Norbert Wiener

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Norbert Wiener in the MIT classroom with the tricycle cart. LIFE magazine.

Norbert Wiener (26 November 1894, Columbia, Missouri, United States – 18 March 1964, Stockholm, Sweden) was an American mathematician and philosopher. He was Professor of Mathematics at MIT. Wiener is considered the father of cybernetics, a formalization of the notion of feedback, with implications for engineering, systems control, computer science, biology, philosophy, and the organization of society.


(taken from Flo Conway, Jim Siegelman, Dark Hero of the Information Age: In Search of Norbert Wiener - Father of Cybernetics, 2005)

Born on the doorstep of the twentieth century, Norbert Wiener was a descendant of Eastern European rabbis, scholars, and, purportedly, of the medieval Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides. He entered college at eleven, received his Ph.D. from Harvard at eighteen, apprenticed with renowned European mathematicians, and, in 1919, joined the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His early mathematical work solved practical problems in electronics theory that engineers had been wrestling with for decades. In the 1920s, he worked on the design of the first modern computer, and during World War II, he helped create the first intelligent automated machines. Wiener's wartime vision grew into a new interdisciplinary science of communication, computation, and automatic control, spanning the forefronts of engineering, biology, and the social sciences. His ideas attracted an eclectic group of scientists and scholars: computer pioneer John von Neumann, information theorist Claude Shannon, and anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. Wiener named his new science "cybernetics"—from the Greek word for steersman. His 1948 book Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine set off a scientific and technological revolution. In less than a decade, cybernetics transformed the day-to-day labors of workers in every industry and unleashed a flood of dazzling devices on postwar society. Wiener gave the word "feedback" its modern meaning and introduced it into popular parlance. He was the first to perceive the essence of the new stuff called "information". He worked with eminent biologists and neurophysiologists to crack the communication codes of the human nervous system, and with the engineers who incorporated those codes into the circuits of the first programmable "electronic brains." Wiener spoke and wrote passionately about rising threats to human values, freedoms, and spirituality that were still decades in the offing. His efforts won him the National Book Award and the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest scientific award. Yet, even as his new ideas were taking hold in America and worldwide, Wiener's visionary science was foundering. By the late 1950s, cybernetics was being superseded by the specialized technical fields and subdisciplines it had spawned, and Wiener himself wound up on the sidelines of his own revolution. His moral stands were rejected by his peers and a gadget-happy consumer public, and his grim predictions were dismissed by many as the doomsaying of an aging, eccentric egghead. He died suddenly, at age 69, on a trip to Europe in 1964, even as so many of the things he had predicted were coming to pass.



