Norbert Wiener

Norbert Wiener (1894–1964) served on the faculty in the Department of Mathematics at MIT from 1919 until his death. In 1963, he was awarded the National Medal of Science for his contributions to mathematics, engineering, and biological sciences. He was the author of many books, including Norbert Wiener—A Life in Cybernetics and the National Book Award-winning God & Golem, Inc.: A Comment on Certain Points Where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion (both published by the MIT Press).

  • Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, Reissue Of The 1961 Second Edition

    Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine, Reissue Of The 1961 Second Edition

    Norbert Wiener

    A classic and influential work that laid the theoretical foundations for information theory and a timely text for contemporary informations theorists and practitioners.

    With the influential book Cybernetics, first published in 1948, Norbert Wiener laid the theoretical foundations for the multidisciplinary field of cybernetics, the study of controlling the flow of information in systems with feedback loops, be they biological, mechanical, cognitive, or social. At the core of Wiener's theory is the message (information), sent and responded to (feedback); the functionality of a machine, organism, or society depends on the quality of messages. Information corrupted by noise prevents homeostasis, or equilibrium. And yet Cybernetics is as philosophical as it is technical, with the first chapter devoted to Newtonian and Bergsonian time and the philosophical mixed with the technical throughout. This book brings the 1961 second edition back into print, with new forewords by Doug Hill and Sanjoy Mitter.

    Contemporary readers of Cybernetics will marvel at Wiener's prescience—his warnings against “noise,” his disdain for “hucksters” and “gadget worshipers,” and his view of the mass media as the single greatest anti-homeostatic force in society. This edition of Cybernetics gives a new generation access to a classic text.

    • Paperback $35.00
  • Norbert Wiener—A Life in Cybernetics

    Norbert Wiener—A Life in Cybernetics

    Ex-Prodigy: My Childhood and Youth and I Am a Mathematician: The Later Life of a Prodigy

    Norbert Wiener

    Norbert Wiener's celebrated autobiography, available for the first time in one volume.

    Norbert Wiener—A Life in Cybernetics combines for the first time the two volumes of Norbert Wiener's celebrated autobiography. Published at the height of public enthusiasm for cybernetics—when it was taken up by scientists, engineers, science fiction writers, artists, and musicians—Ex-Prodigy (1953) and I Am a Mathematician (1956) received attention from both scholarly and mainstream publications, garnering reviews and publicity in outlets that ranged from the New York Times and New York Post to the Virginia Quarterly Review.

    Norbert Wiener was a mathematician with extraordinarily broad interests. The son of a Harvard professor of Slavic languages, Wiener was reading Dante and Darwin at seven, graduated from Tufts at fourteen, and received a PhD from Harvard at eighteen. He joined MIT's Department of Mathematics in 1919, where he remained until his death in 1964 at sixty-nine. In Ex-Prodigy, Wiener offers an emotionally raw account of being raised as a child prodigy by an overbearing father. In I Am a Mathematician, Wiener describes his research at MIT and how he established the foundations for the multidisciplinary field of cybernetics and the theory of feedback systems. This volume makes available the essence of Wiener's life and thought to a new generation of readers.

    • Paperback $45.00
  • Invention


    The Care and Feeding of Ideas

    Norbert Wiener

    Internationally honored for brilliant achievements throughout his career, author of Cybernetics, ExProdigy, and the essay God and Golem, Inc., which won the National Book Award in 1964, Norbert Wiener was no ordinary mathematician. With the ability to understand how things worked or might work at a very deep level, he linked his own mathematics to engineering and provided basic ideas for the design of all sorts of inventions, from radar to communications networks to computers to artificial limbs. Wiener had an abiding concern about the ethics guiding applications of theories he and other scientists developed. Years after he died, the manuscript for this book was discovered among his papers. The world of science has changed greatly since Wiener's day, and much of the change has been in the direction he warned against. Now published for the first time, this book can be read as a salutary corrective from the past and a chance to rethink the components of an environment that encourages inventiveness.Wiener provides an engagingly written insider's understanding of the history of discovery and invention, emphasizing the historical circumstances that foster innovations and allow their application. His message is that truly original ideas cannot be produced on an assembly line, and that their consequences are often felt only at distant times and places. The intellectual and technological environment has to be right before the idea can blossom. The best course for society is to encourage the best minds to pursue the most interesting topics, and to reward them for the insights they produce. Wiener's comments on the problem of secrecy and the importance of the "free-lance" scientist are particularly pertinent today.

