Claude Shannon

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Claude Shannon (1916-2001) was a theoretical mathematician and electrical engineer who is generally considered to be one of the foundational researchers in computer and communications design. He studied at M.I.T., spent much of his career at Bell Laboratories, and later returned to M.I.T. as a professor. In his twilight years, he suffered from Alzheimer's Disease.

His first influential publication was his M.I.T. master's thesis of 1937 [1]; he took a then rather obscure branch of mathematical logic called Boolean algebra and applied it to analyzing electronic circuits. The technique has been standard ever since. In the 1940's during World War II, Shannon performed classified research for the U. S. government on cryptography; his 1949 "Communication Theory of Secrecy Systems"[2] became the seminal paper for cryptography as an academic discipline. The field of information theory was launched by Shannon's ground-breaking, two-part paper "A Mathematical Theory of Communication" [3] It was shortly followed by a book [1] which has since been reprinted many times. Information theory is devoted to messages and signals using techniques drawn from mathematical probability, and linking discrete and continuous mathematics in ways that later turned out to be helpful, not just in the fields of communications and computers, but also on thinking about biological processes and linguistics. He was also a pioneer in developing methods for computers to play chess.

Recognized as a premier voice in the engineering community from the 1940's onward, Shannon had become a figure of some public and popular acclaim by the time of his retirement. An enormous number of resources exist about him on the web, and also in the deep web (i.e., online resources which must be paid for). This article will not attempt to create yet another biography of Claude Shannon, but it will provide pointers to multiple existing biographies which already describe his life in great detail. This article will try to outline his seminal accomplishments and provide pointers to additional reading on each topic.

Shannon's publications

See our list of Shannon's publications.


  1. Claude Elwood Shannon (1940). "A symbolic analysis of relay and switching circuits". Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Electrical Engineering. Retrieved on 2008-05-05.
  2. C. E. Shannon (1949). Communication Theory of Secrecy Systems.
  3. Claude Shannon (July & October, 1948). A Mathematical Theory of Communication.