  • The Fourier Integral and Certain of Its Applications, New York: Dover, 1933.
    • Integral Fure i nekotorye ego prilozheniya [Интеграл Фурье и некоторые его приложения], Moscow: Gosudarstvennoe izdatelstvo fiziko-matematicheskoy literatury, 1963. (Russian)
Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, 1948, Log.
  • Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, Paris: Hermann & Cie, 1948; Cambridge, MA: Technology Press (MIT), 1948; New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1948, 194 pp; 2nd ed., MIT Press, and Wiley, 1961, 212 pp, PDF, ARG; repr., forew. Doug Hill and Sanjoy K. Mitter, MIT Press, 2019, xlvii+303 pp, EPUB. Reviews: Dubarle (1948, FR), Littauer (1949), MacColl (1950). In the spring of 1947, Wiener was invited to a congress on harmonic analysis, held in Nancy, France and organized by the bourbakist mathematician, Szolem Mandelbrojt. During this stay in France Wiener received the offer to write a manuscript on the unifying character of this part of applied mathematics, which is found in the study of Brownian motion and in telecommunication engineering. The following summer, back in the United States, Wiener decided to introduce the neologism ‘cybernetics’ into his scientific theory. According to Pierre De Latil, MIT Press tried their best to prevent the publication of the book in France, since Wiener, then professor at MIT, was bound to them by contract. As a representative of Hermann Editions, M. Freymann managed to find a compromise and the French publisher won the rights to the book. Having lived together in Mexico, Freymann and Wiener were friends and it is Freymann who is supposed to have suggested that Wiener write this book. Benoît Mandelbrot and Walter Pitts proofread the manuscript. [1]
    • Cibernetica. Controllo e comunicazione nell’animale e nella macchina, Milan: Bompiani, 1953. (Italian)
    • Saibanetikksu: dōbutsu to kikai ni okeru seigyo to tsūshin [サイバネティックス : 動物と機械における制御と通信], Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1957. (Japanese)
    • N. Viner (Н. Винер), Kibernetika, ili upravlenie i svyaz v zhivotnom i mashine [Кибернетика, или Управление и связь в животном и машине], trans. G.N. Povarov, Moscow: Sovetskoe radio [Советское радио], 1958, 216 pp; new ed., 1963; 2nd ed., 1968. (Russian)
    • Cibernética, trans. Miguel Mora Hidalgo, Madrid: Guadiana, 1960, 314 pp; 1971. (Spanish)
    • Kybernetika neboli řízení a sdělování v živých organismech a strojích, trans. O. Hanš, J. Wehle and Z. Wünsch, intro. Karel Winkelbauer, Prague: SNTL, 1960, 148 pp. (Czech)
    • Küberneetika ehk Juhtimine ja side loomas ning masinas, ed. H. Riikoja, Tallinn: Eesti Riiklik Kirjastus, 1961, 244 pp. (Estonian)
    • Cibernetica sau Ştiinţa comenzii şi comunicării la fiinţe şi maşini, trans. Alexandru Giuculescu, Bucharest: Ştiinţifică, 1966, 272 pp. (Romanian)
    • Kybernetik. Regelung und Nachrichtenübertragung in Lebewesen und Maschine, rororo, 1968; Econ, 1992. (German)
    • La cibernetica: controllo e comunicazione nell'animale e nella macchina, trans. Giampaolo Barosso, Milan: il Saggiatore, 1968; repr., 1982, 269 pp. (Italian)
    • Cibernética ou controle e comunicação no animal e na maquina, São Paulo: Poligono, 1970. (Brazilian Portuguese)
    • Cybernetyka, czyli sterowanie i komunikacja w zwierzęciu i maszynie, trans. Jerzy Mieścicki, Warsaw: Państwowe Wydaw. Naukowe, 1971, 261 pp. (Polish)
    • Kibernetika ili upravljanje i komunikacija kod živih biča i mašina, trans. Nebojša Uzelac and Slobodan Janić, Belgrade: Izdavačko-informativni centar studenata, 1972, 195 pp. (Serbo-Croatian)
    • Sibernetik, trans. İbrahim Keskin, Istanbul: Say Kitap Pazarlama, 1982, 226 pp. (Turkish)
    • Cibernética o el control y comunicación en animales y máquinas, trans. Francisco Martín, Barcelona: Tusquets, 1985, 266 pp; 1998; 2002, 150 pp. (Spanish)
    • Cibernètica, o, Control i comunicació en l'animal i la màquina, trans. Sebastián Xambó Descamps, Barcelona: Edicions Científiques Catalanes, 1986, 280 pp. (Catalan)
    • Kong zhi lun: huo guan yu zai dong wu he ji qi zhong kong zhi he tong xin de ke xue [控制论: 或关于在动物和机器中控制和通信的科学], Zhengzhou : He nan mei zhu chu ban she, 1991. (Chinese)
