THE HISTORIAN'S COLUMN

A. Ephremides

Once again Toby Berger did it. As everybody else was enjoying the celebration and recognition of all past Shannon Lecturers at Whistler last year, Toby went around and collected the signatures of each one of them. Thus, he created another part of living history, a precious document for Information Theory that he graciously made available to the readers of the Newsletter.

It includes the signatures of all recognized Shannon Lecturers who have delivered their Lectures to date (with the exception of Shannon and Wolfowitz -- Betty Shannon (his wife) signing for Claude and Mary Wolfowitz (his sister) signing for Jack). It is another "coup" by Toby, who, thereby confirms that the award of honorary historian status, bestowed upon him after his contribution of Shannon's picture as the billionth National Park visitor a few issues back, was not only rightfully earned, but highly deserved.

I am sure that a graphologist would have great fun analyzing these signatures. I am willing (as usual) to stick my neck out and attempt some graphanalytic observations with a technical twist.

Could it be that the signatures that are most legible and clearly identify the corresponding names are the ones of those who worked mostly on error control coding? Also, is there a correlation between the degree of illegibility and the interest of the individual in cryptography or compression? There are, of course, exceptions but, stretching things a little, could one argue that Russian is a form of encryption for those who do not read the language? Also, could one argue that a coding theorist's interest in complexity may have affected the legibility of the signature? And, to go further on the limb, wouldn't someone interested in detection be likely to produce a detectable signature?

At this point it is probably wise to quit before sinking deeper into the quagmire of graphology. Let the readers draw their own interpretations.

Meanwhile, I shiver at the thought of what Toby will provide us with next. Our heartfelt thanks go to him for the unique document that follows.