    Steve Heims provides a brief history of Wiener's literary output and reviews his contributions to the field of invention and discovery. In addition, Heims suggests significant ways in which Wiener's ideas still apply to dilemmas facing the scientific and engineering communities of the 1990s.

    • Hardcover $50.00
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  • I Am a Mathematician

    I Am a Mathematician

    Norbert Wiener

    These two volumes (I Am Mathematician and Ex-Prodigy) comprise Norbert Wiener's autobiography. Sometimes with humor and sometimes with sadness, they render an account, without sentiment, of the life of the world-renowned mathematician and scientist. An unusual life story, Norbert Wiener's penetrating observations accompany the fascinating details describing the maturation of a major world scientist.

    • Hardcover $12.00
    • Paperback $25.00
  • Differential Space, Quantum Systems, and Prediction

    Norbert Wiener, Armand Siegel, Bayard Rankin, and William Ted Martin

    Permeated with the spirit of the late Norbert Wiener, and reflecting his approach to mathematical abstraction by way of physical reality, these integrated chapters were in fact prepared under his aegis. Both constructional and postulational methods are emphasized in elaborating the subject matter; both historical and formal developments in the subject are reviewed; both mathematical and physical insights are called into play. In this way, the close mathematical association and physical connection of a number of seemingly disparate topics become evident: the theory and construction of the Brownian motion process, integration in differential space, prediction of single series stationary processes, the development of quantum concepts on the basis of differential space, multiple prediction using the successive projection technique, the Fourier-Hermite development of nonlinear functionals, the postulational basis for measure-theoretic probability theory.

    Included is a verification, by means of differential space theory, of the conjecture that ensembles of completely described systems obeying a postulated dynamics can be so constructed as to have the same statistical properties as those expressed by a given quantum=mechanical wave function.

    • Hardcover $12.50
  • Generalized Harmonic Analysis and Tauberian Theorems, Volume 2

    Norbert Wiener: Collected Works

    Norbert Wiener

    The publication of these two exhaustive and definitive papers in book form underlies both their classic nature and their current interest. They retain their considerable power as exercises in pure mathematics. But – and this could not have been anticipated when they were first published in the early '30s in now-inaccessible journals – they have proved to be a prime source of much of today's applied mathematics, especially useful in statistical studies of computation, communication, and control. Wiener himself with characteristic concreteness, here applies his results to the physical problems of continuous spectra and Brownian motions. These applications are not digressive: Wiener knew that if mathematics can aid the sciences, science can enrich mathematics, by suggesting new approaches and lines of attack. As he once wrote, “I grew ever more aware that it was within nature itself that I must seek the language and the problems of my mathematical investigations.”

    Wiener described the background and aims of these papers as follows:Generalized harmonic analysis represents the culmination and combination of a number of very diverse mathematical movements. The theory of almost periodic functions finds its precursors in the theory of Dirichlet series, and in the quasiperiodic functions of Bohl and Esclangon. These latter, in turn, are an answer to the demands of the theory of orbits in celestial mechanics; the former take their origin in the analytic theory of numbers. Quite independent of the regions of thought just enumerated, we have the order of ideas associated with the names of Lord Rayleigh, of Gouy, and above all Sir Arthur Schuster; these writers concerned themselves with the problems of white light, of noise, of coherent and incoherent sources.... Some [expressions of the theory] demand for their proper appreciation a mode of connecting various weighed means of a positive quantity. The appropriate tool for this purpose is the general theory of Tauberian theorems developed by the author.... These latter Tauberian theorems enable us to correlate the mean square of the modulus of a function and the “quadratic variation” of a related function which determines its harmonic analysis.... The Theory of generalized harmonic analysis is itself capable of extensions in very varied directions.... This theory may be developed to cover the case where the infinite sequences of choices is replaced by a haphazard motion of the type known as Brownian.

