Claude E. Shannon Biography
produced by UCSD-TV, the Jacobs School of Engineering, and the
California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology,
about the father of information theory, the late Claude Shannon.
Claude E. Shannon Obituary
Dr. Claude Elwood Shannon, the American mathematician and computer
scientist whose theories laid the groundwork for the electronic
communications networks that now lace the earth, died on Saturday,
February 24, 2001
in Medford, Mass., after a long fight with Alzheimer's disease.
He was 84.
Understanding, before almost anyone, the power that springs from
encoding information in a simple language of 1's and 0's, Dr.
Shannon as a young man wrote two papers that remain monuments in
the fields of computer science and information theory.
"Shannon was the person who saw that the binary digit was the
fundamental element in all of communication," said Dr. Robert
G. Gallager, a professor of electrical engineering who worked with
Dr. Shannon at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "That
was really his discovery, and from it the whole communications
revolution has sprung."
Dr. Shannon's later work on chess- playing machines and an
electronic mouse that could run a maze helped create the field of
artificial intelligence, the effort to make machines that think.
And his ability to combine abstract thinking with a practical
approach he had a penchant for building machines inspired
a generation of computer scientists.
Dr. Marvin Minsky of M.I.T., who as a young theorist worked
closely with Dr. Shannon, was struck by his enthusiasm and
enterprise. "Whatever came up, he engaged it with joy, and
he attacked it with some surprising resource which might be
some new kind of technical concept or a hammer and saw with some scraps of
wood," Dr. Minsky said. "For him, the harder a problem
might seem, the better the chance to find something new."
Born in Petoskey, Mich., on April 30, 1916, Claude Elwood Shannon
got a bachelor's degree in mathematics and electrical engineering
from the University of Michigan in 1936. He got both a master's
degree in electrical engineering and his Ph.D. in mathematics from
M.I.T. in 1940.
While at M.I.T., he worked with Dr. Vannevar Bush on one of the
early calculating machines, the "differential analyzer,"
which used a precisely honed system of shafts, gears, wheels and disks to
solve equations in calculus.
Though analog computers like this turned out to be little more
than footnotes in the history of the computer, Dr. Shannon quickly
made his mark with digital electronics, a considerably more