Wiener, Norbert, 1894-1964

Alternative names
Birth 1894-11-26
Death 1964-03-18

Biographical notes:

Professor of mathematics at MIT who pioneered in the development of automation.

From the description of Norbert Wiener papers, 1949-1952. (Wayne State University, Archives of Labor & Urban). WorldCat record id: 32321256

Norbert Wiener was a world renowned mathematician who was instrumental in the development of communication and control theories. He coined the word "cybernetics" to describe this new science.

There are a number of autobiographical and biographical sources available that provide an in-depth treatment of Wiener's life. Because the bulk of the collection is arranged chronologically, a chronology of Wiener's life is supplied in lieu of a brief biography.

  • 1894 November 26: Norbert Wiener was born in Columbia, Missouri to Bertha Kahn Wiener and Leo Wiener, a professor of foreign languages at the University of Missouri.
  • 1895: The Wiener family moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Leo Wiener became a professor of Slavic languages at Harvard.
  • 1898: Wiener's sister Constance Wiener (Franklin) was born.
  • 1901: The Wiener family visited Europe. Wiener entered the third grade at the Peabody School; after quickly advancing to the fourth grade, he was removed from the school by Leo Wiener. Except for this brief experience, Wiener was taught by his father until he entered high school.
  • 1902: Wiener's sister Bertha Wiener (Dodge) was born
  • 1903: Wiener entered Ayer High School.
  • 1906: Wiener graduated from Ayer High School and entered Tufts College where he studied mathematics and biology.
  • 1909: Wiener received an AB degree, cum laude, from Tufts and entered Harvard Graduate School to study zoology.
  • 1910: Wiener entered the Sage School of Philosophy at Cornell University with a scholarship. He studied with Frank Thilly, Walter A. Hammond, and Ernest Albee.
  • 1911: Wiener transferred to Harvard Graduate School to study philosophy. He studied with Edward V. Huntington, Josiah Royce, G. H. Palmer, Karl Schmidt, and George Santayana.
  • 1912: Wiener received an MA degree from Harvard.
  • 1913: Wiener received a PhD degree from Harvard. As a John Thornton Kirkland Fellow of Harvard, Wiener studied logic and philosophy with Bertrand Russell, G. H. Hardy, J. E. Littlewood, G. E. Moore, and J. M. E. MacTaggart at Cambridge University.
  • 1914: Continuing as a Kirkland Fellow, Wiener studied mathematics with David Hilbert, Edmund Husserl, and Edmund Landau at Göttengen, Germany. As a Frederick Sheldon Fellow of Harvard, Wiener returned to Cambridge University to study mathematics and philosophy. Wiener received the Bowdoin Prize from Harvard.
  • 1915: Because of World War I, Wiener finished his year as a Sheldon Fellow at Columbia University where he studied philosophy and mathematics with John Dewey.
  • 1915 - 1916 : Wiener was appointed an assistant and a docent lecturer in Harvard's Philosophy Department and lectured on the logic of geometry.
  • 1916: Wiener served with Harvard's reserve regiment at the Officer's Training Camp in Plattsburg, New York
  • 1916 - 1917 : As an Instructor of mathematics, Wiener taught at the University of Maine in Orono.
  • 1917: Wiener served with the Cambridge ROTC. Wiener briefly worked as an apprentice engineer in the Turbine Department of the General Electric Corp. in Lynn, Massachusetts
  • 1917 - 1918 : Wiener was employed as a staff writer for the Encyclopedia Americana in Albany, New York
  • 1918: As a civilian employee, Wiener worked on computations of ballistic tables for the US Army at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, under Oswald Veblen. Wiener was elected into the American Mathematical Society.
  • 1918 - 1919 : Wiener served as an Army private at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland.
  • 1919: Wiener worked as a journalist with the Boston Herald.
  • 1919 - 1920 : Wiener received an appointment at MIT as instructor of mathematics.
  • 1920: Wiener attended the International Mathematical Congress in Strasbourg as MIT's representative and presented a paper on Brownian Motion. He also visited Cambridge and Paris.
  • 1922: Wiener and Constance Wiener visited London and Paris.
  • 1924: Wiener was promoted to assistant professor of mathematics at MIT. Wiener and Bertha Wiener visited Portiers and Germany.
  • 1925: Wiener attended the International Mathematical Congress in Grenoble and the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Southampton. He also visited with Richard Courant and Felix Klein in Göttingen.
