jjl - 4/4/2005 6:20 PM
kvining - 4/4/2005 12:57 PM
It is one of those odd facts of history that the father of the digital computer could have also become just as important in the field of genetics:
Kirk, thanks very much for that link; I never knew Shannon worked on popgen stuff. I worked on population genetics similarly myself, but never went on to greatness, alas.
Probably the greatest unsung scientist who ever existed. Shannon's theory of IT is what most people who major in computer science understand as IT - it is very different from the quantum theories posted earlier, which I, with no background in physics, merely shake my byte-filled head in ignorance at. Shannon also did extremely important work in relating probabilities to IT. Ultimately, what we don't know are the events we have not included as possible outcomes to the probability problem at hand.
Another interesting fact - a chance meeting between him and Alan Turing, the British genius behind the very first real computer, the Eniac, led to the perfection of the machine. During World War II Shannon and Turing were ordered to set up an encrypted trans-Atlantic phone link between Roosevelt and Churchill, and while doing so Shannon mentioned his idea of self-contained error checking as a means of dealing with entrophy in copper phone systems. He explained his Switching Algebra (which was an applied Boolean Algebra that used switches to represent Boolean Logic functions such as AND OR/NOR, NOT, and mostly famously IF..THEN, the basis of a computer's ability to make decisions like a human) to Turing, and Turing realized it could be the operating system for a device he was building that used a memory circuit to store data and a Babbegian CPU to retrieve results. The Babbegian gear-driven "digital engine was discarded, a CPU based on "Switching Algebra" was inserted, and the digital computer was born. While the phone never got installed, the result was a computer that predicted the most likely whereabouts of submarines based on random sightings, to which airplanes were dispatched with devasting effect. The Germans were so mystified by the loss of it's submarines, they began executing people as spies, since they had no other rational explanation for the sinkings.
Its odd we owe the entire modern world to a scientist no one has heard of. Another figure is Walter Shewhart, the father of modern statistics. His thinking led to a total revolution in manufacturing and management science:
There are a number of them, shrouded in the secrecy of war, like Turing, Shannon, Shewhart and others, who never got the accolades they deserved.