Claude Elwood Shannon (April 30, 1916 - February 24, 2001) has been called "the father of information theory". Shannon was born in Petoskey, Michigan and was a distant relative of Thomas Edison. While growing up, he worked as a messenger for Western Union.

Shannon began studying electrical engineering and mathematics at the University of Michigan in 1932, and received his Bachelor's degree in 1936. He attended MIT for graduate school, where he worked on Vannevar Bush's differential analyser, an analog computer.

He innovated the concept of implementing Boolean algebra with electronic relays and switches in his 1937 MIT master's thesis, A Symbolic Analysis of Relay and Switching Circuits, and, with it, essentially founded practical digital circuit design. Professor Howard Gardner, of Harvard University, would praise it as "possibly the most important, and also the most famous, master's thesis of the century", and in 1940 the thesis earned its author the Alfred Noble American Institute of American Engineers Award. After working at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, on genetics, Shannon worked on his PhD in 1940 at MIT. His PhD Thesis is titled An Algebra for Theoretical Genetics. He then worked at Bell Labs until he returned to MIT in the 50s.

In 1948 Shannon published A Mathematical Theory of Communication (ISBN 0252725484). This work focuses on the problem of how to reconstruct at a target point the information a sender has transmitted. In this fundamental work he used tools in randomized analysis and large deviations, which were in their nascent development stages at that time. Shannon developed information entropy as a measure for redundancy. His later book with Warren Weaver, A Mathematical Theory of Communication, Univ of Illinois Press, is brief and surprisingly accessible to the non-specialist. Another notable paper published in 1949 is Communication Theory of Secrecy Systems, which essentially founded the mathematical theory of cryptography. He is also credited with the introduction of the Samping Theory, which is the problem of representing a continuous-time signal from a (uniform) discrete set of samples.

Shannon is known for his thinking prowess; many have testified that he was able to dicate entire academic papers from memory alone, without correction. He met his wife Betty Shannon when she was a typist at Bell Labs. Outside of his academic pursuits, Shannon was interested in juggling, unicycling, and chess. He also invented many devices, including a chess-playing machine, a rocket-powered pogo stick, and a flame-throwing trumpet for a science exhibition.

From 1958 to 1978 he was a Professor at MIT. To commemorate his achievements, there were celebrations of his work in 2001, and there are currently 3 copies of a statue of Shannon: one in Michigan, one at MIT and one at Bell Labs.

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