  • 1926: Wiener was made a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Maugeurite Engmann and Wiener were married and visited Switzerland and Italy.
  • 1926 - 1927 : Wiener received a Guggenheim Fellowship to study in Göttingen and in Copenhagen, where he collaborated with Harald Bohr. He studied haphazard motion, periodogram analysis extensions of Fourier series and Fourier integral theory and taught a course on general trigonometry developments at Göttingen.
  • 1928: Wiener's daughter Barbara was born. Wiener spoke at the Symposium on Analysis Situs for the American Mathematical Society meeting.
  • 1929: Wiener's daughter Margaret was born. Wiener was promoted to associate professor of mathematics at MIT.
  • 1929 - 1930 : Wiener taught at Brown University as an exchange professor.
  • 1930 - 1936 : Wiener and Yuk Wing Lee developed and patented electrical network systems.
  • 1931 - 1932 : Wiener went to Cambridge University as a visiting lecturer; presented lectures on the Fourier Integral and its applications at Trinity College.
  • 1932: Wiener was promoted to professor of mathematics at MIT. Wiener was MIT representative at the International Congress of Mathematics, Zurich.
  • 1933: <title render="italic">The Fourier Integral and Certain of Its Applications</title> was published. Wiener was awarded Bôcher Prize by the American Mathematical Society; lectured on Brownian Motion at the annual meeting. Wiener was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. Wiener began participation in interdisciplinary seminar group at Harvard Medical School. Wiener collaborated with R. E. A. C. Paley.
  • 1934: <title render="italic">Fourier Transforms in the Complex Domain</title> was published. Wiener delivered the American Mathematical Society Colloquium Lectures at Williamstown, Massachusetts.
  • 1935: Wiener lectured at Stanford University and in Japan on his way to China.
  • 1935 - 1936 : Wiener was a visiting professor at Tsing Hua University in Peiping, China.
  • 1936: Wiener attended the International Congress of Mathematicians in Oslo, Norway, and lectured on Tauberian Gap Theorems.
  • 1936 - 1937 : Wiener collaborated with Harry Ray Pitt at MIT.
  • 1937: Wiener gave the Dohme lecture at Johns Hopkins on Tauberian Theorems.
  • 1938: Wiener lectured on analysis at the Semi centennial of the American Mathematical Society.
  • 1940: Wiener served as chief consultant in the field of mechanical and electrical aids to computation for the National Defence Research Committee.
  • 1940 - 1945 : Wiener was associated with the NDRC's Office of Scientific Research and Development, Statistical Research Group and Operational Research Laboratory at Columbia University. He was part of an interdisciplinary team at MIT studying the mathematical aspects of guidance and control of anti aircraft fire. Wiener worked on the design of fire control apparatus for anti aircraft guns with Julian Bigelow.
  • 1941: Wiener resigned from the National Academy of Sciences.
  • 1945: Wiener participated in a study group set up by John von Neumann and attended a meeting held in Princeton on communication theory. Wiener collaborated with Arturo Rosenblueth at the Instituto National Cardiologia in Mexico and attended the Mexican Mathematical Society's Conference held in Guadalajara.
  • 1946 - 1950 : Wiener and Arturo Rosenblueth received a five year Rockefeller Foundation Grant that allowed them to collaborate in Mexico and at MIT on alternating years.
  • 1946: Wiener received an Honorary ScD degree from Tufts College. Wiener attended the first three Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation Conferences and the Conference on Teleological Mechanisms sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences. Wiener lectured at the National University of Mexico. Wiener worked with Mark Kac and Arturo Rosenblueth at MIT.
  • 1947: Wiener visited England and France and gave lectures on harmonic analysis in Nancy, France. Wiener collaborated with Rosenblueth at the Instituto Nacional de Cardiologia in Mexico.
  • 1948: <title render="italic">Cybernetics</title> was published. Wiener delivered a talk at the American Mathematical Society's Second Symposium on Applied Mathematics.
  • 1949: Wiener received the Lord & Taylor American Design Award. <title render="italic">Extrapolation, Interpolation, and Smoothing of Stationary Time Series with Engineering Applications</title> was published. Wiener delivered the American Mathematical Society's Josiah Willard Gibbs Lecture at the annual meeting. Wiener collaborated with Rosenblueth in Mexico.
