Barry Smith, ed., Proceedings of the First International Conference on Biomedical Ontology, Buffalo, New York, July 24-26, 2009., last accessed August 25, 2017.
  8. ^ Martin Berzell, Electronic Healthcare Ontologies: Philosophy, the Real World and IT Structures, Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, 2010, No. 517.>
  9. ^ Barry Smith, et al., "The OBO Foundry: coordinated evolution of ontologies to support biomedical data integration", Nature Biotechnology 25, 1251-1255 (2007). doi:10.1038/nbt1346
  10. ^ Anita Bandrowski, et al., The Ontology for Biomedical Investigations, PLOS One, April 29, 2016.
  11. ^ Bauwens M. Institutions as dispositions: Searle, Smith and the metaphysics of blind chess. J Theory Soc Behav. 2018;1–19.
  12. ^ Leo Zaibert, ed. (2016). The Theory and Practice of Ontology. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 1. ISBN 9781137552778.
  13. ^ Cosmos + Taxis. Studies in Emergent Order and Organization, 4 (4), June 2017.

External links[edit]