Norbert Wiener, a child prodigy who became a world-renowned mathematician and anti-war spokesman, died on this date in 1964. Wiener was a leader in the field of cybernetics (a word he coined), the interdisciplinary study of control and communication in living organisms, machines, and organizations. His work had many implications for engineering, computer science, biology research, and social science. Wiener taught philosophy at Harvard but believed he was unable to secure a permanent position there because of anti-Semitism. He spent much of his professional career at MIT instead. During World War II, he worked on the automatic aiming and firing of anti-aircraft guns. After the war, he became a staunch pacifist, writing a 1947 article in the Atlantic Monthly, “A Scientist Rebels,” in which he urged scientists to consider the ethical implications of their research, and refusing to accept any government funding or to work on any military projects. A crater on the far side of the moon is named for him.
“Progress imposes not only new possibilities for the future but new restrictions.” —Norbert Wiener