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July 26, 2017 9:55 AM   Subscribe

Betty Shannon, Unsung Mathematical Genius. Here, the authors of a Claude Shannon biography (who also recently did an AMA) explore his wife's role in his life.
posted by Jpfed (9 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman deserve some recognition for the outstanding, substantive marketing they're doing on this book. I had never heard of Shannon before recently, but I'm seeing articles from them popping up everywhere, including places I normally wouldn't expect to, and they're all engaging, informative, and original.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 10:14 AM on July 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

Thanks for sharing this!

I love that there are a number of stories of the "invisible" women in the recent history of science and math coming out now, as they or their relatives are still alive to record what otherwise would be lost to history. I only wish they had received more recognition earlier in their lives.

One minor annoyance on the article: it often refers to "Shannon," not Claude or Betty, though they generally mean Claude.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:14 AM on July 26, 2017 [5 favorites]

I was something of a Claude Shannon fanboy back when I was doing my EE degree, but unfortunately I didn't learn anything about his wife at the time. I'm definitely looking forward to correcting that oversight!
posted by tobascodagama at 10:52 AM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I looked around online for her publication on stochastic composing (mentioned in the article)...I'd be really interested to read it if someone found it.
posted by daisystomper at 11:06 AM on July 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

I wasn't able to find it when I was writing the post; hopefully someone else has more luck.
posted by Jpfed at 11:21 AM on July 26, 2017

Betty Shannon's obituary has more fascinating tidbits on her remarkable life:
- During a memorable trip to Las Vegas, she helped test a device designed to beat the house at roulette*, considered by many to be the first wearable computer.
- She became an avid weaver, an interest she pursued for 40 years. She joined the Boston Weavers Guild, served as Dean of the Guild from 1976-1978 and received the Guilds Distinguished Achievement Award. She worked closely with the Handweavers Guild of America for many years and received an honorary Life Membership in 1996. She was a member of the Cross Country Weavers and the Wednesday Weavers. In the 70s, Betty was one of the first explorers of computerized hand weaving, though she found, in the end, that she preferred the less technological approach.

* Betty is only mentioned in passing in that article -- "In August, they went to Vegas for a week -- Shannon's wife, Betty, and Thorp's wife, Vivian, joined them." Shame that Edward Thorp didn't say more on Betty's role, and he similarly excluded her in his write-up on "The Invention of the First Wearable Computer" (PDF), only writing that "Claude and Betty and my wife Vivian were nervous whereas I wasn’t, perhaps because my blackjack trip familiarized me with the scene." Similarly, Susan Elizabeth Ryan's recounting of events in Garments of Paradise: Wearable Discourse in the Digital Age (Google books) limits the role of the wives to that of lookouts. I'll stop there, because now I'm sad for the lack of information on Betty's roles.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:42 AM on July 26, 2017 [7 favorites]

My only complaint with this article could be longer. Thanks to filthy light thief for the extra links.

Some years ago I read "The Logician and the Engineer" nominally about Boole and Shannon (really about circuit diagrams but still good!.) Boole's wife--a homeopath who helped kill him when she thought the best treatment for a cold was dousing him with cold water--got a mention. I don't think Shannon's wife came up at all.

Shannon's trendy again because of information theory but his contributions to electronics in general is impressive.
posted by mark k at 9:38 PM on July 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would love to know more about the picture captioned "Betty and Claude Shannon at home with contraption"! What is it?
posted by crazy_yeti at 8:08 AM on July 27, 2017

Looks like the chess computer that Claude built and wrote a paper on.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:43 AM on July 27, 2017

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