  • 1950: <title render="italic">The Human Use of Human Beings</title> was published. Wiener attended the Seventh Macy Conference. Wiener delivered a talk at the International Congress of Mathematicians at Harvard University.
  • 1951: Wiener taught at the University of Paris, College de France, under a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship and gave lectures in Madrid.
  • 1951 - 1952 : Wiener collaborated with Rosenblueth in Mexico and received an honorary ScD degree from the University of Mexico.
  • 1952: Wiener received the Alvarega Prize from the College of Physicians in Philadelphia. Wiener gave the Forbes Hawks lectures at the University of Miami.
  • 1953: <title render="italic">Ex-Prodigy</title> was published. Wiener delivered lectures on the theory of prediction at the University of California at Los Angeles. Wiener taught a summer school course with Claude Shannon and Robert Fano titled Mathematical Problems of Communications Theory.
  • 1954: Wiener went on a lecture tour of India and attended the Indian Science Congress in Hyderabad. Wiener taught summer course Mathematical Problems of Communication Theory again.
  • 1955 - 1956 : Wiener became a visiting professor at the Indian Statistical Institute in Calcutta.
  • 1956: <title render="italic">I Am A Mathematician</title> was published. Wiener went on a lecture tour of Japan on his way back from India and then taught a summer school course at UCLA.
  • 1957: Wiener received an honorary ScD degree from Grinnell College. Wiener was awarded the Virchow Medal from the Rudolf Virchow Medical Society.
  • 1958: <title render="italic">Nonlinear Problems in Random Theory</title> was published. Wiener taught at the Varenna Summer School in Italy.
  • 1959: <title render="italic">The Tempter</title> was published. Wiener taught a summer school course at UCLA. Wiener was made an Institute Professor at MIT.
  • 1960: Wiener taught at the University of Naples in Italy and visited the United Soviet Socialist Republic. Wiener received the ASTME Research Medal. Wiener retired from MIT, becoming Institute Professor Emeritus.
  • 1961: <title render="italic">Harmonic Analysis </title>was published. Wiener taught a summer school course at UCLA.
  • 1962: Wiener taught at the Institute of Theoretical Physics, University of Naples, Italy. Wiener delivered the Terry Lectures at Yale University; they were titled "Prolegomena to Theology."
  • 1963: Wiener taught a summer school course at UCLA.
  • 1964: <title render="italic">God and Golem, Inc</title>. was published (based upon the Terry Lectures). Wiener received the National Medal of Science from President Johnson. Wiener went to Amsterdam as a visiting professor and as the honorary head of Neurocybernetics at Netherlands Central Institute for Brain Research. He also lectured in Norway and Sweden.
  • 1964 March 18: Wiener died in Stockholm, Sweden.
  • 1965: God and Golem, Inc. received the National Book Award.
  • 1966: Differential Space, Quantum Systems and Prediction was published.


American Association of Arts and Sciences - Member

American Institute of Electrical Engineers - Applied Mathematics Subcommittee

American Mathematical Society - Council member, 1938; vice-president, 1936-1937

Appalachian Mountain Club - Member

Benjamin Franklin Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce

Black Mountain College - Board of Trustees

College Entrance Examination Board - Commission on Examinations in Mathematics, 1934-1935

Econometric Society - Member

Friends of China - Advisory Board, 1935

International Association for Cybernetics - Member

International Congress of Mathematicians, 1940 - Organizing Committee, Committee on Invitation of Speakers and Head of Conference Committee in Probability and the Theory of Integration

International Congress of Mathematicians, 1950 - Organizing Committee and Entertainment Subcommittee

London Mathematical Society - Member

National Academy of Sciences - Member

New England Committee for Relief in China - Member

Union Matematica - Honorary president

From the guide to the Norbert Wiener papers, 1898-1966, (Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Institute Archives and Special Collections)


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  • Automobile industry and trade--Automation
  • Automation--Economic aspects
  • Automation
  • Automobile industry workers--Effect of automation on
  • Technology--Social aspects
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology--Faculty
  • Mathematics--Research
  • Ethics
  • Cybernetics--Research
  • Cybernetics
  • Labor movement


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