there has perhaps been no man who has had a full command of all the intellectual
activity of his day. Since that time, science has been increasingly the
specialists, in fields which show a tendency to grow progressively narrower.
century ago there may have been no Leibniz, but there was a Gauss,
a Faraday, and
a Darwin. Today
there are few scholars who can call themselves mathematicians or physicists or
biologists without restriction.
man may be a topologist or an acoustician or a coleopterist. He will be filled
with the jargon of his field, and will know all its literature and all its ramifications,
but, more frequently than not, he will regard the next subject as something belonging
to his colleague three doors down the corridor, and will consider any interest
in it on his own part as an unwarrantable breach of privacy.
- Wiener, Norbert; Cybernetics; 1948.
Norbert Wiener invented the field of cybernetics, inspiring a generation of
to think of computer technology as a means to extend human capabilities.
Norbert Wiener was born on November 26, 1894, and received his Ph.D. in Mathematics
from Harvard University at the age of 18 for a thesis on mathematical logic.
He subsequently studied under Bertrand Russell in Cambridge, England, and David
Hilbert in Göttingen, Germany. After working as a journalist, university
teacher, engineer, and writer, Wiener he was hired by MIT in 1919, coincidentally
Bush. In 1933, Wiener won the Bôcher Prize for his brilliant work
Tauberian theorems and generalized harmonic analysis.
During World War
II, Wiener worked on guided missile technology, and studied how sophisticated
electronics used the feedback principle -- as when a missile changes its flight
in response to its current position and direction. He noticed that the feedback
principle is also a key feature of life forms from the simplest plants to the
most complex animals, which change their actions in response to their environment.
Wiener developed this concept into the field of cybernetics, concerning the
of man and electronics, which he first published in 1948 in the book Cybernetics.
Wiener's vision of cybernetics had a powerful influence on
later generations of scientists, and inspired research into the potential
to extend human capabilities with interfaces to sophisticated electronics,
as the user interface studies conducted by the SAGE program.
Wiener changed the way everyone thought about computer technology, influencing
of the Internet, most notably J.C.R. Licklider.
1964, Norbert Wiener won the US National Medal of Science. In the same year,
one of his last books called "God and Golem, Inc.: A Comment on Certain Points
Where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion".
Resources. The following sites related
to Norbert Wiener and cybernetics have been established for several years.
- The Bacterial
Cybernetics Group collected evidence of cybernetic sophistication by bacteria,
including advanced computation, learning, and creativity.
Lists of sites: