Claude Shannon father of information theory 100 years old today

Claude Shannon, born on 30th April 1916, an American mathematician,, electrical engineer and cryptographer, remembered as the ‘father of information theory’, was born exactly 100 years ago – he is the theme of today’s Google Doodle.

According to the Google Doodle blog, it is not possible to overstate the legacy of Claude Shannon, born on 30th April, 1916, in Petoskey, Michigan, United States.

Shannon was famous for being the founder of information theory with a landmark paper that he published in 1948. He is also equally well known for founding both digital circuit design theory and the digital computer in 1937, at the age of 21.

Claude Shannon Google DoodleThe Google Doodle for 30th April 2016, celebrates Shannon’s 100th birthday. (Image: google.com/logos/doodles)

Foundation of electronic digital computing

In 1937, while a post-graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), at the age of 21, he wrote his thesis demonstrating that electrical applications of the Boolean algebra could construct any logical, numerical relationship. That paper is the foundation of electronic digital computing.

He was a cryptographer for national defense during World War II, where he developed the first unbreakable cipher and contributed significantly to code-breaking and secure telecommunications.



He tinkered with electronic switches for fun. One of his inventions included an electro-mechanic mouse – Theseus – that could teach itself to navigate through a maze.

If you are thinking ‘hang on, teaching itself … navigating through a maze … that sounds very much like artificial intelligence,’ you are right. He regularly rubbed shoulders with Alan Turing and Albert Einstein.

Claude Shannon 100 birthday todayClaude Elwood Shannon was born in Petoskey, Michigan. He specialised in the fields of mathematics and electronic engineering. He studied and worked at MIT, Bell Labs, the University of Michigan, and the Institute for Advanced Study. (Images: Left – history-computer.com. Right – nndb.com)

Shannon’s work in signal processing and electronic communications – which earned him the moniker ‘the father of information theory’ – led to groundbreaking changes in the storage and transmission of data.

A genius and a prankster

Despite achieving what millions of others could never dream of in one lifetime in the fields of engineering and mathematics, Shannon still managed to avoid the trap that many geniuses fall into – taking themselves too seriously.



Shannon was a keen prankster and a skilled juggler. He was regularly seen in the halls of Bell Labs riding a unicycle. He invented the rocket-powered Frisbee, the flame-throwing trumpet, among other bizarre and often hilarious devices.

Google’s homepage today, animated by artist Nate Swinehart, celebrates the genius and carefreeness of the father of modern communications on what would have been his one-hundredth birthday.

Claude Shannon quotes

Below are some phrases Shannon said during his lifetime (source: brainyquote.com)

– “I visualize a time when we will be to robots what dogs are to humans, and I’m rooting for the machines.”

– “Information: the negative reciprocal value of probability.”

mouse in mazeShannon’s intelligent electromechanical mouse, Theseus, was an early attempt to teach a machine to learn. (Image: slice.mit.edu)

– “Information is the resolution of uncertainty.”

– “I just wondered how things were put together.”

According to MIT:

“Shannon’s early ideas proved key to the redesign of the telephone system and the development of the modern computer. During WWII, he met the famous British mathematician Alan Turing, an exchange that exchange resulted in Shannon’s pioneering analysis of cryptography systems.”

Video – Claude Shannon

This Google Doodle video honours Claude Shannon, who is seen in this animation juggling with 0 and 1 because it is his 100th birthday.

1 Comment
  1. Shirley Carpenter says

    I think Claude Shannon should have been remembered as “the Father of Mathematics,” provide no one has that title already…

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