Claude E. Shannon

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

April 30, 1916 - February 24, 2001


Election Year: 1956
Scientific Discipline: Mathematics
Membership Type: Member

Claude Shannon’s development of the field of information theory and his earlier work on the design of digital circuits formed the basis of modern computing and telecommunications. His first groundbreaking achievement came in his 1937 dissertation, A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits, where he outlined digital computer and circuit design by demonstrating the electrical applications of Boolean algebra. In 1948 he published A Mathematical Theory of Communication, which outlined a binary mathematical definition for information, and created the concepts of source rate and channel capacity for transmission of information.

Shannon earned his BS degree from the University of Michigan in 1936 and went on to earn his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, working under Vannevar Bush. After a year at the Institute for Advanced Study, he joined Bell Labs, where he worked from 1941 to 1956, after which he returned to MIT. During World War II as part of the National Defense Research Committee, he developed methods of basic code breaking, work that would later influence his nascent communication theory.

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