Claude Shannon (1916-2001)

Claude Shannon (Photo: MIT Museum)
Claude Shannon (Photo: MIT Museum)

Claude Shannon was born on 30 April 1916 in Michigan. He studied electrical engineering and mathematics. After working for the MIT and the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, he moved to Bell Telephone Laboratories in 1941. Here, he wrote several groundbreaking papers on cryptography and switching theory. He was involved in developing encryption machines for telephone calls made between Roosevelt and Churchill. In 1949, he published his epic paper “A Mathematical Theory of Communication” in which he explained information theory, thus laying the foundations for modern-day information and communication technology. It was in this paper that he introduced the concept of the bit or binary digit.
 
Shannon developed his work at the Bell Labs in a scientific climate that valued intellectual curiosity above practical application. His great skills lay in defining scientific problems and focussing on the core issues. He reflected on communications for eight years before writing his most important work. For more than 25 years, it remained an object of academic debate before finally becoming the cornerstone of all digital communication systems.
 
In 1958, Shannon moved to the MIT where he worked for 20 years. In addition to his academic work, he developed numerous physical toys and curiosities, most of which are set to be shown in the exhibition.
 
Shannon never received anything approaching the public recognition he deserved, an absurdity given his status as the father of the information age. The HNF exhibition aims to introduce this great pioneer to a broader public in recognition of his technological achievements and his special personality.