Who invented the discipline of Cybernetics

Norbert Wiener and Cybernetics. American Mathematician, Known for Communications Theory. Famous for inventing the discipline of Cybernetics and his communications theory, Norbert Wiener introduced the concept of feedback mechanism, and terms input and output.

Norbert Wiener was an American Mathematician who invented the concept of cybernetics. Working on his communication theory, and bringing together mathematics and biology in his researches, led him to the systems of control and communication that operate both animals and machines. He explained his ideas in his book Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and Machine.

Early Life of Norbert Wiener

Norbert Wiener was born in Columbia, Missouri on November 26, 1894. He made a fast start in academic life with his father, a professor of Slavic languages and literature, determined to raise a genius of a son.

Young Wiener entered high school aged nine, completed the four-year course in two years, and his undergraduate degree when he was 14-years-old. At age 18, he got his Master’s degree then took his Ph.D. in mathematical logic a year later.

With an impressive academic record Wiener went to Cambidge University to study logic with the famous philosopher, mathematician, and prolific author Bertrand Russell. He also went to Germany and spent few months with mathematician David Hilbert.

Returning to the United States, he taught at Columbia, Harvard, and Maine Universities, before moving to work as a staff writer at the Encyclopedia America. He spent an unhappy year at the Boston Herald.

WWI Pacifist Working on Mathematical Formulations

As an ardent pacifist, Wiener took a post outside U.S. military ranks into Maryland’s Ballistic Research Laboratory. There he formulated mathematical tables, for instance, where guns should be aimed before firing.

He was appointed professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1919. During this time Wiener started his research into communication, how the way things interact. He believed that once a framework is built for investigating systems, communications can be applied to both living things and machines. He referred to his concept as cybernetics, derived from the Greek word, kybernetes, meaning steersman.

Wiener’s Communications Theory and Cybernetics

During the Second World War, Wiener developed new systems for controlling anti-aircraft guns. His aim was to allow them to fire not at the target but at the place where the target should be by the time the shell arrives.

In his statistical study he found the importance of communications engineering, which led him to deal directly with how to relate a man to his machine. He also realized that human sensors tracked motion and allowed a person’s body to correct any errors through a series of feedback mechanisms. Wiener believed that this feedback is the key in allowing machines to control themselves with accuracy.

Wiener’s work led him to his 1948 book Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and Machine. It describes a way of looking at how the world functioned based on the way information is transmitted and processed.

His idea was focused on information rather than energy, or digital processes rather than analogue or machine, which is the very concept that led the prediction of computer development.

An Insight on Norbert Wiener

Wiener made significant contributions to mathematics. His Cybernetics introduced the concept that systems have “inputs” and “outputs,” influenced by feedback mechanisms.

To him, communications engineering, the behaviour of the nervous system and computing machines were all linked. He invented the discipline of cybernetics that formed the basis for the branch of artificial intelligence based on the processes of the human mind.

Norbert Wiener died at the age of 69, on March 18, 1964, two months after being awarded the National Medal of Science at the White House.

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