- Wiener , Norbert
- (1894–1964) American mathematicianBorn in Columbia, Missouri, Wiener was a child prodigy in mathematics who sustained his early promise to become a mathematician of great originality and creativity. He is probably one of the most outstanding mathematicians to have been born in the United States. Such was Wiener's precocity that he took his degree in mathematics, from Tufts University, at the age of 14 in 1909.Throughout his life Wiener had many extramathematical interests, especially in biology and philosophy. At Harvard his studies in philosophy led him to an interest in mathematical logic and this was the subject of his doctoral thesis, which he completed at the age of 18. Wiener went from Harvard to Europe to pursue his interest in mathematical logic with Bertrand Russell in Cambridge and with David Hilbert in Göttingen. After he returned from Europe, Wiener's mathematical interests broadened but, surprisingly, he was unable to get a suitable post as a professional mathematician and for a time tried such unlikely occupations as journalism and even writing entries for an encyclopedia. In 1919 Wiener finally obtained a post in the mathematics department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he remained for the rest of his career.After his arrival at MIT Wiener began his extremely important work on the theory of stochastic (random) processes and Brownian motion. Among his other very wide mathematical interests at this time was the generalization of Fourier's work on resolving functions into series of periodic functions (this is known as harmonic analysis). He also worked on the theory of Fourier transforms. During World War II Wiener devoted his mathematical talents to working for the military – in particular to the problem of giving a mathematical solution to the problem of aiming a gun at a moving target. In the course of this work Wiener discovered the theory of the prediction of stationary time series and brought essentially statistical methods to bear on the mathematical analysis of control and communication engineering.From here it was a short step to his important work in the mathematical analysis of mechanical and biological systems, their information flow, and the analogies between them – the subject he named ‘cybernetics’. It allowed full rein to his wide interests in the sciences and philosophy and Wiener spent much time popularizing the subject and explaining its possible social and philosophical applications. Wiener also worked on a wide range of other mathematical topics, particularly important being his work on quantum mechanics.
Scientists. Academic. 2011.