The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Project

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David Bella Oral History Interview

Life history interview conducted by Chris Petersen.

July 9, 2014


“The Illusion of Prediction and Control”  July 9, 2014  Location: Bella residence, Corvallis, Oregon.  Watch Video | Download Transcript (PDF)

In the interview, Bella describes his upbringing in Connecticut, his undergraduate experience at the Virginia Military Institute, and his first jobs with the United States Public Health Service. From there he recounts his return to school as a master's and Ph.D. candidate at New York University, his early experiences with computer modeling, and the development of his environmental consciousness.

Bella next recalls his move to Oregon State University as a new faculty member of the Civil Engineering department. He discusses the status of the department upon his arrival, his memories of campus during the 1970s, the impact that his colleagues Scott Overton and John Goldman made upon him, and the shift in his research away from computer modeling in favor of systems theory.

Much of the session is devoted to an in-depth discussion of Bella's work with systems theory and the scholarly outcomes that emerged from this research. Specifically addressed among these scholarly outcomes are Bella's investigations into space-based weaponry, the destruction of chemical weapons, and the idea of salmon parks. Bella also details his involvement with the local environmental movement, the creation of the Swallowed Camel Club, and his connection with a handful of Corvallis-area church groups.

The interview concludes with additional reflections on Bella's time at OSU, including his memories of being isolated from many of his peers; his perspective on institutional change at the university; an idea that he is helping to foster concerning a clustered, no-car community in Corvallis; and his hopefulness for the future.