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  • Selected Papers of Norbert Wiener

    Norbert Wiener, Y. M. Lee, Norman Levinson, and W. T. Martin

    This volume, published jointly by the M.I.T. Press and the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), was originally intended as a celebration volume marking the occasion of Norbert Wiener's seventieth birthday, November 26, 1964. The plans for such a book were formulated long before Professor Wiener's untimely death in Stockholm, March 1964. It had been decided that a collection of Norbert Wiener's own work, rather than a series of invited papers, would be of greater service to the scientific community, as well as a more fitting tribute to Professor Wiener.

    Selected Papers of Norbert Wiener brings together for the first time his important mathematical and technical writings previously available only in journal form. Two of the works—Generalized Harmonic Analysis and Tauberian Theorems—are virtually book length. Both are classics.

    Mathematics, information theorists, and engineers will find this volume of great value.

    During the last year of his life Professor Wiener was associated with Dr. J. P. Schadé, Associate Director of the Netherlands Central Institute for Brain Research at Amsterdam. They cooperated on a number of neurocybernetic problems. From their work, two other memorial volumes will be published by the Central Institute for Brain Research under the titles: Cybernetics of the Nervous System (Progress in Brain Research, Volume 17) Progress in Biocybernetics, Volume 2.

    • Hardcover $15.00
  • Ex-Prodigy


    My Childhood and Youth

    Norbert Wiener

    These two volumes (I Am Mathematician and Ex-Prodigy) comprise Norbert Wiener's autobiography. Sometimes with humor and sometimes with sadness, they render an account, without sentiment, of the life of the world-renowned mathematician and scientist. An unusual life story, Norbert Wiener's penetrating observations accompany the fascinating details describing the maturation of a major world scientist.

    • Hardcover $10.00
    • Paperback $20.00
  • God & Golem, Inc.

    God & Golem, Inc.

    A Comment on Certain Points where Cybernetics Impinges on Religion

    Norbert Wiener

    The new and rapidly growing field of communication sciences owes as much to Norbert Wiener as to any one man. He coined the word for it—cybernetics. In God & Golem, Inc., the author concerned himself with major points in cybernetics which are relevant to religious issues.The first point he considers is that of the machine which learns. While learning is a property almost exclusively ascribed to the self-conscious living system, a computer now exists which not only can be programmed to play a game of checkers, but one which can "learn" from its past experience and improve on its own game. For a time, the machine was able to beat its inventor at checkers. "It did win," writes the author, "and it did learn to win; and the method of its learning was no different in principle from that of the human being who learns to play checkers.

    A second point concerns machines which have the capacity to reproduce themselves. It is our commonly held belief that God made man in his own image. The propagation of the race may also be interpreted as a function in which one living being makes another in its own image. But the author demonstrates that man has made machines which are "very well able to make other machines in their own image," and these machine images are not merely pictorial representations but operative images. Can we then say: God is to Golem as man is to Machines? in Jewish legend, golem is an embryo Adam, shapeless and not fully created, hence a monster, an automation.The third point considered is that of the relation between man and machine. The concern here is ethical. "render unto man the things which are man's and unto the computer the things which are the computer's," warns the author. In this section of the book, Dr. Wiener considers systems involving elements of man and machine. The book is written for the intellectually alert public and does not involve any highly technical knowledge. It is based on lectures given at Yale, at the Société Philosophique de Royaumont, and elsewhere.

