Norbert Wiener. November 26, 1894 – March 18, 1964. American scientist, outstanding mathematician and philosopher, founder of cybernetics and artificial intelligence theory.


Life and Work:

1. Who is Norbert Wiener? The answer to this question lies in the title of his autobiography “I am mathematician.” An outstanding mathematician and philosopher, Norbert Wiener was born in 1894 in Columbia, Missouri, in the family of European immigrants.


2. A son of professor and a child prodigy, Wiener learnt to read almost before he learnt to walk. He wrote his first paper on Darwinism when others barely learnt to scribble.


3. The child prodigy did not attend secondary school, yet when he was 11 years of age, he entered prestigious Tufts college that he graduated 3 years later with a degree of the bachelor of arts.


4. At the age of 18 Wiener presented his thesis at Harvard. Then he studied the philosophy of science with Bertran Russel at Cambridge and mathematics with David Hilbert at Gottingen.


5. During World War I he was eager to go to the front but his poor eyesight prevented his enlistment.


6. Then the geeky scientist became a professor at nearly a dozen of universities, got a chair at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote hundreds of articles on various fields of mathematics. He gave lectures in China, raised funds for scientists who had fled Nazi Germany, built mathematical models of the US air-defense system, and made students laugh during and after the lectures.


7. The main bombshell was dropped by Norbert Wiener after the war. The late 1940s saw a huge development of electronic computing machines’ components, the machines of the second generation were about to take the stage, however, there was no streamlined field of science devoted the management, relation and processing information in the devices, living world and people’s community. Wiener managed to generate this science: in 1948 he published the work titled “Cybernetics” that became classics.


8. The name created by Wiener derives from the Greek word meaning “the art of management.” It must be noted that the word existed as early as in Ancient Greece, but it referred to steering ships and later to governing the nations.


9. The world and history have thanked Wiener by giving him the title of “the father of cybernetics.”


10. Norbert Wiener never won the Nobel Prize – it is not awarded to mathematicians. In his senior age he received the National Medal of Science. Congratulating Wiener, President Lyndon Johnson said the medal was awarded to N. Wiener “for his marvelously versatile contributions, profoundly original, ranging within pure and applied mathematics, and penetrating boldly into the engineering and biological sciences.” This dedication brought the famous scientist into tears.


11. Having once stopped to chat about mathematics with one of his students on the way to the cafeteria, Wiener asked him a weird question: “Which way did I come from?” Having received the answer, he concluded: “That means I have not had a meal yet.”


12. Norbert Wiener defined a professor as “one who can speak on any subject – for precisely 50 minutes.”


13. Once Norbert Wiener noted that in the 18th century the world was compared to the clockwork, in the 19th century it was similar to the machine processing matter into energy. In the 20th century this mechanism began to process information. “To live effectively is to live with adequate information” – claimed Norbert Wiener.