    • La cybernétique. Information et régulation dans le vivant et la machine, trans. Ronan Le Roux, Robert Vallée and Nicole Vallée-Lévi, Paris: Seuil, 2014, 376 pp. [2] (French)
The Human Use of Human Beings, 1950, Log.
  • The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society, Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1950, 241 pp; 2nd ed., 1954; London: Eyre and Spottiswode, 1954; New York: Avon Books, 1967; New York: Da Capo Press, 1988; repr., intro. Steve J. Heims, London: Free Association Books, 1989, xxx+199 pp; new ed., 1990.
    • Cybernétique et société: l'usage humain des êtres humains, Paris: Union Générale d'Éditions, 1952; 1971; repr., 2014. (French)
    • Mensch und Menschmaschine, Frankfurt am Main: Metzner, 1952; 4th ed., 1972. (German)
    • Materia, maskiner och människor: cybernetiken och samhället, trans. Edvin Thall, Stockholm: Forum, 1952, 210 pp; new ed., Stockholm: Rabén & Sjögren, 1964. (Swedish)
    • Cibernética e sociedade: o uso humano de seres humanos, trans. José Paulo Paes, São Paulo: Cultrix, 1954; 2nd ed., 1968, 190 pp. (Brazilian Portuguese)
    • Ningen kikairon: Saibaneteikkusu to shakai [人間機械論: サイバネテイックスと社会], Tokyo: Misuzu Shobō, 1954. (Japanese)
    • Kibernetika i obshchestvo [Кибернетика и общество], trans. E.G. Panfilov, Moscow: IIL, 1958, 200 pp. (Russian)
    • Cybernética y sociedad, trans. José Novo Cerro, Buenos Aires: Sudamericana, 1958, 181 pp. (Spanish)
    • Cybernetyka i społeczeństwo, trans. Olgierd Wojtasiewicz, afterw. E. J. Kolman, Warsaw: Książka i Wiedza, 1960, 236 pp; 2nd ed., 1961, 217 pp. (Polish)
    • Kybernetika a společnost, trans. Karel Berka, intro. Arnošt Kolman, Prague: ČSAV, 1963, 216 pp. (Czech)
    • Menneske og automat: kybernetikken og samfundet, trans. Elsa Gress Wright, Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 1963, 196 pp. (Danish)
    • Kibernetika i društvo: ljudska upotreba ljudskih bića, trans. Ljubomir Radanović, intro. Rajko Tomović, Belgrade: Nolit, 1964, 244 pp; 2nd ed., 1973. (Serbo-Croatian)
    • Anashim u-moḥot-mekhonah: ha-ḳeberneṭikah ṿeha-ḥevrah, trans. Ivrit Yaḳov Rabi, Tel Aviv: Poalim, 1964, 199 pp. (Hebrew)
    • Cibernètica i societat, intro. Miquel Masriera, trans. Jordi Monés, Barcelona: Ediciones 62, 1965, 214 pp. (Catalan)
    • Introduzione alla cibernetica: l'uso umano degli esseri umani, trans. Dario Persiani, Torino: Bollati Boringhieri, 1966, 229 pp; 3rd ed., 1970, 240 pp; 1982; 2012, 234 pp. Review. (Italian)
    • Ihmisestä, koneista, kielestä, trans. Pertti Jotuni, Helsinki: WS, 1969, 189 pp. (Finnish)
    • Inimolendite inimlik kasutamine: küberneetika ja ühiskond, trans. Boris Kabur, Tallinn: Perioodika, 1969, 158 pp. (Estonian)
    • Kyvernētikē kai koinōnia: ē anthrōpinē chrēsimopoiēsē tōn anthrōpinōn ontōn [Κυβερνητική και κοινωνία], trans. & intro. Giannē Iōannidē, Athens: Papazēsēs, 1970, xxv+151 pp. (Greek)
    • İnsan ve mekanizması, Istanbul: İTÜ, 1973, vii+148 pp. (Turkish)
    • Ren you ren de yong chu: kong zhi lun he she hui [人有人的用处: 控制论和社 会], trans. Bu Chen, Beijing: Shang wu yin shu guan, 1978; 2009. (Chinese)
    • Cybernética y sociedad, México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1984. (Spanish)
  • Time and Organization (Second Fawley Foundation Lecture), University of Southampton, 1955.
  • The Theory of Prediction: Modern Mathematics for the Engineer, ed. E. F. Beckenbach, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1956.
  • Nonlinear Problems in Random Theory, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, and New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1958.
    • Nelineinye zadachi v teorii sluchainykh protsessov, Moscow: Izdatelstvo Inostrannoi Literatury, 1961. (Russian)
  • The Tempter, New York: Random House, 1959.
  • Time Series, MIT Press, 1964. Trans. of "Sur la théorie de la prévision statistique et du filtrage des ondes, Analyse Harmonique", Colloques Internationaux du CNRS 15, Paris: Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1949, pp 67-74.
  • God and Golem, Inc.: A Comment on Certain Points where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion, MIT Press, 1964, ix+95 pp.
    • A/S Gud og Golem, trans. David Jens Adler, Copenhagen: Hasselbalch, 1964, 92 pp. Review: Birkeland (Math Scandinavica). (Danish)