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  • Cybernetics, Second Edition

    Cybernetics, Second Edition

    Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine

    Norbert Wiener

    Acclaimed one of the "seminal books... comparable in ultimate importance to... Galileo or Malthus or Rousseau or Mill," Cybernetics was judged by twenty-seven historians, economists, educators, and philosophers to be one of those books published during the "past four decades," which may have a substantial impact on public thought and action in the years ahead.—Saturday Review

    • Hardcover $22.50
    • Paperback $35.00
  • Nonlinear Problems In Random Theory

    Nonlinear Problems In Random Theory

    Norbert Wiener

    A series of lectures on the role of nonlinear processes in physics, mathematics, electrical engineering, physiology, and communication theory. From the preface: "For some time I have been interested in a group of phenomena depending upon random processes. One the one hand, I have recorded the random shot effect as a suitable input for testing nonlinear circuits. On the other hand, for some of the work that Professor W. A. Rosenblith and I have been doing concerning the nature of the electroencephalogram, and in particular of the alpha rhythm, it has occurred to me to use the model of a system of random nonlinear oscillators excited by a random input.... At the beginning we had contemplated a series of only four or five lectures. My ideas developed pari passu with the course, and by the end of the term we found ourselves with a set of fifteen lectures. The last few of these were devoted to the application of my ideas to problems in the statistical mechanics of gases. This work is both new and tentative, and I found that I had to supplement my course by the writing over of these with the help of Professer Y. W. Lee. "

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  • Extrapolation, Interpolation, and Smoothing of Stationary Time Series

    Extrapolation, Interpolation, and Smoothing of Stationary Time Series

    With Engineering Applications

    Norbert Wiener

    A book thatbecame the basis for modern communication theory, by a scientist considered one of the founders of the field of artifical intelligence.

    Some predict that Norbert Wiener will be remembered for his Extrapolation long after Cybernetics is forgotten. Indeed, few computer science students would know today what cybernetics is all about, while every communication student knows what Wiener's filter is. The original work was circulated as a classified memorandum in 1942, because it was connected with sensitive wartime efforts to improve radar communication. This book became the basis for modern communication theory, by a scientist considered one of the founders of the field of artifical intelligence. Combining ideas from statistics and time-series analysis, Wiener used Gauss's method of shaping the characteristic of a detector to allow for the maximal recognition of signals in the presence of noise. This method came to be known as the "Wiener filter."

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  • Whole Earth Field Guide

    Whole Earth Field Guide

    Caroline Maniaque-Benton

    A source book for American culture in the 1960s and 1970s: “suggested reading” from the Last Whole Earth Catalog, from Thoreau to James Baldwin.

    The Whole Earth Catalog was a cultural touchstone of the 1960s and 1970s. The iconic cover image of the Earth viewed from space made it one of the most recognizable books on bookstore shelves. Between 1968 and 1971, almost two million copies of its various editions were sold, and not just to commune-dwellers and hippies. Millions of mainstream readers turned to the Whole Earth Catalog for practical advice and intellectual stimulation, finding everything from a review of Buckminster Fuller to recommendations for juicers. This book offers selections from eighty texts from the nearly 1,000 items of “suggested reading” in the Last Whole Earth Catalog.

    After an introduction that provides background information on the catalog and its founder, Stewart Brand (interesting fact: Brand got his organizational skills from a stint in the Army), the book presents the texts arranged in nine sections that echo the sections of the Whole Earth Catalog itself. Enlightening juxtapositions abound. For example, “Understanding Whole Systems” maps the holistic terrain with writings by authors from Aldo Leopold to Herbert Simon; “Land Use” features selections from Thoreau's Walden and a report from the United Nations on new energy sources; “Craft” offers excerpts from The Book of Tea and The Illustrated Hassle-Free Make Your Own Clothes Book; “Community” includes Margaret Mead and James Baldwin's odd-couple collaboration, A Rap on Race. Together, these texts offer a sourcebook for the Whole Earth culture of the 1960s and 1970s in all its infinite variety.

    • Paperback $34.95