At the end of this post is a funny anecdote about American theoretical and applied mathematician Norbert Wiener. He was a pioneer in the study of stochastic and noise processes, contributing work relevant to electronics and communication engineering. He is also known and probably best known for being the founder of cybernetics.
His 1948 book, Cybernetics: Or the Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine is a must read though i have not been lucky enough to read it myself as it is very difficult to find. This book is very high on my list of “books that MUST be read”. I wouldn’t be shy in admitting that the single most important reason on why i would want to read it is that this book came as a seminal work in that field! and is considered the authority to this day!
The anecdote to this rather eccentric and great man follows and is as recounted by Howard Eves and is on his forgetful nature:
Norbert Wiener was renowned for his absent-mindedness. When he and his family moved from Cambridge to Newton his wife, knowing that he would be of absolutely no help, packed him off to MIT while she directed the move. Since she was certain that he would forget that they had moved and where they had moved to, she wrote down the new address on a piece of paper, and gave it to him. Naturally, in the course of the day, some insight occurred to him. He reached in his pocket, found a piece of paper on which he furiously scribbled some notes, thought it over, decided there was a fallacy in his idea, and threw the piece of paper away in disgust.
At the end of the day he went home – to the old address in Cambridge, of course. When he got there he realised that they had moved, that he had no idea where they had moved to, and that the piece of paper with the address was long gone. Fortunately inspiration struck. There was a young girl on the street and he conceived the idea of asking her where he had moved to, saying, “Excuse me, perhaps you know me. I’m Norbert Wiener and we’ve just moved. Would you know where we’ve moved to?” To which the young girl replied, “Yes Daddy, Mommy thought you would forget.”
In later posts i will try to write on cybernetics and Wieners work as a follow-up and will try to read that book as soon as possible! :)