    • Gud og Golem A/S. Betraktninger over visse punkter hvor kybernetikken støter sammen med religionen, forew. Piet Hein, trans. Tor Bjerkmann, Oslo: Cappelen, 1964, 73 pp, NB. (Norwegian)
    • Kagaku to kami: Saibanetikkusu to shūkyō [科学と神: サイバネティックスと宗教], trans. Yasuo Shizume, Tokyo: Misuzu Shobō, 1965. (Japanese)
    • Tvorets i robot [Творец и робот], trans. M.N. Aronz and R.A. Fesenko, Moscow: Progress, 1966, 100 pp. (Russian)
    • God, mens en machine, intro. H. Brandt Corstius, trans. P.H.W.C. Rommers, Rotterdam: Universitaire Pers, 1966, 127 pp. (Dutch)
    • Dios y Golem, S.A: comentario sobre ciertos puntos en que chocan cibernética y religión, trans. Javier Alejo, México: Siglo XXI, 1967, 69 pp. (Spanish)
    • Dumnezeu şi Golem, S.A. Comentariu asupra cîtorva puncte de contact între cibernetică şi religie, trans. Edmond Nicolau and Lucia Nasta, Bucharest: Ştiinţifică, 1969, PDF, ARG. (Romanian)
    • Deus, golem & cia: um comentário sobre certos pontos de contato entre cibernética e religião, trans. Leonidas Hegenberg and Octanny Silveira da Mota, São Paulo: Cultrix, 1971, 94 pp. (Brazilian Portuguese)
    • Theos kai mēchanē: kyvernētikē, trans. Anna Stamatopoulou-Paradellē, Athens: Kastaniōtēs, 1972, 106 pp. (Greek)
    • God & Golem Inc. Sur quelques points de collision entre la cybernétique et la religion, trans. Christophe Romana and Patricia Farazzi, intro. Charles Mopsik, Paris: L’Éclat, 2015. (French)
  • Invention: The Care and Feeding of Ideas, intro. Steve Joshua Heims, MIT Press, 1993, 185 pp.
    • Fa ming: ji dong ren xin de chuang xin zhi lu [发明: 激动人心的创新之路], trans. Lejing Zhao, Shanghai : Shanghai ke xue ji shu chu ban she, 2002. (Chinese)
  • Ex-Prodigy: My Childhood and Youth, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1953; MIT Press, 1953, 309 pp; repr. in Wiener, A Life in Cybernetics: Ex-Prodigy: My Childhood and Youth, and I Am a Mathematician: The Later Life of a Prodigy, forew. Ronald R. Kline, MIT Press, 2018.
    • Nōbāto uīnā jiden: Tensai no oitachi [ノーバート・ウィーナー自伝: 天才の生い立ち], Tokyo: Masu Shobō, 1956. (Japanese)
    • Ex prodigio: mi infancia y juventud, trans. Aline Petterson, México, D.F.: Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, 1982. (Spanish)
    • Xi ri shen tong: Wo de tong nian he qing nian shi qi [昔日神童: 我的童年和青年时期], Shanghai: Shang hai ke xue ji shu chu ban she, 1982. (Chinese)
    • Shindō kara zokujin e: waga yōji to seishun [神童から俗人へ: わが幼時と青春], trans. Yasuo Shizume, Tokyo: Misuzu Shobō, 1983. (Japanese)
  • I Am a Mathematician: The Later Life of a Prodigy, Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1956; MIT Press, 1964; repr. in Wiener, A Life in Cybernetics: Ex-Prodigy: My Childhood and Youth, and I Am a Mathematician: The Later Life of a Prodigy, forew. Ronald R. Kline, MIT Press, 2018.
    • Saibanetikkusu wa ikani shite umaretaka [サイバネティックスはいかにして生まれたか], Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1962. (Japanese)
    • Ya - matematik [Я - математик], Moscow: Nauka, 1964. (Russian)
    • Mathematik - mein Leben, trans. Walther Schwerdtfeger, Frankfurt a.M.: Fischer Bücherei, 1965, 310 pp. (German)
    • Matematikus vagyok, trans. Imre Nagy, Budapest: Gondolat, 1968, 324 pp. (Hungarian)
    • Můj život, trans. Zdenka Hermannová, Prague: Mladá fronta, 1970, 242 pp. (Czech)
    • Sînt matematician, trans. M. Drăgănescu, Bucharest: Politică, 1972, 348 pp. (Romanian)
    • Soy un matematico, trans. Sergio Francisco Beltran, México, D.F.: Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología, 1982, 425 pp. (Spanish)
    • Wo shi yi ge shu xue jia [我是一個數學家], trans. Changzhong Zhou, Shanghai: Shanghai ke xue ji shu chu ban she, 1987. (Chinese)
    • Man riyāz̤īdānam: sarguzasht-i sībarnātik, trans. Parvaīz Shaharʹyārī, Tehran: Muʼassasah-ʼi Intishārāt-i Fāṭimī, 1368 [1989], 448 pp. (Persian)
Collected writings
  • Selected Papers of Norbert Wiener, Expository papers by Y. W. Lee, Norman Levinson, and W. T. Martin, MIT Press & SIAM, 1964.
    • 'Generalized Harmonic Analysis Tauberian Theorems, chapters repr. in MIT Press, 1964.
Selected writings
  • Válogatott tanulmányok, ed. Tarján Rezső, trans. Tarján Rezsőné, Budapest: Gondolat, 1974, 378 pp. (Hungarian)

Selected essays[edit]

  • "Cybernetics", Scientific American 179:5, Nov 1948, pp 14-19. Adapted from his 1948 book. [3]



See also[edit]