Shannon produced one of the great conceptual breakthroughs of
his generation with the publication of his seminal work, A Mathematical
Theory of Communication. It laid the foundations of information
theory, explaining that binary digits - which he first called
``bits'' - could carry information in a digital form. This radical
idea led directly to the wide range of digital inventions so common
today, from cell phones and CDs to cameras and computers. By showing
how information could be manipulated in a precise, mathematical
way, he gave engineers what experts have called ``a blueprint
for the digital age.''
Shannon was born in Gaylord, Michigan. He earned his B.S. degree
from the University of Michigan in 1936; he then went on to MIT,
where he received an M.S. in electrical engineering and a Ph.D.
in mathematics. While at MIT, he worked under Vannevar Bush on
the differential analyzer, an early analog device that was the
most powerful computer of its day, but ultimately made obsolete
by the more powerful digital devices envisioned by Shannon. He
was the recipient of many honors, including the Institute of Electrical
and Electronics Engineers Medal of Honor, the Kyoto Prize and
the National Medal of Science.