Wiener, Norbert (1894–1964)

Norbert Wiener was an American mathematician who established the subject of cybernetics. As a precocious youngster, Wiener hopped from subject to subject at college, finally earning a PhD in mathematics from Harvard at 19, before embarking on an even more erratic early career that took him into a variety of activities, including journalism.


Wiener, Norbert (1894-1964)


Having settled upon mathematical research, obtaining a post at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1919, he nevertheless continued to range across fields, from random processes, including ergodic theory (concerned with the onset of chaos in a system), to integral equations, quantum mechanics, and potential theory. He developed a mathematical model of Brownian motion and the theory of entropy (a measure of disorder). Wartime work that involved applying statistical methods to control and communication engineering, led to him extending these studies into control and communication in complex electronic systems and in animals, especially humans – the science of cybernetics. His major book is Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine (1948).