John R. Pierce

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John Robinson Pierce (27 March 1910 – 2 April 2002), was an American engineer and author. He worked extensively in the fields of radio communication, microwave technology, computer music, psychoacoustics, and science fiction. Born in Des Moines, Iowa, he earned his PhD from Caltech, and died in Palo Alto, California from complications of Parkinson's Disease.


  • Theory and Design of Electron Beams, New York: Van Nostrand, 1949; 2nd ed., 1954.
  • Traveling-Wave Tubes, New York: Van Nostrand, 1950.
  • Electrons, Waves and Messages, Garden City, NY: Hanover House, 1956; new ed. as Electrons and Waves, 1964; new ed. as Quantum Electronics, 1965; new ed. as Waves and Messages, 1967.
  • Symbols, Signals and Noise: The Nature and Process of Communication, New York: Harper, 1961; 2nd ed., rev., An Introduction to Information Theory: Symbols, Signals and Noise, New York: Dover Publications, 1980.
  • with Arthur G. Tressler, The Research State: A History of Science in New Jersey, Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand, 1964.
  • Almost All About Waves, MIT Press, 1974, 213 pp. Review: 1975.
  • with Edward C. Posner, Introduction to Communication Science and Systems, New York: Plenum Press, 1980.
  • Signals: The Telephone and Beyond, San Francisco: W.H. Freeman, 1981, 181 pp.
  • The Science of Musical Sound, New York: Scientific American Library, 1983; rev.ed., New York: W.H. Freeman, 1992, 270 pp; 1996. Review: Moore (1985).
    • Le son musical: musique, acoustique et informatique, trans. Françoise Berquier, Paris: Pour la science, 1984; 1987; 1993; 1996. (French)
    • Klang. Musik mit den Ohren der Physik, trans. Klaus Winkler, Heidelberg: Spektrum, 1985; 1988; 1999. (German)
    • Los sonidos de la música, trans. Andrés Lewin-Richter, Barcelona: Prensa Científica Labor, 1985. (Spanish)
    • La scienza del suono, trans. Niccolò Guicciardini, Bologna: Zanichelli, 1988, 249 pp; 1995. (Italian)
    • Ongaku no kagaku, trans. Murakami Yōichirō, 1989, 255 pp. (Japanese)
  • with Hiroshi Inose, Information Technology and Civilization, foreword Koji Kobayashi, New York: W.H. Freeman, 1984.
  • with A. Michael Noll, Signals: The Science of Telecommunications, New York: Scientific American Library, 1990, 247 pp.
    • Signale. Die Geheimnisse der Telekommunikation, Heidelberg: Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, 1992. (German)
    • Telecommunicatie: een revolutie in signaaloverdracht, trans. M. Pool et al., ed. T. Kortbeek, Maastricht: Natuur & Techniek, 1992. (Dutch)
    • Seãles: la ciencia de las telecomunicaciones, trans. Jaume Herranz Luis, Antonio Elias Fusté and Pedro Vicente del Fraile, Barcelona: Reverté, 1995. (Spanish)
  • editor, with Max V. Mathews, Current Directions in Computer Music Research, MIT Press, 1989.


  • with B. M. Oliver and C. E. Shannon, "The Philosophy of PCM", Proc. IRE. 36 (Nov 1948), pp 1324-1331. On Pulse Code Modulation.
  • as J.J. Coupling, "Science for Art's Sake", Astounding Science Fiction, Street & Smith Publications, Nov 1950, pp 83-91.
  • "The Computer as a Musical Instrument", Journal of the Audio Engineering Society of America 8:2 (1960), pp 139ff.
  • "Portrait of the Machine as a Young Artist", Playboy 12:6 (1965), pp 124-5 & 150 & 182 & 184.
  • "Computers and Music", New Scientist 25:431 (1965), pp 423ff.
  • "The Early Days of Information Theory", IEEE Transactions of Information Theory 19:1 (Jan 1973), pp 3-8. [1]
  • with Max V. Mathews, "Some Recollections of James Tenney", Perspectives of New Music 25:1-2 (1987), pp 534-535.
  • "Telstar, A History", SMEC Vintage Electrics (1990).
  • "ECHO - America's First Communications Satellite", SMEC Vintage Electrics 2:1 (1990).
  • "My Work With Vacuum Tubes At Bell Laboratories", SMEC Vintage Electrics 3:1 (1991).



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